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20 ways to train your primal instincts

Henri Rousseau "The Dream"

1. Read a book this summer about evolution.

Carl Zimmer´s “Evolution: The triumph of an idea” is a great starting point. Inspiring and fascinating. You will be a changed person with some evolutionary theory in you. Not just for the geeks, a must for the human species. It´s nice to have the science behind why we must fight, sleep, eat meat and have sex.

2. Sleep outside one night.

Use a net if you must. Drift off to the nocturnal sounds and rise naturally to the dawn. Leave your phone at home too. Get someone to join you if you´re afraid of bats.

3. Cook a bird, fish or animal whole on a fire you made.

Take the guts out, see how it all looks, season, cook and eat everything.

4. Go for a run in the woods without your shoes.

That´s right, barefoot. Feel the earth, stones, sticks whilst walking on the balls of your feet. Jump, hop, skip, crawl and roll. A great read too for the summer, is “Born to run” by Christopher McDougall. He tells the story about the legandary Tarahumara Indian barefoot runners of Mexico’s Copper Canyon. Gripping and interesting. Get a pair of Vibram 5 Fingers to ease your way into naked feet. We were not born with shoes, Nike knew this, but brainwashed us into believing the modern running shoe was doing us good…plahhhh. Check out barefootshoes.no for advice on barefoot movement.

5. Eat no sugar, no grains, nothing from a box or packet for 30 days.

Be strict, don´t cheat. I personally guarantee you´ll look, feel and perform better than ever before.

6. Have a day of critical examination.

If you read newspapers, watch tv or speak to a friend, decide that everything you read, see or hear for a day, may be wrong, misleading or simply an opinion. Make your own mind up, by examining options. Tell people about your critical day.

7. Spend an afternoon at a playground.

Think for a while of your childhood and the things you did on the bars, ropes, swings and logs. Practice those moves, barefoot.

8. Go to the forest and pick berries. Eat loads too.

9. Climb a tree. Spend an hour or more up there.

10. Have a clear out at home.

Think hard about all the stuff around you and how much it contributes to your happiness. Throw stuff or give it away. Have another rethink the following day, and repeat the process. Less in life, may just be more.

11. On a hot day, lie in some longish grass, naked.

Imagine you were living 20000 years ago, and all you thought about was food and sex. Empty your mind of all superficial clutter.

12. Find an old person to talk to.

Ask him/her to talk to you about their childhood and what they remember about family responsibility, play and work. Decide on living for a day or a week like they did, and let them know how you get on. Ask for advice.

13. Go for a bike ride into the countryside.

Stop when you find some farm animals. Talk to them, out loud if you want, explaining how you appreciate their part in evolution, and the respect you have for them every time you get to eat meat.

14. Watch some Chinese martial arts or Brazilian jiu jitsu.

Notice how they move their bodies and how sharp, strong and smooth they are. Practice some of the moves you saw over and over again.

15. Spend an hour each day meditating.

It doesn´t matter how you do it, just read up or ask someone some basic techniques, find solitude and try to empty all negative emotion. Think of breathing from the stomach upwards. Feel light. Think strength.

16. Spend a full 24hrs alone.

Surprisingly few people do this. We have become addicted to our mobile phones and Internet. We are available and use others as constant reference to our state of being. Bring a notebook; camp out, reflect yourself upon your thoughts in solitude. Like we used to do.

17. Have a week off training.

If you train 4 or more times per week, sleep is erratic, stomach bothers you, feel stiff and get headaches, have a week where you focus on walking, stretching like animals do, sleeping more, drinking lots of water, eating meat and fish plus vegetables. It´ll do you good.

18. Have a day eating coconut.

If you can get hold of fresh ones, great. If not, buy some canned coconut milk and some shredded coconut. Make a curry sauce with coconut. Just add some masala spice to some tomatoes, sweet potatoes, onions and coconut cream and simmer. Blend up and add to your favourite meat. Add some dark chocolate and butter to a pan, melt, add the grated coconut, some walnuts and dried berries. Stir well, add to ice cube trays and freeze. Enjoy with tea after your coconut curry. Coconut is amazing.

19. Make a commitment.

This is open, but make a deal with yourself to fulfil something you had planned to do but somehow found an “excuse” not to finish it. Stop doing something you told yourself you would stop doing, but made an “excuse” to keep doing it. Tell someone close that you have made a commitment, and ask for him or her to support you in your choice. Don´t make excuses. If you think you can or cannot do something, you are right both times.

20. “Be as you wish to seem”

Read some Socrates, or any philosophy. Try to apply some to your life. Learn about thought.

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Supplements for training and nutrition: No shortcuts

I´m often asked questions about nutritional supplementation in regards to both general health and performance matters, and have experimented over the years with varying degrees of success. Here I will share some of my experiences and try to simplify what is often made out to be a complex field. As I often allude to, much of the complexity surrounding training and nutrition advice is intended as a smokescreen by individual companies to make money selling needless products.

Before I start, there isn’t much need to consider supplements for training and performance purposes if you haven’t got your house in order with regards to a proper diet, adequate sleep, and sensible exercise. There are NO shortcuts to good health and fitness through over the counter supplements. It is that simple. Eat crap, live a stressed out and sleep deprived life, and struggle down to the gym for an aerobic session or run 3 times a week will not allow ANY fancy supplement to improve your life other than burning a bigger hole in your wallet.

Ok, got that out of the way. I will not go into detail about the need to eat natural, whole, fresh, nutrient dense foods here. I will not go into detail about how important getting 8-9hrs of GOOD sleep every night is. Read this if you wonder why. I will not mention the dangers of eating processed, man-made “foodstuffs”, concentrated sources of fructose, gluten containing grains and refined vegetable oils. Kurt Harris will tell you so in both a legit and serious way. And I will not go into the importance of eating animals as your most important source of nutrient rich protein and fat. Read this if you want to geek out a bit.

So, assuming you have your ship steered in the right direction, give or take the usual bumps and grinds that come with living a modern life of course, then what about some optional extras that can lift your performance a notch or two, and help in your path to achieving certain goals?. Here are a few supplements I have kept using over the years, remembering that personal experimentation is just that: a personal endeavour. What makes one gal laugh might make the other cry. One shoe doesn’t fit all.

  1. Sunshine

Winter depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is common here in the dark north of Scandinavia. Physiologically, it has been proposed that lack of light during the winter causes, among other things, a drop in serotonin levels, which is a neurotransmitter involved in various processes of “well being”. Sunlight triggers the brain to produce the hormone melatonin, which again, helps our cyclical rhythms stay in order and has been found to strengthen our immune system. All good things for our body and mind.  Sufficient Vitamin D synthesis can occur with only a few minutes of exposure to light a few times per week. That cannot be hard for most non-closet dwellers. Wait before applying sunscreen, just don’t get burnt. Again, far too much false press about the need to cover up from the “harmful rays of the sun”.

2. Garlic

Ah, great stuff. Forget the capsules that promise to be odourless and triple strength.  Fresh garlic is a cheap and versatile wonder drug. New research has shown that it boosts natural supplies of hydrogen sulfide, which is an antioxidant that helps fend off cancers, and protects the heart. The Greek´s used it before competition centuries ago, and it is the key element in most of my dinners. In the Solomon Islands, garlic is used to fend off malaria, help heal cuts and abrasions, and prevent acne. Just don’t use it in drinks. Not nice.

3. Fish Oil

Amazingly, the introduction of processed foods and vegetable oils into modern diets has contributed to ruining our optimal omega 3/ omega 6 ratios. Prior to the agricultural revolution, our ratios were roughly 1:1, but now we see ratios in the average modern Western population of up to 1:10-15. The side effects of this imbalance have been linked to body inflammation, autoimmune disease, and higher incidences of cancer and heart conditions to name but a few. Naturally occurring omega 3 is found in wild fish and meats, whereas processed fats (remember, these are the ones we are told by “authorities” to consume, not animal fats) are high in omega 6 fats, which leads to all sorts of health problems. Try to eat grass fed meat, wild fish, some walnuts and quality extra virgin olive oil. Learn more about the importance of long-chain n-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) here.  How much fish oil to supplement is dependent on a number of factors, but generally a higher dosage is required for people out of shape, coming off a poor diet or with inflammation and autoimmune disorders. Check out Robb Wolf´s fish oil calculator here to find out more. Look carefully at the EPA/DHA ratios when buying oil. I usually get mine from Holland & Barrett in the UK, although I recently found a good one here in Norway.

4. Zinc

I take zinc supplements during periods of higher than normal training exertion, due to its beneficial effect on growth and recovery, immune boosting capabilities and its good for skin condition. Supplies can become depleted from prolonged and intense training and inadequate meat intake/high carbohydrate intake. Also I find it beneficial for sleeping, in which case I take a great product called ZMA, usually before bedtime.  Coach Poliquin also notes the lower levels of testosterone and sperm count caused by zinc deficiency, which as we should all know, is not good news. Zinc is found in oysters, beef, lamb, dark chocolate, liver and some dairy products.

5. Magnesium

Studies have proven that magnesium deficiency can be related to insulin insensitivity and disrupted sleep. Both bad news for anyone, especially if you are training hard as well. A common supplement in the bodybuilding world due to its essential role in many metabolic processes including protein synthesis. You´ll find lots of magnesium in green vegetables like spinach and broccoli and white fish as well. Eat heaps of these foods, and be strong like Popeye. ZMA also comes in different qualities, usually the more expensive the brand the better, I get mine here.

6. Spirulina

Thanks to my mum. Spirulina is one of nature’s true super foods and is a great supplement to many dishes, as well as in shakes. It is super green, smells and tastes strange, probably because it is an algae but it contains all the essential amino acids as well as high concentrations of other nutrients and enzymes that are beneficial to the stomach, and general vibrancy of skin and hair. Super expensive in tablet form, cheaper in powdered form, but great in post workout shake with eggs and banana. I get mine from New Zealand in bulk from Healthpost.

7. Caffeine

Ahhh, the morning double espresso macchiato with heavy cream (50/50) freshly brewed by the La Pavoni. Sometimes I go to bed thinking of how nice it will be in the morning. Conflicting studies are everywhere as to the pros and cons of caffeine and the effect on training and general health. Some swear by it, others warn of danger!.  There is no doubt it has ergogenic effects, and there is something to the fact that even elite athletes are seen sneaking in caffeine up to the allowed measures before and during intense competition. A lot of the studies I read are based on a huge intake of caffeine (400mg +), which I think is unwise. Who wants headaches, the shakes, bad stomach and nausea?.  I find a coffee (about 100mg caffeine) pre-training is effective. It gets the buzz on and that alertness alone is worth it. Plus, there is the great taste and social side of coffee. Just don´t drink the cans of sugar with caffeine like Red Bull. Disaster.

8. Probiotics

Most people have the unfortunate task of taking antibiotics occasionally when all else has failed. Some even take them before all else has failed. Either way, they are bad news for the system killing useful flora and pathogenic bacteria and taking a form of probiotic when on a cure is very wise. As is eating probiotic rich foods like kefir, sauerkraut, yoghurt and some cheese. There are many and varied forms of probiotic, and much debate about their usage. I am a believer in the importance of gut bacteria and the need for the party inside to keep skipping to the grooviest beat imaginable. If you pump yourself full of toxins, the party will turn into a massive hangover. Not good.

9. Lime

Ok, barman speaking. Lime juice from fresh, juicy limes is THE essential ingredient in the bar. That is good enough reason for it to be included as an essential supplement: it makes cocktails go from decent to awesome. Plus it helped Captain Cook keep his men from dying form scurvy during his epic voyages across the Pacific in the 18th Century. Lime is the solution to most problems. It makes you and your cooking and drinks feel, taste and smell good. And the oils are great when you happen to have a bath. First make a jug of sugar-free Mojitos, squeeze some lime oil into the bath, get in and party on.

10. Cinnamon

The humble spice that is hitting the headlines. My mum always told me to add cinnamon to cooking and sprinkle on salads, but I never listened, as I thought it was just to add to a Café Latte. No, no, no.  Cinnamon helps maintain blood sugar levels, reduce triglycerides, prevents insulin resistance, contains dietary fiber, calcium and zinc, helps maintain your hair and nice skin and increases sex drive.  Woohoo.  We all know that too many bicep curls decreases sex drive because you become so awesome you forget about the opposite sex. Keep some cinnamon in your gym bag as a reminder. Now, adding cinnamon to everything is not so advisable, but keep a few sticks on the kitchen bench, and if you feel in the mood, knock up this great little cocktail I have trailed to immediate success:

Primal Apple Cake Cocktail

6cl Havana Club

Juice of 1-2 limes

1 spoon of runny honey

10 mint leaves

Half a Granny Smith apple chopped up

Half a cinnamon stick

Place all ingredients in shaker with cubed ice, shake hard, double strain into chilled cocktail glass. ENJOY.

That’s my top 10 for now. Just to add to your general wellness really, socially as well as physiologically. Supplement away, just get healthy on natural life first.

 

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Enter the meat

Besides supplying the body with a rich source of zinc, iron and vitamin B12, free range animals are extremely high sources of protein that have satiating effects and combat obesity. From this, the risks associated with insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular diseases and other common illnesses of modern civilization are reduced.

Saturated fatty acids are integral to the solidity and integrity of our cell membranes and bones, enhance our immune system and protect our liver from toxins like alcohol. I´ll talk more about the lipid hypothesis in a later blog.

Cholesterol is essential for the functioning of the body and its vital organs. Dietary cholesterol strengthens the intestinal wall, acts as a powerful antioxidant, improves the LDL/HDL ratio and remember, mother´s milk is very high in cholesterol, and the saturated fat we feed our babies provides over half their total calories.

Bottom line is: Free-range, grass-fed meat is essential for our well being.

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2011 in Primal Nutrition, Recipes

 

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Easy nutty coconut cake

This will satisfy the sweet tooth, and lasts through the week. Whack the oven on to 200deg Celsius, get a bowl and mix:

4 eggs
1 can coconut milk
1 bag shredded coconut (300-400g)
1 cup bashed up nuts (walnuts, almonds, pine nuts etc)
200g melted butter
Extra coconut oil if required
Big spoon honey (because I have some Manuka from back home in NZ!)
Chopped fruit if required (banana, apple, berries etc)

Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix well, using extra coconut or almond flour if too runny. Pour in tin and bake for 20-25mins. Check with a knife to see if done. It will be sticky, but that´s all good.
Serve with whipped cream, probiotic yoghurt, blueberries, cinnamon, and a cup of your favorite tea. NICE!.

 

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2011 in Primal Nutrition, Recipes

 

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Simple primal eating

Typical evening meal after training day. Plenty of lean protein with about 0.5kg chicken breast, some extra low GI carbs with the sweet potato as well as the mixed veggies (broccoli, peppers, carrots, onions, garlic, ginger). Some fresh basil and thyme, salt and pepper, and a good chunk of butter to join the olive oil.

Get the onions, garlic and ginger going with the oil, brown the chicken next, then simmer the veges together with the butter and herbs for about 10mins. Sweet potato cooked separately and added at the end so they do not go mushy.
Enough for dinner and leftovers post training the day after.
 
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Posted by on April 4, 2011 in Primal Nutrition, Recipes

 

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Nutrition 101

Nutrition 101

“It is becoming clear now that many of the diseases afflicting humanity are not a natural part of the aging process, but are side effects of technological and other powerful cultural changes in the way we eat and live that have occurred since the dawn of agriculture roughly 10,000 years ago. These changes seem to center largely on the sequential introduction of what I call the neolithic agents of disease – wheat, excess fructose and excess linoleic acid” Dr. Kurt Harris”

 All exercise is about movement – not about burning calories. The whole fat-burning thing happens as a result of the diet – not the exercise”
Mark Sisson – Primal Blueprint
 
 “Hyperglycemia – the presence of higher-than-healthy levels of sugar in the blood. This one condition might be the cause of (or at least may be involved in) most diseases of civilization”
Mark Sisson – Primal Blueprint
 

“If part of your immune response is always allocated to repairing gut irritation, you are essentially sick all the time”  Robb Wolf

“It’s important to mention that if an individual desires to lose body fat it is vital to reduce the glycemic load of the diet. For some people this may mean virtually no dense carb sources such as fruit or yams while others may just need to reduce the amount of carbs and or alter the density a bit. SO many people attempt to lose fat by starting a program of long slow cardio and a low fat diet. It works for precious few people” Robb Wolf

“The only meaningful way to lose fat is to change the regulation of the fat tissue, and the science of fat metabolism strongly implies that the best way to do that, if not the only meaningful way, is by reducing the amount of carbohydrates consumed and/or improving the quality of those carbs we do consume” Gary Taubes

“The same foods that make us fat are the same foods that cause heart disease and diabetes and cancer, etc. — the diseases that associate with obesity. These are the foods that were absent from human diets during the 2.5 million years of evolution leading up to the agricultural era, and so we’re still poorly adapted to dealing with these foods — easily digestible starches, refined carbs and sugars. When we remove these foods from our diets, we get healthier. Insulin levels come down and with them a host of metabolic disturbances normalize” Gary Taubes

“There is an alternative — a diet that emulates what our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate — a high-protein, high-fruit and veggie diet with moderate amounts of fat, but with high quantities of healthful omega-3 and monounsaturated fats. Protein has two to three times the thermic effect of either fat or carbohydrate, meaning that it revs up your metabolism, speeding weight loss. Additionally, protein has a much greater satiety value than either fat or carbohydrate, so it puts the brakes on your appetite” Prof. Loren Cordain

 
 

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