The Problem with Primal

I have had a number of people ask me about primal diets, and whether my diet is "primal." Here's my answer: I am a huge advocate for people looking into the scientific studies themselves, experimenting with different things, and ultimately discovering what works best for them. We're all different. In fact, this is a cornerstone of the Optimized Fat Metabolism (OFM) diet. Sure, if the diet is based on anything, it's at the very least high(er) fat intake, but ultimately its main goal is to individualize a program for someone based on their frequency and intensity of activity, genetic tolerance to certain foods, and other such factors. My diet, rich in whole foods and usually absent of concentrated sources of carbohydrate, has many people lumping me into the "primal" or "high fat" realm. It is true that if you look at my food choices you will find a plethora of foods that would fall into the primal approach. However, if you look outside the dietary aspects of the primal approach, you will see I present a stark contrast. Here is why:

Primal, in it's truest form, advocates humans to not partake in what they would term "chronic cardio." The thought process here is that extensive amounts of cardio often result in sky-high levels of cortisol, low testosterone—and in the worst of cases, full-on adrenal fatigue. The primal way would argue that an approach utilizing high intensity interval training (HIIT), minimal amounts of cardio, and lots of walking/standing time is the optimal state for the human body. The general, or at least stereotypical, explanation to this is that early man did lots of walking (scavenging), moving heavy objects occasionally, and at times extreme anaerobic activities, such as running from a lion or other large predator. Hmmmm... sounds less than ideal. I would argue against this. As far as I'm concerned, if a lion in the wild wanted to make a meal of even the fastest human alive, it could do so easily. We weren't designed to flee from lions. Another comparison: Take the strongest man alive and match him up against an average gorilla. My money is on the gorilla, every time. Of course, it's not much of a stretch; have you seen how massive they are?

What am I getting at? Just as lions are really fast, gorillas are really strong. We, on the other hand, are comparatively slow and weak. But we must be good at something, right? What physical advantages do we have? What can we do that other creatures, superior in other ways, cannot do?

Endurance. Man has the combined abilities to sweat, run incredibly long distances (albeit relatively slowly), and convert stored fat to energy (even when already incredibly lean), for very long periods of time. We are the ultimate self-sustaining road trip. What other land animal can travel the distance, pace, and through the various environmental extremes that humans can? I'd be willing to bet there is no land-dwelling creature on this planet that could beat a well-trained human across diverse geography on foot across substantial distance. Especially if the climate is warm, which was the situation for our earliest ancestors.

And now I'll get to the point. Humans are meant to travel long and slow. We aren't meant to fight off or catch other creatures by sprinting. Our strength is adapting to diverse environments, which we navigate with long, slow distance. So why are all these previously mentioned "issues" given as results of "chronic cardio"? If my theory is correct, shouldn't we thrive on it?

The problem, in my humble opinion, is how we currently fuel and study ourselves. Most, if not all, of studies that I have seen that show the detrimental effects of "chronic cardio" have been performed on individuals following a diet that I would argue is more at fault than the actual activity of running (processed foods void of any real nutrients or, just as bad, "fake" foods pumped with synthetic nutrients). I agree that training at levels as high as I do is probably above that of what would be considered necessary for general survival in our early existence, and that I am fighting an uphill battle in terms of recovery. However, I think it can be a battle that is ultimately won if nutrition is a key aspect of the training program. I also believe that doing what you truely love is equally as important as trying to live as long as your body will physically let you. Personally, I'd rather live to be 70 and enjoy every minute of it doing what I am passionate about, than live to be 90 having led a life that didn't allow me to realize my passions. What about you?