Making Kids into Champions

In previous posts, I have talked about getting kids out into nature and ways to help our kids become primal, remove screen time and develop into awesome humans. You can read that here, Helping kids behave better, concentrate harder and become Primal, and helping children develop a love of sport, movement and fitness. Today’s post continues the Primal Kids theme exploring the developmental benefits of physically active kids.

Children, even newborns, should be given every opportunity to move without physical restriction. Training to become an athlete starts in infancy and continues throughout life as children become involved with a variety of activities. Unfortunately this process of development most of the time does not go how nature intended. With the prevalence of screens, Ipads, phones, computer games, and on demand TV we are intentionally, or maybe unintentionally, discouraging children from becoming great athletes. This is especially detrimental when paired with the abundance of junk food available, not just the takeaway variety, but also any processed food containing sugar, grains or vegetable oils.

Instead we should be making room for play and roaming, letting children crawl, run, climb and jump to their heart’s content. (Making sure that it’s safe, of course!) According to Dr Phil Maffetone, a highly respected doctor, coach of endurance athletes and primal guru, a wide variety of physical movements are vital to the neuromuscular progress and necessities for the brain, with early physical activity ultimately making the child better at math, science, music, coordination and having better social skills.

While great health and fitness during childhood may lead to great athletic performance later in life, a key reason for a child’s fitness being so important, according to Maffetone in his 2015 book, the Endurance Handbook, is because “fitness is widely regarded as a powerful marker of current and future cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and mental health”.  What this means is, the more fitness and all round play a child engages in early in their life, the better their health, muscle and bone development, and social skills will be.

There is obviously a difference between how adults train and how children train. Children need a wide range of activities and movements. As they grow through the first decade of their life, natural development and interest will lead to participation in a variety of sports and activities. I think this is healthy for their development in fitness and as athletes. Having children try a wide variety of activities such as swimming, riding bikes, gymnastics, coordinated ball sports, running, climbing and playing on the various apparatus at playgrounds will help develop a great, functional athlete. There is always time for a child to learn and take up specific sports once they have a good grasp of co-ordination, movement through various planes and balance. All sports need these fundamentals and getting kids to stick to a specific sport or sports may be making them too one dimensional.

According to Dr. Maffetone there are two important factors when it comes to children transitioning into good adolescent athletes. These are:

  • Cross Training: From birth until about 20 years of age the body undergoes dramatic changes. Physical activity plays a huge part in this development. The more variety of movement the better the development. This he attributes to muscle and bone growth, hormone balance, immune function and brain maturation. At certain ages selected sports activities may be of more interest, such as riding bikes, swimming, running, soccer. But variety and cross training continues to be important.
  • Active Fun:  This one is pretty simple – the process of having fun whilst being active. Encouraging play, climbing, and movement. This may be the most important guideline for kids!

While I think team sports have their place for children, I don’t think we as parents need to be pushing them so hard to be great athletes at an early age. With natural love of movement, coordination and balance, kids will inevitably gravitate to sports they like. Some children develop at faster rates than others so we really can’t predict who will ultimately be a great athlete from how they are at 4, 6, 8, 10 maybe even 12 years of age. Pushing kids into training and sports may seem helpful but if the child is not on board this could be more of a hindrance and they may develop a dislike of activity.

Like Dr Maffetone says, having active fun may be the most important guideline for the development of the athletic child!

3 More Things a Primal Athlete Does to be “Fit for Life”

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During our period of no defined race goals and just getting back into exercising I thought I would touch on the next three important areas we should focus on to make you a good all-round athlete that can perform any given activity at any given time when called upon That might be an intense Crossfit session, a long run or even a swim. Last week I discussed the first three key concepts to focus on. These where Get Strong, Exercise Long and Run easy. The next big three are Sprint, mobility and rest. If you look at the Primal Blueprint, the 10 must do Laws developed by Mark Sisson to become “Primal” you will notice my to do list is very similar. From an evolutionary stand point it makes sense that we follow, as close as we can in this modern life, the things that helps us evolve into the people we are today. It makes sense to get stronger, to eat good, healthy unprocessed foods like meats, vegetables and fruit and it makes sense to perform long slow endurance activities. It also makes sense to sprint once in a while, to be agile and mobile to avoid predators. It also makes sense that we get adequate rest and recovery so we are able to perform these tasks again and again.

#4 Sprint

Once every week, try and perform a high intensity sprint workout. This could be as simple as 5-10 all out sprints over 50-100 metres. It could be up a hill, on sand dunes, at the beach or around a 400m track. Even repeated, intense intervals on a bike. These short bursts of intense activity increase the level of human growth hormone and testosterone. These adaptive hormones are released to improve the body so that if this kind of intensity is needed again in the future the body is better adapted and ready to perform.

#5 Mobility

This isn’t so much a Primal Blueprint law, but it would be on my list of must do’s for a modern athlete. Being able to perform when called upon relies on the fact that you are fit and able to do the activity required of you. If you are injured, imbalanced or inflexible you might not be able to perform to the best of your ability, you might be in pain or may even injury yourself due to being muscularly imbalanced. This is the reason why I believe it is imperative to perform corrective exercises, foam rolling and strengthening exercises 2-3 times per week.

#6 Rest and Recover

The body needs time to rest, recover and adapt from the hard workout or exercise in able to perform better the next time it is called upon to perform that task. Exercise in itself is a stress on the body. It creates (good) inflammation and oxidative stress that the body must then heal itself to become better. The problem is if we keep piling up hard, intense workout after hard intense workout the body becomes too stressed and overwhelmed by the oxidation that exercise becomes detrimental. That is why I like to prescribe no more than 4 workouts per week (in periods of no defined race goals or the “off season”) so it gives your body a day or two to recover. Performing exercises like Stand Up Paddle Boarding or long hikes are a good way to “actively recover” by doing something that is less intense but still gets the body moving at much lower heart rate intensity. Recovery doesn’t mean doing nothing. In fact that is much worse. Keep active, move around but just keep that intensity down!

Fasting 101

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There has been a lot of talk about fasting in the fitness and primal worlds of late so I thought I would share the few fasting protocols that I have found extremely beneficial for weight loss, performance and longevity.

Firstly, we should start with what is fasting? Simply, fasting is going without food or drink for a period of time. An absolute fast is refraining from everything, food, water, drink and supplements. There is also varying forms of intermittent fasting using bone broths, coffees and teas and supplements. A water fast, as the name suggests in drinking nothing but water for your fasting period.

There are a wide range of health benefits to fasting. These include:

  • Weight loss– studies have shown that fasting is an excellent way to reduce body fat. One study in 2015 found that participants lost 7% body fat and reduced inflammation markers without sacrificing muscle mass using alternate day protocol.
  • Normalises insulin levels– one of the markers for ageing, diabetes and inflammation is insulin levels. When you consume too many carbs and sugar you body releases insulin to bring the blood sugar levels back to normal. If this cycle happens too often your body’s natural production of insulin can breakdown- hence type 2 diabetes! Fasting can lower insulin levels and reduce insulin sensitivity helping to stop type 2 diabetes.
  • Normalises ghrelin levels- Ghrelin is the hormone responsible for telling your body you are hungry. Being fat adapted and being able to fast for extended periods of time allows your ghrelin hormone to normalise, following its correct circadian rhythm and tell you when you are actually hungry.
  • Lowers triglyceride levels– triglycerides are a indicator for heart disease. They rise in relation to bad cholesterol. Fasting helps to reduce or lower the amount of triglycerides in your blood.
  • Allows cellular autophagy– Cellular autophapy is the bodies mechanism for cleaning up debris in the cells causes by oxidation, metabolism and excess consumption of carbs. Autophagy is programmed cell death. If we are constantly feeding the body with food and fuel our metabolism is high and the body thinks we need to be always making new ells. Whilst this is good to some regard if you are wanting to build muscle, being go go go all the time doesn’t allow the body to heal and repair itself through this celluar clean up. Fasting allows the body to stop, slow down and repair. Fasting is a great way to rid the body of pre-cancer cells and allow our bodies to get rid of damaged cells (which is what cancer cells are!)
  • Promotes the secretion of Human Growth Hormone-according to Dr Axe HGH is naturally produced by the body and it has been effectively used to treat obesity and help build muscle mass, important for burning fat. HGH also helps increase muscle strength, which can help improve your workouts, too. Combine these together and you have an effective fat-burning machine on your hands.

So now you know what fasting is and some of the many benefits, what are some of the fating protocols you can do to get all these great benefits. The following 4 fasting protocols (and there are hundreds of others out there) are ones that I have personally used and have found to be efficacious in weight loss and management, better performance and building muscle.

  1. 18/6 Intermittent Fast– this protocol involves fasting for 18 hours with a 6 hour re-feeding window. This is my favourite fating type and I will do this 5 days a week. It involves eating dinner about 6pm and not eating again until bout 12pm then next day. I then will have two meals, lunch at 12pm and dinner again at 6pm. I will also have a snack in between. As you can see by the name you fast for 18 hours and then are ‘allowed’ to eat in the 6 hours between 12pm-6pm at night. I like this time frame but other people like to use 16/8 or 14 hours. This is a really good introduction into fasting and helps you get an understanding that you wont die from not eating, that it is actually quite easy to do, makes you feel like you have achieved something through self discipline and frees up time.
  2. 24 hour fast– As the name suggests you don’t eat for 24 hours. I do some travelling on day trips on an aircraft and I like to use this one where i know I cant get decent food. I usually eat dinner about 6pm one night, then not eat again until 630pm the next night, so as you can see you are eating every day, just 24 hors apart!
  3. 3- day fast– I have tried this one on several occasions but this one takes some discipline and preparation. I prepared bone broth, as well as supplement drinks as I knew this would diminish my electrolyte levels. Be very careful with this one. I found that the second day is hard but once you push through the initial hunger late on day two, you feel like you can go for ever!
  4. 5:2– the 5 and 2 periodic fast has been popularised by Dr Michael Mosely. I have tried this protocol and didn’t like it that much as it felt like the 18/6 IF but only for 2 days and you ate whatever you lied on the other days. It works for reducing Insulin Like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) which is a marker for longevity but I feel (and I am not a doctor like he is …) you get more benefits from the 18/6 with regards to performance and weight loss. This protocol entails eating normally for 5 days a week and severely restricting your calories on 2 days a week, usually the weekend.

So there you have it what fasting is, the benefits and a few protocols to get you started. If you have any questions or comments about your own fasting protocols, I would love to hear about them in the comments section. Stay tuned for my Top Ten Fasting Tips in the coming few days!

 

Primal and the Ketogenic Diet

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Welcome to Part 3 of my 3 part series on the ketogenic diet, you can find part 1 and part 2 here…

Why the Ketogenic Diet and Primal Go hand in Hand…

You have probably heard of Paleo more so than Primal as it has been a trending topic for several years now. You may have heard it called the Caveman diet or ancestral diet. Eating Paleo is a lot like eating Primal (I have a post on the small differences here) but simply put primal and paleo eating is about choosing real, whole foods the our hunter gather ancestors would recognise as food. We don’t even have to go back that far, stuff our grand parents would recognise as good wholesome foods, nothing processed with high amounts of sugars, refined grains and industrial vegetable oils. Things like meat from cows who eat grass on a farm, organic eggs from chicken allowed to roam, graze and forage, natural fats like butter, lard and ghee. We have become far removed from this way of eating. It is possible to ketogenic without being primal/paleo and you can follow primal/paleo without being ketogenic, but marrying keto with primal is like a “match made in Heaven” for your overall health.

The ketogenic diet is an excellent way to keep you carbs down and your insulin in check. Following basic keto/primal/paleo principles fits how our bodies are designed to work. For our Primal ancestors, they ate all parts of the animals they hunted along with fish, fowl, eggs, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and one of the biggest sources of energy was from the animal fats they consumed. When food was scarce or they caught a big animal and ate a lot of animal fat, the thing that sustained their energy needs was ketones! Hunter gathers, due to their high consumption of animal meats and often long periods of fasting would have constantly been in a state of ketosis.

A state of nutritional ketosis occurs by increasing good fats, eating moderate protein and reducing carbohydrates. Backing this with a Primal philosophy for eating real, wholesome, nourishing foods will give your body overall health benefits that have been well documented on this blog as well as others including mental clarity, sharper focus and more vitality.