HOW TO EXERCISE ON THE PALEO DIET
The Four fundamental concepts of the paleo diet include diet, stress reduction, getting quality sleep and caveman style exercise. But what is paleo exercise and how can we follow it in a modern world and subsequently enjoy all of its benefits. First lets think about what cavemen did during their day. I imagine there were no cavemen (or cavewomen) who actively sought to exercise. Choosing to exercise for health, wellbeing and weight loss is a modern concept , paleolithic peoples didn’t exercise, they just lived active lives which included lots of slow movement with brief bursts of high energy release. In other words they walked to get from A to B, maybe a brisk walk but not power walking (which would leave you too tired to run from danger if the need arose) , they were active gathering food and they hunted. The hunter side of the hunter gatherer lifestyle requires you to be extremely active for a short period of time. Whatever you’re hunting will probably be running fast (or fighting back) , so you also need to run fast (or fight back). But it would be brief and then (and this is particularly important) would be followed by rest and possibly by enjoying the fruits of your labour (eg eating what you have just hunted).
Paleo Exercise in the Modern World:
Now obviously its simply not practical to employ exactly the same tactics in our own exercise regimes. Most of us don’t walk everywhere (especially if you live in the suburbs and work in the city) and we certainly don’t forage for our food or hunt for our meat. Nevertheless by copying at least some of the principles of caveman exercise we can get the very best out of the time we spend exercising.
The modern concept is that through long slow cardio workouts you will lose weight and improve your health. Now though I don’t dispute the fact that exercise of any sort will generally help you burn calories, tone up and (at least in the short term) result in some level of weight loss, if this were a practical long term solution, why are there so many overweight people in the western world? (many of them with gym memberships).
The modern exercise concept is missing two major points. Firstly, that without appropriate amounts of rest and recovery after exercise your body will not release the appropriate hormones needed for fat burning. And, secondly, that if you turn exercise into work (and lets face it 2 hours at the gym doing long slow cardio is work) you won’t stick with it.
In order to get your body to release the right hormones for fat burning you need to be living and exercising in a way that sends it the right signals. This involves 4 main concepts.
1. Keep generally active (but not too active)
2. Exercise around 3 times a week with short bursts of high impact exercise (about 15 mins)
3. Rest and recovery
4. Eat high protein food following high impact workouts.
I’ve explained these in greater detail below:
Now people always use this phrase, and say how it will benefit you , but what does keeping active actually mean. Quite simply, as often as you can, choose the option that makes you use your body. It doesn’t have to be exhausting or feel like work, it just has to be regular. The most obvious choice is just to walk everywhere (at least where practical), And seriously I don’t mean power walking, you should walk at a pace where you don’t get tired too quickly and you actually enjoy it (I know it sounds crazy, learn to enjoy an active life!). Other options include cycling or swimming (but only if you actually ‘like’ swimming) but again keep to the rule that the pace doesn’t exhaust you and you enjoy it and where possible incorporate it into your daily living. Cycle to work (its probably quicker than driving anyway as you don’t get stuck in traffic) , or swim in the pool with your children as a family activity. Being active should not turn into ‘exercise’ as the world currently perceives it and it should always be done at a pace and in a style that you can enjoy.
High Impact Exercise:
Now as with all good exercise guidelines, I’m going to start by saying that before you begin any workout program discuss it with your Doctor first. There’s no point in starting an exercise program at a level that your body isn’t ready for and ending up with an injury on your first day. Once you know what your own reasonable limits are, in order to train your body to burn fat, retain shapely lean muscle and function at its best you do need to push your body to some degree at least 3 times a week in short high impact workouts. Its important to get all of your muscle groups working , but not necessarily at every workout. By following a workout plan where you do a different set of exercises each time on a rotational basis , you’ll end up fit, healthy and looking great. To provide a complete exercise routine goes beyond the scope of this article but here’s a rough outline of an intermediate level workout.
Leg Blast (example only, not to be followed outside of an appropriate fitness plan):
Warm up first then:
Squats (as many as you can in a minute)
Stationary lunges (Fifteen repetitions each side)
Stiff-legged Deadlifts ((Fifteen repetitions)
Lying Hip Lifts (15 Repetitions)
This gives you a rough idea of the intensity you’re aiming for (though please build up to this according to your own fitness level) and how much exercise you need to do to get your body burning fat and functioning a whole lot better. The above can be completed in about 15 minutes and would be part of an overall rotational exercise plan. If you’re at all in doubt about where to start, please seek the advice of a qualified physical trainer.
Rest and Recovery:
This is quite probably the biggest area where modern exercise programs fall down. They don’t pay proper attention to rest and recovery. In order to get the best from time spent exercising you must get enough rest. This includes getting enough sleep , including times of rest throughout your day and, following exercise, allowing sufficient time between high impact exercise workouts for your body to properly repair and recover. This is why you only need high impact exercise 3 times a week and also why the modern practise of spending hours at the gym doing long slow (often exhausting) cardio won’t give you the results you want. In short, make sure you include adequate rest as part of your diet and exercise routine, it really will make all the difference!
Protein Intake After Working Out:
Now I know what you’re thinking. Why am I telling you to eat after exercise, surely that will negate all your hard work. Strangely enough by having a healthy protein shake (make sure its healthy, there are paleo friendly options) or other high protein snack after a workout you’ll be telling your body to burn fat and retain shapely muscle, plain and simple. Some plans also recommend the occasional use of Branched chain amino acids following a workout. These help prevent muscle breakdown but do not have the calories that you would get from a protein shake. Its generally not necessary to take these following every workout but they can have a place as a substitute for a protein shake on some days of your work out program and are recommended within some plans. Make sure you get proper advice from a recognized plan or trainer before purchasing any nutritional supplements.
Somewhere along the line in our modern civilization, exercise became a form of work and stopped just being a way of life. By mimicking our caveman ancestors and just living healthy active lives, pushing your body once in a while, eating the right foods after exercise and giving yourself time to rest and recover, you will look and feel a whole lot better.