The popular story of how low-carb diets work goes something like this: Reducing your carbohydrate...
Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...Tell Me More
Sprinting is great. For my money, it’s the best bang-for-your-buck exercise. If you have only fifteen minutes to spare, you can sprint. If you’re on the road without access to a gym, you can usually find a place to sprint. It’s the missing piece in the quest for optimal leanness; incorporating weekly sprints can really help the fat just melt off. There’s just something about the raw, maximal expression of absolute effort that makes a person feel good, feel alive, and feel, well, Primal.
But not everyone wants or has the capacity to run as fast as they possibly can on a flat surface. Whether because of old/current injuries, the general state of the body, or simple personal preference, a significant portion of the population isn’t going to be running sprints on a track. Maybe you hate it. Maybe it hurts too much, or you’re worried about throwing something out. Whatever the reason for your sprint abstinence, there are worthy alternatives to traditional sprinting.
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions from readers. First, should the primary focus in constructing a healthy diet be caloric density? Is the key to weight loss and optimal health the consumption of bulky, low-calorie foods? Next, a new study seems to show that fat “starves the brain.” Is this true? If not, what’s really going on? And finally, are following Primal Endurance principles antithetical to high intensity performance?
Let’s find out.
Thought experiment time. Say you train hard, hard enough to deplete a signifiant amount of glycogen. Your muscles are empty, sensitive to the effects of insulin, and screaming for a couple potatoes to refill glycogen. What do you do?
In most circles, the answer is to eat those potatoes and refill those glycogen stores. And why not? The post-workout period is a special window of opportunity for eating a bunch of carbs and having them go to the right places with minimal insulin required. They won’t contribute to fat storage. They’ll go straight to your muscles. Restocking glycogen sets your muscles up to repeat the hard work and keep up with your training. It makes sense.
What if you didn’t eat the potatoes after a hard workout? What if you abstained from carbs entirely after a glycogen-depleting workout? What if you just went to bed without any (carbs in your) supper? What if you were an elite athlete and skipped the carbs?
On a literal level, your metabolic rate describes how much energy you expend to conduct daily physiological functions. This has many practical ramifications, however, because your metabolic rate also influences how you feel, how many calories you burn, how many calories you can eat without gaining weight, your libido, your fertility, your cold tolerance, how much subjective energy you have, how you recover from injuries and stress, how specific foods affect you, and how you perform in the gym. In short, it’s usually a good thing to have a higher metabolic rate.
Here are a few ways to increase your metabolism in a healthy, productive manner.
For today’s Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions. First, how often can a person sprint safely and effectively? There are many factors to consider when determining the amount of sprinting a person can handle each week, like stress levels, sleep, and other training, so it’s tough to give a specific number. Next, what are new parents supposed to do for physical play and exercise? Aren’t babies fragile, helpless things? No. As you’ll see, it’s possible and even desirable to expose your young children to intense (but fun) play and exercise and introduce elements of cautious risk-taking into your time with them. Finally, what’s the best nighttime snack alternative to nuts and dried fruit?
As many of you know, I have a long history as a former elite endurance athlete. Back in the day, I achieved a 2:18 marathon and landed 4th place in the Hawaii Ironman. That was all well and good, but above all I was vying for Olympic gold. There was just one small issue: I was giving my body the beat down in the process. At the time, guided by traditional training advice, my eye was on the prize, not the long term sacrifices I was making to get there. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees, so to speak. After years of spending time in the endurance game, life had other things in store for me—researching, blogging, and sharing my story with all of you, for example. And I’ve never looked back. But that hasn’t stopped me from respecting the awesome achievements made by my past contemporaries, or the great wisdom they have to share as a result of their boundary breaking feats.