Tag Archives: exercise

Let’s explore two statements that even the most novice athlete, who’s ever been sick, will not find profound in any way:

  • Exercise is productive and results in beneficial training adaptations.
  • Conversely, illness is inflammatory and can interfere with our ability to train.

What is profound is what’s hidden between the lines in those two statements. There’s a very important assumption that, consciously or unconsciously, many of us make – the immune system is independent from the processes in our body that produce training adaptations and inflammation interferes with those processes.

In truth, that assumption is misplaced. Fighting illness and the beneficial adaptations we get from training are in fact two sides of the same coin.

And that’s all because of evolution.

Evolution hates re-inventing the wheel. Whenever it discovers something beneficial, it has a way of hanging on to that new trick and using it anywhere it can. And when we’re talking about something as sophisticated and calorically expensive as our immune system, evolution has made sure to get its money’s worth.

Our immune systems do a lot more than just fight off harmful invaders. Their many functions include acting as a transport system, they manage cell apoptosis to ensure our bodies are healthy and functioning normally, they sample the foodstuff in our guts to help determine what should gain entry.

And when we exercise, our immune systems handle the repair that produces many of our major training adaptations.

In fact, the fundamental principle of exercise science – the Principle of Progressive Overload – depends on the immune system. The Principle states that training actually causes damage, and if that damage is big enough, our bodies hyper-compensate and rebuild stronger to avoid the same damage in the future.

Our immune systems are responsible for that repair work and hyper-compensation. In other words, the macrophages, T-Cells and cytokines like Il-6 and TNF-α that fight viral infections are also responsible for making us stronger and faster. Hence, fighting illness and producing training adaptations are in essence two sides of the same immunological coin.

This has several important implications:

  1. Training is inflammatory – after that hard interval session or big weight lifting routine, your muscles are damaged, and the body’s healthy response to that damage is inflammation around that damaged tissue.


  1. Training Can Suppress the Immune System – excess inflammation can lead to something called Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS) which is dangerous. So, when there’s a lot of damage due to training, our bodies try to keep the inflammation localized to the damaged muscles by suppressing the immune system in the rest of the body.


  1. Excessive Training Can Cause the Immune System to “Malfunction” – when you are training hard, your immune system has to do double-duty repairing damage and fighting potential infections which can put a strain on it. If that load becomes too big (like when athletes over-train) the inflammation can become aberrant and lead to inappropriate responses.

Let’s explore each of these in more depth…


Training Is Inflammatory

You just completed a hard run causing minor muscle tearing in the muscle fibers of your legs. Your body’s immediate response is to release inflammatory cytokines like IL-6 and TNF-α to promote an inflammatory response. You experience this inflammation as swelling and muscle soreness. The activated immune cells then very effectively clear out damaged tissue and begin the repair work.

The whole process is generally completed within a few days which you’ll experience as a day or two of dragging your feet followed by fresh stronger legs.

This happens every time we train hard and do damage. It’s a natural and healthy reaction. But always remember that that inflammation is very similar to the inflammation you experience when you’re sick.

Which begs the question, why don’t we feel sick after every hard workout?


Training Can Suppress the Immune System

Excess body-wide (systemic) inflammation is dangerous. In fact, this condition known as Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS) is what can causes death in burn victims and people suffering from sepsis [1].

SIRS is generally only seen in the trauma ward, but there actually is evidence of this syndrome in over-trained athletes [1].

But that’s uncommon. Most of the time, our immune systems try to localize the productive inflammation to the damaged muscles and avoid inappropriate and excessive inflammation throughout the body. Anti-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-10 and TGF-β are released into the bloodstream to suppress systemic inflammation. [2]

In essence, the immune system weakens itself.

So, after periods of heavy training, we are not as effective at fighting infections. Which means, the worst time to hang out at a coffee shop, use a public restroom or sit in an airport is soon after a three-hour race or hard training session.

And to add insult to injury, there’s an important balance in our bodies between two types of T-helper cells (the Generals of our immune systems.) Type 1 T-helper cells (Th1) direct viral responses while Th2 cells are responsible for allergic reaction. Unfortunately, as part of the immunosuppression described above, the balance is shifted towards Th2 which may be why many endurance athletes experience worsening allergy symptoms when they train hard. [2]

That doesn’t mean you should worry every time you go for a run or hit the weight room. Not all training suppresses your immune system. In fact, very light training helps the immune system by improving blood flow throughout the body. It’s only heavy and exhaustive training that leads to immunosuppression.


Excessive Training Can Cause the Immune System to “Malfunction”

Immunosuppression after heavy exercise is the reason we don’t feel sick after every workout. But it doesn’t always work. Sometimes hard exercise does make us think we’re sick.

When we’re truly fighting an illness, most of the symptoms of that illness (coughing, elevated body temperature, swelling and soreness) are caused by our immune systems and not the virus or bacterial infections themselves. In fact, if the virus had its way, you’d never notice it at all. Viruses would very happily hide out in your cells using those cells to replicate itself.

So, if our immune systems “malfunction” or becomes so activated that it can no longer suppress systemic inflammation, we can feel sick whether there is an actual infection or not. Excessive levels of training can cause this malfunction.

To make this point, a 2007 study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise looked at upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) in highly trained athletes. The study found that only 30% of the infections had an identifiable viral cause. Further, most of the reported cases of URTI were during heavy training periods.[3]

Undoubtedly, in some of those cases, the virus simply escaped detection. But the authors still made a strong case that at least some of the incidences were not an infection at all. They were the result of excess inflammation caused by over-training.

This is important because often athletes feel they are “tough” and can train through URTI. But what if that URTI isn’t an infection? What if instead its inappropriate inflammation due to over-training? Then “pushing through” is actually just making the problem worse. What the body needs is rest.

Taken to the extreme, it’s shouldn’t be surprising that the symptoms of severe burnout are very similar to symptoms of illness and even autoimmune disease. Doctors frequently mistake burnout for mononucleosis.


Supporting our Immune Systems

To perform at our best, we shouldn’t look at inflammation as an unhappy road block threatening to derail our training. Instead we need to see effective training and a healthy immune system as two sides of the same coin. In fact, we can’t have one without the other.

And when we’re training hard, we’re asking our immune system to do double-duty keeping us both healthy and repairing muscle damage. So, it’s our job to do everything we can to support it.

Fortunately, the things we can do to keep our immune systems healthy and the things we can do to support our training are often one and the same. Both require greater focus on proper rest and proper nutrition. A few tips to do this include:

  • Always keep an effective balance between recovery and training – this is number one. Let it get out of balance and the immune system will stop functioning properly. And that means excess immunosuppression can allow a virus to take hold, or alternately, inappropriate systemic inflammation will cause you to get sick (no virus necessary.)
  • Get your easy rides and runs – there is a J-shaped curve relationship between exercise and the immune system.[4] Hard training can suppress the immune system, but easy training can support it. Recovery rides or easy walks are great for speeding training adaptions and fighting illness.
  • Avoid exposure – your immune system is compromised after hard training. This is the time to tap into your inner-hypochondriac. Stay home and keep your hands clean.
  • Support your immune system – when it is active, your immune system is producing millions of cells and cytokines. All of which require a steady supply of amino acids. So, when you are sick or training hard, make sure you are consuming lots of healthy protein to support that cell and cytokine production. Healthy omega-3 fats are also needed for cell wall formation and prostaglandin production (important soldiers of the immune system.)
  • Reduce simple sugars, especially when you think you may be sick – simple carbohydrates are inflammatory and can contribute to excess inappropriate inflammation.[5, 6] Worse, many viruses and bacterial infections are anaerobic. Meaning they can only survive on carbohydrates. Don’t feed them!
  • Take L-glutamine when training hard – the primary fuel of our immune system is l-glutamine. Normally our bodies produce enough for our needs. The problem is during exhaustive exercise, when we’re depleting our glycogen, our bodies start using l-glutamine to fuel our exercising muscles and we can become transiently depleted. So, when doing a lot of long hard endurance work such as a six-hour bike ride, it might be worth supplementing.
  • A few other supplements – while heavy supplement use is generally a bad idea, a few supplements can help when you’re sick. There is some evidence that vitamin D and zinc can support immune function and reduce the severity of illness.[7-10]

A healthy Paleo Diet® naturally addresses many of these tips. It provides the healthy proteins and omega-3 fatty acids needed to support your immune system. It’s also very low in simple sugars and supplies better, natural sources of zinc. That makes it a great way to provide your immune system the support it needs when doing double-duty.



  1. Fehrenbach, E. and M.E. Schneider, Trauma-induced systemic inflammatory response versus exercise-induced immunomodulatory effects. Sports Med, 2006. 36(5): p. 373-84.
  2. Suzuki, K., et al., Systemic inflammatory response to exhaustive exercise. Cytokine kinetics. Exerc Immunol Rev, 2002. 8: p. 6-48.
  3. Spence, L., et al., Incidence, etiology, and symptomatology of upper respiratory illness in elite athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2007. 39(4): p. 577-86.
  4. Gleeson, M., et al., Influence of training load on upper respiratory tract infection incidence and antigen-stimulated cytokine production. Scand J Med Sci Sports, 2013. 23(4): p. 451-7.
  5. Della Corte, K.W., et al., Effect of Dietary Sugar Intake on Biomarkers of Subclinical Inflammation: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Intervention Studies. Nutrients, 2018. 10(5).
  6. Benetti, E., et al., High sugar intake and development of skeletal muscle insulin resistance and inflammation in mice: a protective role for PPAR- delta agonism. Mediators Inflamm, 2013. 2013: p. 509502.
  7. Das, R.R., Zinc and vitamin A for prevention of upper respiratory tract infection in children. Br J Nutr, 2012. 108(9): p. 1722.
  8. Veverka, D.V., et al., Use of zinc supplements to reduce upper respiratory infections in United States Air Force Academy cadets. Complement Ther Clin Pract, 2009. 15(2): p. 91-5.
  9. Jung, H.C., et al., Vitamin D(3) Supplementation Reduces the Symptoms of Upper Respiratory Tract Infection during Winter Training in Vitamin D-Insufficient Taekwondo Athletes: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 2018. 15(9).
  10. Dubnov-Raz, G., et al., Vitamin D supplementation and upper respiratory tract infections in adolescent swimmers: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatr Exerc Sci, 2015. 27(1): p. 113-9.


Female sprinter | The Paleo Diet

So with the New Year upon us, diet and exercise resolutions typically feature prominently in many people’s lives.  However, in most cases, these resolutions fail fairly quickly and; in many cases, they have already been broken.  Despite the well-recognized beneficial impact of regular exercise on numerous health parameters, exercise participation and adherence in the general population remains poor1 – ‘lack of time’ being one of the most commonly cited reasons why individuals fail at committing to a regular exercise program2.  Consequently, it would be prudent to examine effective exercise programs that do not require a significant time commitment.

Last year, I wrote an article here that covered some of the science behind supra-maximal interval training (SIT), a mode of exercise that creates physiological benefits with a minimal time investment. And; so, if you think the title of this piece sounds too good to be true, I advise you to go and read or re-read that article so that the protocol I’m about to describe to you is more believable; as well as, understand that it does indeed have scientific backing and makes physiological sense. So the purpose of this article is to simply provide the reader with an easy to implement effective exercise protocol that requires an incredibly small investment of time.

When I lecture about SIT, I describe an activity that helps my audience understand why intensity, not duration, is the key ingredient to improving one’s fitness.  I ask the audience to close their eyes and imagine they are standing at the base of the stairs inside a football stadium. I, then, ask them to imagine ascending the stairs as fast as they can while I describe to them the many varied speeds that would be witnessed despite everyone putting forth the same relative effort.  I also describe what everyone would be typically feeling at 15, 30, 45 and finally 60 seconds when I shout stop. I, then, ask them to compare the heaving breathing and the feeling of lactic acid in their lungs and muscles that they would be experiencing to what they would experience following an hour-long walk or slow jog.  Then a simple question:  which of these two training modalities do they think is going to stress them more to cause a physiological change to their cardiorespiratory and metabolic fitness?  Common sense leads everyone to consistently choose the all-out sprint as the method that they think would lead to a greater physiological change.  After then quantifying the number of steps attained, I state that everyone is done training for the day and; since they will inevitably feel some effects from that all-out effort, they will have a day’s rest before returning to the stadium for their second all-out stair-climb on day three.  I tell them we are going to continue doing this for 30 sprints, which will equate to two months of training requiring just 3½ minutes per week! To clarify this time commitment, it would take two weeks to complete seven “every other day” 60-second sprints, hence 3½ minutes per week.  And, finally, the ultimate question, “does anyone doubt, that on the 30th sprint, you will be able to attain significantly more steps than you did back on day one?”  Intuitively, people understand that they would be able to do more steps on their last sprint compared to their first.  And if this happens, by definition one is now fitter since a greater amount of work has been accomplished in a given amount of time.  So you can indeed improve your fitness in just 3½ minutes per week when the training effort is maximal or close to maximal.

You can test this out for yourself, and so here’s your challenge for the New Year:  While continuing with your current level of activity, add just 3½ minutes per week of all-out sprinting and see for yourself what this can accomplish.  I will offer different options for you on how to accomplish adding in these “sprints”; but, first let me describe what I recently did to prove my point.  Since improvement is always harder when one is already very fit, I reduced my own training to the lowest possible quantity, given that conditioning people is part of what I do for a living and am; therefore, constantly on my feet; as well as, demonstrating exercises throughout the day.  However, eliminating my own training for a few months led to a significant decrease in my maximal 60-second sprint speed, on a treadmill set to a 15% incline, from about 9.0 mph to around 7.0 mph.  I, then, embarked on an exercise protocol that involved sprinting on a treadmill, set at a 15% incline, for just 60-seconds, every other day, beginning at 7.0 mph, a speed previously established as a maximal or at least close to maximal effort.  If the 60-second sprint was successfully completed, the subsequent sprint was done at a speed 0.1 mph greater than the preceding sprint, equivalent to running an additional 2.68 meters in 60-seconds.  If the 60-second sprint was not successfully completed, the speed was not increased for the next sprint until it was successfully completed.  The protocol was conducted for five weeks such that a total of 18 sprints were completed.  Table 1. shows the speed (mph), time completed (s), meters attained, increase in meters from the first sprint, and percent improvement from the first sprint for each of the 18 sprints, and Figure 1. graphically displays the additional meters attained from the first sprint.


Sprint Table with Caption (2)


Sprint Graph with Caption (2)


As both Table 1. and Figure 1. demonstrate, over the course of just five weeks, sprinting all-out for 60 seconds every other day, resulted in an improvement of 32.18 meters (105.58 feet) from the first sprint, a 17.14 percent improvement.  Note that not every sprint was successfully completed on the first attempt at the increased speed.  When you are working at a maximal effort, there are many factors that influence performance, mental fortitude probably playing the largest role.  But even when the sprint isn’t successfully completed, your system is still being significantly challenged and a training effect is still occurring.  Consequently, over time, you will see an increase in performance albeit with a few peaks and valleys along the way.

Now, while this protocol will help you improve your fitness, I’m not suggesting that adding a few more sprints to your work-out is not going to help you more.  In fact, you might be thinking, if I’m going to make the effort to get to the gym, I might as well do a couple more sprints while I’m there!  So, of course, you can do more; but, be careful how much SIT you do, as it is easy to over-train.  Research has already shown that SIT for 8 minutes per week for just 2 weeks can both double endurance capacity3; as well as, substantially improve insulin action4 , so doing significantly more than that likely isn’t necessary for most people.  Additional exercise time could be better spent in other modes of exercise to improve strength and mobility for example.  Since I began my interest in SIT back in the mid 1990s, the research has always suggested a similar quantity to that used in the above referenced research.  As a consequence, I have used with my clients and recommended in lectures, a 12-minute per week protocol that has proven very successful.  This 12-minute per week protocol involves completing four, 60-second sprints, separated by a 4-minute recovery, three days per week.  The three days also need to be separated by at least one days rest in order for the body to adapt and recover.  Consequently, a Monday, Wednesday, Friday timetable works well for many people.  It is important not to shorten the 4-minute recovery because if you do, you will not be able to maintain the power output attained in the first “all-out” effort interval.  In fact, 4 minutes is a minimal recovery timeframe and you can certainly take more recovery with no detriment to the training.  In fact, I have often stated that having a very long recovery (e.g., an hour or more) is better because you will ultimately be able to increase your power output by having more recovery. It is not about “keeping your heart-rate up” during the work-out, the 60-second sprint itself is challenging enough.  Now obviously having an hour recovery is not the most time-efficient if you’re doing this work-out at the gym; however, if you have access to a modality at home or work, this approach can work very well.  For example, many people have a tall enough staircase at their workplace which works well for SIT as the impact is low while the intensity can easily become maximal.

I have conveyed this message to thousands of fellow health-care professionals in my capacity as a lecturer for the Titleist Performance Institute, who, in-turn, have passed this on to their clients, and I have yet to hear that the protocol hasn’t significantly improved anyone’s health and performance.  A year after one such lecture, a physical therapist approached me at another seminar to thank me for the recommendation.  He worked at a hospital and used the staircase in his building to run four, 60-second sprints throughout the day on a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. A great benefit to spacing the sprints throughout the day is that you do not really perspire in just 60-seconds and; so, with a long recovery, you do not need to be changing into work-out clothes – avoid high-heals; but, other than that, your pretty much good to go in your usual work attire.  The physical therapist went on to tell me that he corralled a group of his co-workers to commit to the program along with him and; in doing, so was able to lose over 50 lbs. over the course of the year!  Pretty good for just 12 minutes per week!

There are many different modalities that can be used for SIT; but, for those where balance, mobility or joint issues come into play, the upright stationary bike is probably the best alternative.  It also works well for everyone else, too.  However, unlike for most treadmills, where the speed is pre-determined, upright stationary bikes set a resistance and the speed is dictated by the user.  As a consequence, the speed is quicker at the beginning and slows quickly as fatigue develops with time; hence, 60 seconds feels like an eternity. So if you choose to use an upright stationary bike, set the resistance to as high as you can handle and complete the time prescription in 30-second increments rather than 60.

So, in closing, don’t give up on a new year’s exercise resolution because you can’t commit to a plan that requires an amount of significant time.  Hopefully, you’ve seen that a little exercise can go a long way when implemented with an all-out effort.  And if you do fail with your New Year’s resolution, don’t give up for the long term; realize that you can get right back on track any time with a minimal amount of time required.


[1]Hallal PC, Andersen LB, Bull FC, et al. Global physical activity levels: surveillance progress, pitfalls, and prospects. Lancet 2012; 380(9838): 247-57.

[2]Korkiakangas EE, Alahuhta MA, Laitinen JH. Barriers to regular exercise among adults at high risk or diagnosed with type 2 diabetes: a systematic review. Health Promot Int 2009; 24(4): 416-27.

[3]Burgomaster KA, Hughes SC, Heigenhauser GJF, Bradwell SN, Gibala MJ. Six sessions of sprint interval training increases muscle oxidative potential and cycle endurance capacity in humans. Journal of Applied Physiology 98: 1985-1990, 2005.

[4]Babraj JA, Vollaard NB, Keast C, Guppy FM, Cottrell, Timmons JA. Extremely short duration high intensity interval training substantially improves insulin action in young healthy males. BMC Endocr. Disord. 2009 Jan 28; 9:3.


Coca-Cola Sugar | The Paleo Diet

If your core business involves the mass production and distribution of sugary products with little nutritional value, times are tough. In the old days, prominent health institutions and regulatory governmental agencies looked upon sugar as relatively benign. Today, however, the science of sugar metabolism is much better understood and accordingly, those institutions and regulatory agencies are becoming increasingly fastidious regarding sugar.

The cat is out of the bag and it’s not going back. So if you’re in the sugar business, your most viable marketing strategies may well involve shifting consumer attention away from food and toward other aspects of healthy living, like exercise.

This seems to be the case with Coca-Cola, according to a story that broke earlier this week in The New York Times. A new nonprofit organization, the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN), which collected $1.5 million in donations from Coke in 2014, promotes the idea that focusing on healthy food is the wrong approach to losing weight.1 Instead of food, dieters should be focusing on exercise.

In an astounding, you-have-see-it-for-yourself online video, GEBN’s vice president, Dr. Steven N. Blair, explains about obesity, “Most of the focus in the popular media and in the scientific press is that they’re eating too much, eating too much, eating too much, blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks and so on. And there’s really virtually no compelling evidence that that in fact is the cause.”

While it’s true that no single food is solely responsible for obesity, the notion that sugar consumption doesn’t matter flies in the face of decades of nutritional science research. Even the big regulatory governmental agencies are now lining up against sugar and this isn’t happening for lack of “compelling evidence.”

After sitting on the sidelines for decades, both the U.S. and the U.K. governments are now aligning themselves with the published scientific literature and indicating that official warnings against excessive sugar consumption are forthcoming.

Last month in the U.K., the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), which advises Public Health England and other government agencies on nutrition, suggested that daily intake of sugar should be halved, from 10% to 5% of total calories, to reduce obesity and improve dental health.2

Here in the U.S., the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans are due for revision this year. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has already met and, after reviewing the published scientific literature, has determined that sugar should account for no more than 10% of total calories.3 Previously, the guidelines recommend against consuming “too much” sugar, but failed to quantify upper limits.

Finally, in March of this year, the World Health Organization issued an official communiqué stating that sugar should account for no more than 10% of total calories and that 5% would confer even greater health benefits.4 According to Dr. Francesco Branca, Director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, “We have solid evidence that keeping intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake reduces the risk of overweight, obesity and tooth decay.”

Americans are drinking fewer soft drinks every year. In March, The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. soft drink sales have declined every year for the past 10 years, representing a 14% decline since 2004.5 Are beverage giants trying to lull the public into believing that sugar plays no part in obesity?

Coca-Cola insists they partner with “the foremost experts in the fields of nutrition and physical activity,” but it’s curious that they seem to avoid funding groups that warn about sugar. In fact, since 2008, they have given upwards of $5.5 million to projects organized by two of GEBN’s founders, Dr. Blair and Gregory A. Hand, dean of the West Virginia University School of Public Health.6]

This story serves as a dramatic example of how corporate money can influence public opinion through purportedly independent, nonprofit organizations. We at The Paleo Diet would like to emphasize that exercise is indeed an important component of healthy lifestyles, but unfortunately exercise cannot compensate for unhealthy diets, particularly those high in processed, sugary foods.


1 O’Connor, Anahad. (August 9, 2015). Coca-Cola Funds Scientists Who Shift Blame for Obesity Away From Bad Diets. The New York Times. Retrieved from //well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/09/coca-cola-funds-scientists-who-shift-blame-for-obesity-away-from-bad-diets/?_r=0

2 The BBC. (July 17, 2015). Scientific experts: Sugar intake ‘should be halved’. Retrieved from //www.bbc.com/news/health-33551501

3 O’Connor, Anahad. (February 19, 2015). Nutrition Panel Calls for Less Sugar and Eases Cholesterol and Fat Restrictions. The New York Times. Retrieved from //well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/02/19/nutrition-panel-calls-for-less-sugar-and-eases-cholesterol-and-fat-restrictions/?_r=1

4 Press Release. (March 4, 2015). WHO calls on countries to reduce sugars intake among adults and children. The World Health Organization. Retrieved from //www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/sugar-guideline/en/

5 Esterl, Mike. (March 26, 2015). Soft Drinks Hit 10th Year of Decline. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from //www.wsj.com/articles/pepsi-cola-replaces-diet-coke-as-no-2-soda-1427388559

6 O’Connor, Anahad. (August 9, 2015). Coca-Cola Funds Scientists Who Shift Blame for Obesity Away From Bad Diets. The New York Times. Retrieved from //well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/09/coca-cola-funds-scientists-who-shift-blame-for-obesity-away-from-bad-diets/?_r=0

Carnitine Levels and Muscle Boosters | The Paleo Diet
When we follow a healthy, Paleo diet, we want to make sure we’re covering all bases, not only in terms of getting every last vitamin and mineral, but doing so in a balanced way. As such, entertaining the idea of taking supplements to meet recommended daily value (DV) requirements is natural. In fact, so many of us take supplements that we’re spending billions.

Sales of supplements in 2013 reached $13 billion, as more people turned to the supplements to boost their health and lose weight, despite an investigation that found most didn’t contain herbs listed on their labels, and in some cases, the supplements didn’t even identify potentially dangerous allergens.1

So, do we really need any of them? Doesn’t a real Paleo diet provide all we need? Yes, but there are a couple caveats worth considering including supplementation for:


Most westerners, particularly those living at northern latitudes, do not receive sufficient sunlight exposure required for our bodies to produce adequate blood concentrations of vitamin D.


We could avoid supplementing if we were to eat the entire carcass of animals and fish (brains, liver, marrow, gonads) which are rich sources of EPA and DHA.2

In my experience, I’ve found on an individual basis, clients may need supplements of one kind or another, but rather than going to the nearest Whole Foods and dropping hundreds of dollars in self-diagnosed natural remedies, do yourself a favor and if you feel something is amiss, see your functional medicine doctor3 to get a full work up and determine what you actually need.

What’s the deal with some of the popular supplements that we see advertised all over the place? We already know how to address some of them. Our need for calcium, for example, is adequately met on a Paleo diet, even though we don’t eat dairy.

And, rather than turning to B12 supplements for energy, we can create a naturally balanced blood sugar levels simply by following the low-glycemic eating regime that is inherent to Paleo.

But what about some of the more confusing supplements, such as those designed to help with performance in sport? Carnitine is a perfect example.

L-carnitine is an amino acid that is naturally produced in the body.  Supplements are used to increase levels in people whose natural level of L-carnitine is too low because they have a genetic disorder, are taking certain drugs, or because they are undergoing a medical procedure that uses up the body’s L-carnitine. It is also used as a replacement supplement in strict vegetarians, dieters, and low-weight or premature infants.4

But can it also give us an edge in sport? Apparently so, according to a recent study published in Cell Metabolism.

“Supplementation with carnitine increases activity of metabolic pathways that helped mice run longer and further than those without supplementation”, said the US-based researchers who conducted a recent study focused on an enzyme, which uses carnitine to boost energy economy.5

Researchers moved to address ways routine activities like mowing the lawn or climbing stairs was becoming problematic due to exercise intolerance. The study concluded that carnitine supplementation did, in fact, work synergistically with the enzyme to optimize energy metabolism during exercise.

But what were the subjects eating? There’s no mention of the diet administered to the mice in the study, and aside from a brief mention that “nutritional and/ or pharmalogical strategies aimed at promoting enzymatic activity could prove useful for offsetting metabolic inertia,” we’re left with a fundamental piece of information, which seems to have been grossly overlooked.

Meat, poultry, and fish, staples of any Paleo diet, are all rich sources of L-carnitine where 63% – 75% is absorbed, whereas only 14% – 20% is absorbed in supplementation.6 Rather than heading straight to the vitamin shop and stocking up on carnitine, do yourself and your wallet a favor and make sure your diet is, in fact, a balanced Paleo approach. L-Cartinine supplementation may prove to be nothing more than the proverbial Band-Aid.



[1] “Americans Are Ignoring the Science and Spending Billions on Dietary Supplements.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 04 Feb. 2015. Web

[2] “Nutrient Deficiencies and Supplementation | The Paleo Diet.” The Paleo Diet. N.p., 23 Feb. 2015. Web

[3] “Institute for Functional Medicine What Is Functional Medicine?” Institute for Functional Medicine What Is Functional Medicine

[4] “L-carnitine: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings – WebMD.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 29 July 2015.

[5] Carnitine Supplementation Could Boost Muscle Stamina: Animal Data.” NutraIngredients.com. N.p., n.d. Web.

[6] Linus Pauling Institute. “L-Carnitine.” Micronutrient Information Center. Oregon State Univeristy, 2015. Web.

Fitness, Technology, and Tracking Workouts | The Paleo Diet

One thing our Paleolithic ancestors certainly weren’t doing is tracking workout metrics via electronic devices. Yet in our modern world, this practice has become increasingly common.1 No doubt, ‘fitness tracking’ has become one of the biggest trends in the world, in the last 12 months.2 In fact, as millions of Americans are tracking workouts daily, this data is constantly being compiled and analyzed.3 Two of the biggest tracking companies, MyFitnessPal and MapMyFitness, recently published data4 revealing California, Colorado, and Washington as the three states in the U.S. with the most active populations. This analysis was based upon the length, frequency and type of exercise tracked.

So those states finished first – but which states came in last? That dubious distinction goes to North Dakota, South Carolina, and Delaware. In fact, of the 65 million users tracked by MyFitnessPal, 7 of the top 10 most active states were from the west coast. Does this come as a surprise? It certainly did to me!

MapMyFitness also helped to combine their data set with that of MyFitnessPal, where diet and sleep metrics were recorded and analyzed as well. Interestingly their data showed more than 45% of workouts performed in Texas, are running-based activities. This is more than in any other state! Unsurprisingly, walking was found to be the most popular activity, with California leading in this category pastime. 40% of participants claimed walking to be their favorite form of exercise.

One of the best benefits of tracking all this data? It holds us more accountable – a vastly needed advantage in our overly sedentary world.5, 6, 7, 8, 9 The “creepy factor” where everything you do is tracked, recorded, and analyzed by a company, is definitely present.10 But, if you lead a sedentary lifestyle, are overweight, or training for an athletic competition, following your activity, diet and sleep via one of these apps could very well help to save your life.11

In fact, as someone who has worked with a wide variety of clients, I can tell you first hand most are unaware of just how bad their lifestyle habits have become. And awareness is one of the first steps in improving your fitness, health and lifestyle!

We are at an interesting crossroads in human history. We are more overweight and unhealthy than ever before, and yet we have more options than ever available, to help us fix this problem! Meanwhile, we continue a constant debate between privacy and data tracking, the likes of which has never before been seen, in our culture.12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

What is the Paleo perspective on all these issues? Certainly our ancestors had no central organization(s) tracking all the world’s movements, sleep patterns, and diet. But would this have been a welcome advancement, if the possibility existed? We cannot know the answer, but wonder what our Paleolithic ancestors would think. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of privacy, data tracking and health, there is no debate that we are certainly living at an increasingly interesting time in human history and need to focus upon achieving optimal health and wellness.



[1] Available at: //www.marketwatch.com/story/fitbit-helps-thousands-train-and-race-smarter-during-summer-racing-season-2015-07-14-13159513. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[2] Available at: //www.zdnet.com/article/diary-of-a-microsoft-band-user-heres-what-ive-found-out-so-far/. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[3] Available at: //www.nytimes.com/2013/10/31/technology/personaltech/wrangling-data-from-a-huge-variety-of-fitness-apps-and-devices.html. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[4] Available at: //newsdaily.com/2015/07/fitness-apps-data-reveals-american-workout-habits-most-active-states/. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[5] Available at: //www.cnn.com/2014/02/18/health/health-fitness-apps/. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[6] Available at: //www.huffingtonpost.com/the-active-times/sitting-is-the-new-smokin_b_5890006.html. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[7] Roth J, Qiang X, Marbán SL, Redelt H, Lowell BC. The obesity pandemic: where have we been and where are we going?. Obes Res. 2004;12 Suppl 2:88S-101S.

[8] Owen N, Healy GN, Matthews CE, Dunstan DW. Too much sitting: the population health science of sedentary behavior. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2010;38(3):105-13.

[9] Owen N, Sparling PB, Healy GN, Dunstan DW, Matthews CE. Sedentary behavior: emerging evidence for a new health risk. Mayo Clin Proc. 2010;85(12):1138-41.

[10] Available at: //www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/06/12/heres-everything-we-know-about-prism-to-date/. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[11] Available at: //www.cultofmac.com/325018/fitness-apps-gave-me-six-pack-abs/. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[12] Available at: //www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-23123964. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[13] Available at: //www.rt.com/usa/snowden-leak-black-budget-176/. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[14] Available at: //www.theguardian.com/us-news/the-nsa-files. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[15] Available at: //mashable.com/2014/03/19/nsa-tech-companies-prism/. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[16] Available at: //mashable.com/2014/03/31/nsa-iraq/. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[17] Available at: //mashable.com/2014/06/05/edward-snowden-revelations/. Accessed July 15, 2015.

4 Outdoor Workouts to Skip the Gym Without the Guilt | The Paleo Diet

Are you looking for ways to exercise more like a hunter-gatherer? Break out of your regular indoor gym workout routine this summer and discover new ways to challenge your body. The current epidemic of lifestyle related health conditions are linked to the daily physical activity patterns that have evolved with modern life.1 By challenging your body with different movements, especially outdoors, we can optimize our gene expression and get the maximum benefits out of our time spent exercising.

Just like we eat seasonally available food, seek out seasonally available activities where you live. Running, swimming, and biking are all common warm weather activities to keep you in shape. However, there are additional opportunities to explore outdoor workouts this summer.  Skip the gym and reconnect with more Paleolithic forms of movement by going outside, trying something new, and being active with your friends and family.


Numerous options exist for creating strength based, and high-intensity workouts using existing structures. Whether you use the wide-open spaces at your favorite park or utilize the equipment at your local playground, you can get a great workout, in less than 15 minutes, while enjoying the outdoors.

Step-ups or jumps on a bench can build cardiovascular endurance, and strengthen the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. Swinging and hanging on the monkey bars, which is much harder as an adult than it was as a child, provides attention to your biceps, lats, and abs.


You’ve probably heard you can incorporate more activity into your day if you take the stairs and skip the elevator. Take it to the next level with an stair-climbing, outdoor workout. It’s a thrilling, complete workout that will tax your lower half, and you’ll also benefit from both the ascending and descending movements.2

I am lucky to live in Seattle, which has over 650 public stairways that add up to a distance of about 100 miles to climb. If no stairways come to mind, check out your local high school stadium stairs near your home. Better yet, take the master in Stairmaster to a whole new level and explore steps worldwide at Machu Picchu, the Flørli stairs in Norway, and Switzerland’s suspended bridge over the Traversinertobel.3


Paddle boarding, one of the fastest growing water sports4, is a cross between kayaking and surfing. It’s simple and safe enough for even small children (with a life preserver) and dogs to come along for the ride, while you get the benefits from the workout. Above all else, it develops your sense of balance, as well as works the muscles of the arms and core.

As the sport evolves, it is being taken to a new level where some are doing yoga, Pilates, and even high intensity intervals of push-ups and squats on the paddleboard. Not close to water? Get all the same benefits from land paddling on a larger version of a skateboard (called a long board), which has rubber wheels.


Speedminton, which originated in Germany in 2002, is a trendy new game you can play in your backyard that’s a blend of tennis, badminton, and racquetball, using a “speeder” similar to the birdie in badminton. There’s no net, so the shots can go as low as you’d like and it can be played in any open space. Speedminton is a great way to build endurance and incorporate sprinting into your fitness routine as you dash for the speeder and have fun with your friends.

Wherever your fitness endeavors lead you this summer, consider broadening the way your body is challenged to perform. Not only can skipping the gym maximize the pleasure you get from exercise, but also allow you to experience the full benefits of sunny, warm weather.  Live Paleo. Move Paleo.



[1] O’Keefe, James H., et al. “Exercise like a hunter-gatherer: a prescription for organic physical fitness.” Progress in cardiovascular diseases 53.6 (2011): 471-479.

[2] Teh, Kong Chuan, and Abdul Rashid Aziz. “Heart rate, oxygen uptake, and energy cost of ascending and descending the stairs.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise 34.4 (2002): 695-699.

[3] Available at: //travelblog.viator.com/best-staircases-in-the-world/. Accessed July 3, 2015.

[4] Available at: //www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703720504575377023651849234. Accessed July3, 2015.

Is Fasted Training the Fastest Route to a Lean Body? | The Paleo Diet

We read all about it, not just in the Paleosphere, but also in the world of sports nutrition; train on an empty stomach in order to become better at using fat as your fuel. I do it myself, for Pete’s sake!  Not only that, but I have many clients following the same “fasted training” regime, waking up and running or spinning before breakfast.

But, is fasted training all it’s chalked up to be? A recent study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition1 concluded otherwise. The study measured changes in fat versus lean mass after a one-month period in which one group trained in a fasted state, while the other group simply followed a low calorie diet. Both followed the same exercise protocol of an hour of steady-state aerobic exercise performed three days per week and were provided with customized dietary plans designed to induce a caloric deficit.

Nutritional counseling was provided throughout the study period to help ensure dietary adherence and self-reported food intake was monitored on a regular basis. A meal replacement shake2 was provided either immediately prior to exercise for the low-calorie group or immediately following exercise for the fasted group.

Both groups showed a significant loss of weight and fat mass from baseline, but no significant between-group differences were noted in any outcome measure. Their findings indicated body composition changes associated with aerobic exercise in conjunction with a hypo-caloric diet are similar regardless whether or not an individual is fasted prior to training.

The authors of the study concluded body composition changes associated with aerobic exercise in conjunction with a hypo-caloric diet are similar regardless whether or not an individual is fasted prior to training, albeit because the study was short and small in number, more research is warranted in a longer term trial with a greater number of participants.

So is that all she wrote? Hardly.

You don’t need to be a fellow research scientist to be able to see some red flags in the study. The first point of contention for me was the macronutrient ratio of the dietary regime the subjects were asked to follow. Unsurprisingly, both were close to nearly half their calories from carbohydrates and, I’d venture to say, it’s a safe bet that those calories weren’t likely coming purely from fresh, local, in season vegetables.

Rather, given that the diets were likely supervised by registered dieticians, it’s more than likely participants were eating foods we see typically regarded as ‘healthy carbs’ in the media, perhaps items like quinoa to whole grain foods, dare I say the ‘low-fat pretzels’. Of course, this is just conjecture on my part, but not at all a far-fetched assumption.

Next, we have the issue of the meal replacement shake. Without knowing which of the versions of the shake was used, we don’t really know what the macronutrient ratio provided to the participants. What we do know, however, is that they weren’t given food. Have a look at one of their products, Elite Whey Protein’s, ingredient label:

Elite 100% Whey Protein Blend (Whey Protein Isolate , & Whey Protein Concentrate), Whey Peptides, Polydextrose, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Cocoa (Processed With Alkali), Gum Blend (Cellulose Gum, Xanthan Gum, Carrageenan), Salt, Zytrix® Enzyme Blend (Protease, Lactase, Lipase), Acesulfame Potassium, Sucralose, Stevia Leaf Extract. Contains Milk and Soy (Lecithin).

While there are certainly a few products on the market I’m aware of that make good “in-a-pinch” protein options, the laundry list above, in my opinion, doesn’t make the great for a natural, clean protein option.

Finally, what were the subjects eating during the rest of the day and what did the low-calorie group actually eat? This isn’t my first rodeo. Having been in the nutrition and fitness field first as a young athlete far before college and experiencing the trends of the early nineties, I can vouch firsthand for what diets were like back then. I followed an “athlete’s plan for eating” in high school given to me by a nutrition professional which had me eating 1,200 calories/day at 5’6” and 119 pounds exercising an average of 90 minutes a day. I was only 16 and guess what I did for extra energy?  Had some Diet Coke!

I shudder the thought now, but the point is if we rely on a low calorie approach rather than the source of the calories, we’re doing ourselves in.

So, back to the study. What’s the take away? In my experience, training fasted is a good way to start your day, whether you’re an athlete, a mom trying to lose baby weight, or a busy executive looking for the best way to achieve optimal mental focus. As with everything else, I recommend using your own body as a subject and doing your own experiment.

If you’re already following a True Paleo regime, all you need to do is wake up tomorrow, and head out for a 30 minute jog or elliptical session for your first test. Come home, hydrate and eat your normal breakfast consisting of some good protein, natural fat and a hefty portion of fresh veggies. Then, the next day, try the same exact thing but have a ripe, spotty banana first. Which elicits a better response?

Granted, what we eat as athletes will demand a change in the macros of a post exercise meal (perhaps including some yam or higher glycemic fruit in a meal if the session has been particularly long or taxing), but this simple test above is a good way to measure your own baseline.

If you start the day in fat-burning mode and carry on with True Paleo diet eating all day long, you’ll be in a much higher-energy state with improved mental focus and guess what?  When you’re eating properly rather than dieting, you’ll be able to achieve your weight loss goal, albeit slowly and steadily sometimes, but in a manner that lets you sustain it long term.

Go train…fasted!



[1] Body composition changes associated with fasted versus non-fasted aerobic exercise, Brad Jon Schoenfeld,, Alan Albert Aragon, Colin D Wilborn, James W Krieger and Gul T Sonmez, Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 11:54  doi:10.1186/s12970-014-0054-7, November 2014

[2] (Pursuit Recovery, Dymatize Nutrition, Dallas, TX). The shake contained 250 calories consisting of 40 g carbohydrate, 20 g protein, and 0.5 g fat.

Speeding Up Your Metabolism | The Paleo Diet

A fast metabolism has wide appeal to modern humans, yet, it is exactly what our hunter-gatherer ancestors avoided to survive during periods of food scarcity. We are genetically designed to store extra calories, so what you feel is a sluggish metabolism, is actually a life saving measure to buy time to find your next meal.

In times of food scarcity (or self-inflicted calorie restriction), insulin-stimulated glucose uptake by tissues is reduced, which prevents the body from relying on protein from muscle tissue as a product for endogenous glucose production.1 This process provided hunter-gatherers the ability to endure famine by retaining more muscle mass to support the physical demands of fleeing from predators and fruitful hunting. Individuals with metabolisms effective at utilizing proteins, carbohydrates and fats have a genetic advantage. When you avoid calorie restriction, you stop encouraging your body to store reserves easily.2

Metabolism isn’t all about burning all of the calories you eat in order to stay thin. It accounts for numerous biochemical reactions that occur in each cell of the body required for basic survival, called basal metabolism. The basal metabolic rate (BMR) accounts for 70% of the calories you need at rest to:

  • circulate blood
  • contract muscles
  • digest food and nutrients
  • maintain body temperature
  • support the functions of the brain and nervous system 3

In addition to BMR, thermogenesis (food processing) and physical activity, determine overall caloric needs. Food processing accounts for 100 calories on average, while physical activity provides the most variability, ranging from 15-35% of your total energy expenditure. BMR slows 3-5% per decade after age 30, which can be attributed to the loss of lean body mass that naturally occurs with age.4

The key to boosting the resting metabolic rate appears linked to the one element we can control: building and maintaining strong skeletal muscles, thus preserving lean body mass.5 In nonobese individuals, skeletal muscle comprises 40% of body weight,6 and can account for 20-30% of the total resting oxygen uptake.7


Researchers found an extra 100 calories per day were burned after 6 months of resistance training.8 Body weight exercises like pushup and pull-ups can be just as effective as lifting weights to stress muscles enough to build strength.9 As a long term strategy, heavy-resistance strength training programs increase resting metabolic rates (RMR) by increasing lean body mass, sympathetic nervous system activity,10 and insulin action.11


Aerobically trained individuals tend to have a higher RMR than those who are untrained.12 An average increase in RMR of 129 calories per day has been shown with cardio exercise 3-5 days per week, for 20-45 minutes, for 16 months.13 Metabolic adaptations associated with traditional aerobic exercise training correlate with improved insulin action14 and glycemic control.15 Insulin resistance is linked to metabolic disorders,16 and performing moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic and resistance exercise for several hours per week can enhance insulin sensitivity.17,18


Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), also called the “after burn effect,” restores the body to its resting state. RMR has been shown to increase for up to 38 hours post-exercise19 contributing to a greater overall calorie expenditure than would be measured without exercise. The EPOC effect is dependent on the intensity and duration of exercise,20 with the greatest effect occurring following high intensity exercise.21 To further boost the overall effect of energy expended post workout, intermittent intervals can be performed throughout the day, as opposed to performing only one continuous period of exercise.22

Physical activity that mimics the movements of hunter-gatherers offers many metabolic advantages, in addition to purely burning calories. Whether your metabolism is fast or slow, you can make vital improvements through a targeted fitness program for optimal performance.



[1] Carey, Andrew L., et al. “Interleukin-6 increases insulin-stimulated glucose disposal in humans and glucose uptake and fatty acid oxidation in vitro via AMP-activated protein kinase.” Diabetes 55.10 (2006): 2688-2697.

[2] Summermatter, Serge, et al. “Thrifty metabolism that favors fat storage after caloric restriction: a role for skeletal muscle phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase activity and AMP-activated protein kinase.” The FASEB Journal 22.3 (2008): 774-785.

[3] Tortora, Gerard J., and Bryan H. Derrickson. Principles of anatomy and physiology. John Wiley & Sons, 2008.

[4] Hunter, Gary R., John P. McCarthy, and Marcas M. Bamman. “Effects of resistance training on older adults.” Sports medicine 34.5 (2004): 329-348.

[5] Wade, 0. L., and J. M. Bishop. 1962. Cardiac Output and Regional Blood Flow. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford, UK.

[6] Owen, 0. E., G. A. Reichard, Jr., G. Boden, M. S. Patel, and V. E. Trapp. 1978. Interrelationships among key tissues in the utilization of metabolic substrate. Adv. Mod. Nutr. 2:517-550.

[7] Wade, 0. L., and J. M. Bishop. 1962. Cardiac Output and Regional Blood Flow. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford, UK.

[8] resistance training. After 6 months, subjects had increased their RMR and were burning an extra 100 calories per day.

[9] Kraemer, William J., et al. “American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Progression models in resistance training for healthy adults.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise 34.2 (2002): 364-380.

[10] Pratley, R., et al. “Strength training increases resting metabolic rate and norepinephrine levels in healthy 50-to 65-yr-old men.” Journal of Applied Physiology 76.1 (1994): 133-137.

[11] Miller, John P., et al. “Strength training increases insulin action in healthy 50-to 65-yr-old men.” Journal of Applied Physiology 77.3 (1994): 1122-1127.

[12] Poehlman, Eric T., et al. “Resting energy metabolism and cardiovascular disease risk in resistance-trained and aerobically trained males.” Metabolism41.12 (1992): 1351-1360.

[13] Potteiger, Jeffrey A., et al. “Changes in resting metabolic rate and substrate oxidation after 16 months of exercise training in overweight adults.”International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism 18.1 (2008): 79.

[14] Hickey MS, Weidner MD, Gavigan KE, Zheng D, Tyndall GL, Houmard JA: The insulin action-fiber type relationship in humans is muscle group specific.Am J Physiol 1995, 269(1 Pt 1):E150-154

[15] Houmard JA, Egan PC, Neufer PD, Friedman JE, Wheeler WS, Israel RG, Dohm GL: Elevated skeletal muscle glucose transporter levels in exercise-trained middle-aged men.

Am J Physiol 1991, 261(4 Pt 1):E437-443.

[16] Bonora, Enzo, et al. “Prevalence of insulin resistance in metabolic disorders: the Bruneck Study.” Diabetes 47.10 (1998): 1643-1649.

[17] Stiegler, Petra, and Adam Cunliffe. “The role of diet and exercise for the maintenance of fat-free mass and resting metabolic rate during weight loss.”Sports Medicine 36.3 (2006): 239-262.

[18] Babraj, John A., et al. “Extremely short duration high intensity interval training substantially improves insulin action in young healthy males.” BMC Endocrine Disorders 9.1 (2009): 3.

[19] Schuenke, Mark D., Richard P. Mikat, and Jeffrey M. McBride. “Effect of an acute period of resistance exercise on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption: implications for body mass management.” European Journal of Applied Physiology 86.5 (2002): 411-417.

[20] Schuenke, Mark D., Richard P. Mikat, and Jeffrey M. McBride. “Effect of an acute period of resistance exercise on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption: implications for body mass management.” European Journal of Applied Physiology 86.5 (2002): 411-417.

[21] Bahr, Roald, and Ole M. Sejersted. “Effect of intensity of exercise on excess postexercise O 2 consumption.” Metabolism 40.8 (1991): 836-841.

[22] Laforgia, Joseph, et al. “Comparison of energy expenditure elevations after submaximal and supramaximal running.” Journal of Applied Physiology 82.2 (1997): 661-666.

Eliminating Hypertension with Coconut Oil and Exercise | The Paleo Diet

Would you believe saturated fat rich coconut oil could improve your cardiovascular health? It seems counter intuitive based upon common impressions of saturated fat being detrimental to our vascular system,1 however a new study indicates that the combination of coconut oil supplementation and exercise has been linked to reduced body weight, reduced blood pressure, improved baroreflex sensitivity, decreased lipid peroxidation, and reduced superoxide levels.2 These findings have the ability to help over 67 million people struggling with hypertension, who have blood pressure levels greater than 120/80 mm Hg3, increasing their risk of heart attacks, heart disease, strokes, vision issues and kidney disease.

The researchers used baroreflex sensitivity, a tool for the assessment of autonomic control of the cardiovascular system, to assess the impact coconut oil and exercise had on their subjects’ health, independently and together. Baroreceptors, located in the carotid sinus and in the aortic arch, adjust the pressure changes in the arterial wall to maintain homeostasis with parasympathetic responses.4 Cardiovascular diseases are often accompanied by an impairment of baroreflex mechanisms, and a reduction in the baroreflex control of heart rate has been reported in hypertension, coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction, and heart failure.5

Further, elevated blood pressure corresponds to both the release of free fatty acids into the blood and muscle fibers6 as well as to oxidative stress, an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects through neutralization by antioxidants.7 These factors promote inflammatory processes such as atherosclerosis8 and lead to heart and blood vessel disorders, atherosclerosis, heart failure, heart attack and inflammatory diseases. Coconut oil and exercise showed the combination of the two led to a decrease in oxidative stress, which correlates with better endothelial-dependent relaxation of the aorta and significantly lower (20 mm Hg) blood pressure.9

How can this new research help you?

Hunter-gatherers avoided the many modern diseases that plague us today. The Paleo lifestyle, including the dietary and exercise prescriptions, can assist you in lowering blood pressures to healthy levels, especially with the regular addition of coconut oil into your dietary regime.

Dietary changes are usually prescribed prior to medication as a method to lower blood pressure levels into a safe range. The Paleo Diet eliminates processed foods, salt, and is high in anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids.10

Numerous studies provide clear evidence of the positive effects of exercise on lowering blood pressure values to a healthy range.11 People who are inactive typically have higher blood pressure than those who exercise regularly, and inactivity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.12

It is possible to reduce your risk for hypertension with lifestyle choices alone. Blood pressure tends to rise with age, so it’s important to monitor it annually with your doctor. The long-term health benefits by making long-lasting lifestyle changes by adopting a Paleo Diet will follow.



[1] Beegom, Raheena, and Ram B. Singh. “Association of higher saturated fat intake with higher risk of hypertension in an urban population of Trivandrum in South India.” International journal of cardiology 58.1 (1997): 63-70.

[2] Alves, Naiane FB, et al. “Coconut oil supplementation and physical exercise improves baroreflex sensitivity and oxidative stress in hypertensive rats.”Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism 40.999 (2015): 1-8.

[3] Available at: //hyper.ahajournals.org/site/misc/StmtGuidelines.xhtml. Accessed on February 25, 2014.

[4] La Rovere, Maria Teresa, Gian Domenico Pinna, and Grzegorz Raczak. “Baroreflex sensitivity: measurement and clinical implications.” Annals of Noninvasive Electrocardiology 13.2 (2008): 191-207.

[5] Eckberg DL, Sleight P. Human Baroreflexes in Health and Disease. In: EckbergDL, SleightP, (eds): Oxford , Clarendon Press, 1992

[6] Wang, Hui, et al. “Role of oxidative stress in elevated blood pressure induced by high free fatty acids.” Hypertension Research 32.2 (2009): 152-158.

[7] Halliwell, Barry. “Biochemistry of oxidative stress.” Biochemical Society Transactions 35.5 (2007): 1147-1150.

[8]  Wu, Lingyun, et al. “Dietary approach to attenuate oxidative stress, hypertension, and inflammation in the cardiovascular system.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 101.18 (2004): 7094-7099.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Weaver, Kelly L., et al. “Effect of dietary fatty acids on inflammatory gene expression in healthy humans.” Journal of Biological Chemistry 284.23 (2009): 15400-15407.

[11] Available at: //www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/hypertension.html. Accessed on February 26, 2015.

[12] Whelton, Seamus P., et al. “Effect of aerobic exercise on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials.” Annals of internal medicine136.7 (2002): 493-503.

Keep Your Weekend Warrior in Check | The Paleo Diet

Does your life get in the way of your Paleo diet and how often you exercise? Our hunter-gather ancestors didn’t have near the demanding schedules we do today. Their lives revolved around sourcing food and attending to basic survival needs. They engaged in strenuous physical activity but recovered with ample rest on a daily basis. The activity pattern of modern hunter-gather populations demonstrates the intensity and duration capabilities of our body, as well the necessity of adequate recuperation time from these pursuits.1

Unlike our Paleolithic ancestors, we have the flexibility to select when and how to exercise, as well as what we choose as nutritional fuel. Great fluctuations can occur in these patterns due to the structure of our weekly schedules. Work and family commitments impact the lifestyle choices we make; is it time to get to the gym or should we eat cupcakes and pizza at a party. These obstacles may conflict with the intentions we strive to follow for overall, lifelong wellness.

Weekday Warriors workout and strictly follow the Paleo diet during the work week. The appeal? It syncs up with job commitments and school schedules to provide structure to stay on target. It’s the opposite of the Weekend Warrior who can exercise without limit during those fleeting two days off and becomes so sore he can’t move for another 5 days. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of both approaches as they relate to the success of your Paleo diet and exercise plan.

Physical Activity

At a minimum the CDC recommends either 75 – 150 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic activity combined with two or more days of total body strength exercise per week.2 Moving for at least this amount of time per week is a goal that can assist you in maintaining your fitness. To mimic hunter-gathers physical movement, do something active for any length of time on a daily basis, rather than solely on the weekends. Weekend Warriors may choose to stick with their current program, and add light walking or stretching during their recovery days.

After four days of consecutive exercise a Weekday Warrior’s muscle function becomes less effective and requires reducing intensity.3 The muscle damage leads to an immediate and prolonged reduction in muscle function. Specifically, a reduction in the force-generating capacity has been quantified in human studies through isometric and dynamic isokinetic testing modalities.4 These warriors can program workouts to balance the intensity and strength demands accordingly to preserve maximum function throughout the week.5


The Paleo Diet 85:15 Rule, permits for individuals to consume three non-Paleo meals per week. This doesn’t allow either warrior the luxury of falling too far off course, as the more closely the principles are followed, the greater the results yielded. The Paleo Diet for Athletes discusses in detail the role of adequate nutrition and its importance in aiding recovery from training.

You may find it is easier to stick with your diet intentions during the workweek, as there are less social obligations and a consistent routine, such as time for stocking up at the grocery store. However, sticky buns show up at coffee breaks, happy hour leads to non-Paleo choices, and meetings run late preventing you from getting your planned dinner made—all challenge your intentions for clean eating. Structure your meals on the weekends to match your workdays, including leeway for special occasions or dinner at your favorite restaurant.

The nuances of exercise programming and nutrition can impact your overall performance and goal attainment. Although discretionary, the success of how often you choose to exercise and what to eat should be measured on how you feel. Whatever options you choose, strive to feel energized, strong, and vital.



[1] O’Keefe, James H., and Loren Cordain. “Cardiovascular disease resulting from a diet and lifestyle at odds with our Paleolithic genome: how to become a 21st-century hunter-gatherer.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Vol. 79. No. 1. Elsevier, 2004.

[2] Available at://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/adults.html. Accessed on February 10, 2015.

[3] Edwards, R. H., et al. “Fatigue of long duration in human skeletal muscle after exercise.” The Journal of physiology 272.3 (1977): 769-778.

[4] Byrne, Christopher, Craig Twist, and Roger Eston. “Neuromuscular function after exercise-induced muscle damage.” Sports medicine 34.1 (2004): 49-69.

[5] Edwards, Richard HT. “Human muscle function and fatigue.” Human muscle fatigue: physiological mechanisms. Vol. 82. Pitman Medical London, 1981. 1-18.

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