My Journey to Primal Fitness and Health
I recently received my certification from the Primal Blueprint nutrition program. I am currently working on a program for you guys but for now, I thought that I would share my journey to this point.
While I was in university, I became obsessed with turning my body into a walking, talking biochemistry lab. I tried just about anything and everything to optimize my body and mind.
I ran through a string of diets and exercise programs. All of them were variations on a theme
- Protein and a slow digesting carbohydrate, like oatmeal, for breakfast
- A bland protein with steamed vegetables for lunch
- Repeat lunch for dinner, but don’t forget the starch
- The workouts would simply rearrange the reps, frequency of training, etc. but the core still focused around isolation lifts
I kept this pattern up for probably two years. It is a pattern that no doubt many of you are familiar with. It seemed to me that no matter the combination of workout and diet, I could never break through the 195lb barrier. All of this led up to the point where I was pretty frustrated that I couldn’t get to the weight goals I wanted.
Being Vegan was Awful
Then one night I watched a movie recommended to me by a friend called Forks Over Knives, and I immediately became super paranoid about all of the meat protein I was eating (I’ll debunk the “science” behind this movie later). So I decided to go vegan.
You read that right. I became a vegan. I ate through the rest of the food that I had stored up and threw away everything else that I could no longer eat. I then stacked my pantry full of all of the vegan staples and bought pea protein powder. I was on my way to nutritional paradise.
The results were absolutely dramatic.
- I put on five pounds
- I was agitated all of the time
- I slept worse
- I felt bloated all of the time
This was not because I didn’t adhere to the vegan guidelines. I am rather strict when it comes to my diet. I committed to veganism. The reason was that the protein recommendations that you find on most vegan blogs and websites is about 0.9g/Kg, which is 0.41g/lb which is literally half of what the recommended daily intake of protein is for people and less than half for people who actively weight train.
If you read most vegan blogs, they make it sound easy to get this protein. They say things like “Oatmeal has 3x the amount of protein as brown rice!” so, naturally, you are blown away that it has 3x more. However, 3×1 is only 3g of protein (which is just about how much protein oatmeal has). And lentils? The protein powerhouse of the vegan diet has 18g of protein per 1 cooked cup. For me to get the amount of protein that I needed every day I would have needed to eat 9 cups of “protein”. Those 9 cups would have delivered 360g of carbohydrate, 1440 calories worth just to reach the amount of protein I needed.
Compare that with animal protein where 4 cups of chicken breast would satisfy my daily protein needs. I think I found the reason why most vegans look like they’re wasting away.
I pushed myself through a month of this. At first, I was convinced that it was just my body going through the normal adaptation process to a new way of eating. After a month, I couldn’t bear it anymore. I started looking for a way out.
My Primal Fitness Lightning Bolt
Luckily for me, Amazon came in with a solution. Based off of my previous book purchases it suggested to me The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain. Coming out of a semester where I had studied evolutionary and molecular biology, everything in the book made sense. I talk about some of the things that clicked in my post, here.
What mattered to me even more, however, was that as I proceeded through my biochemistry education nothing I read ever contradicted what I learned. The body has four ways of making glucose out of other nutritional building blocks. It cannot build certain protein and fat structures which is why there are things called essential amino acids and essential fatty acids. There is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate. Your body can readily convert protein into glucose to fuel your brain’s daily needs.
I continued to read more books on the paleo diet by other heavyweights like Robb Wolf. However, the one which stuck with me the most was The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson. I preferred it because it went beyond simply explaining the diet. The reasoning is that if we should eat a diet similar in macronutrient content to our ancestors (there is no way to eat the same food as them), then we should also try to live our lives in a way that is true to our ancestral roots.
For example, no hunter-gatherer would go out and jog for an hour just to train. That would put them in an incredibly dangerous position where they would not have the glycogen stores available if a life-or-death threat presented itself. Humans were exhaustion or ambush hunters, tracking our prey for hours before closing for the kill when the prey collapsed, exhausted.
Now, however, I live a much more manageable life in terms of exercise. Here is my week in a nutshell:
- 2 strength training sessions
- 1 sprint session
- 2-5 hours of low level cardio a week where my heart rate does not exceed 75% of max
- More more level movement
Doesn’t that sound better than going out and pounding the pavement for an hour a day?
Where I am Now
From the end of my vegan experience to the full implementation of The Primal Blueprint was about two years. Over the course of those years, I effortlessly dropped from 195 to 185lbs. In addition to the physical aspects, I had numerous cognitive benefits.
- I was less stressed
- I could focus for hours in the morning
- My life became more organized
- My overall outlook on life improved
There are months where I have lapsed in keeping up with this new way of living (I went back up to 215lbs at one point), but whenever I have implemented it, the results have always been the same. I drop weight rapidly, I sleep better, my focus improves and my overall outlook on life becomes a bit rosier. I am on this path now and I have made the decision to not go back.
I wouldn’t have spent my hard earned money on this certification if I didn’t believe in the results and the science. More importantly, I wouldn’t bring it to you if I didn’t think that you could vastly improve your health and overall lifestyle. Becoming an empowered man starts with your health. It is the most fundamental building block to living a life according to your own desires and values.