My original motivation to question conventional wisdom on diet and exercise was down to the pursuit of 'abs'. Well - in fact I just wanted a low level of body fat (BF), all the time to improve my strength to weight ratio. Visible abs are a good indication of BF. ('Abs' are also the cheapest and most reliable method of determining BF IMHO.)
My abs have been reasonably visible since my youth and as a rough guide they indicated BF levels of around 10%. But over the course of a year their visibility would phase in and out.
My program at the time was of three or four gym sessions a week lifting weights for up to an hour at a time (and involving endless crunches, curls and 'the Plank'), three distance runs of around thirty minutes to an hour and a diet low in fat and high in complex carbohydrate. I didn't really 'do' hunger, so not much in the way of calorie counting....but when I did go without food (sometimes I would forget to have lunch due to pressures of work), I would get that regular carb-crash and the dreaded shakes! I would also spend several hours climbing a week... I won't mention the stresses of maintaining this program, nor the mood swings.
This was in effect the 'eat less and do more' approach coupled with a good dose of 'eat fat = get fat' dogma to boot.
So after today's workout I was struck by the realisation that my abs are probably in their most visible state ever and to be honest, have been for some time - we are talking years!
I want to stress, 'abs' are not my goal. Having a low BF is NOT my goal. This is simply a consequence/by product of my implementation of paleo living.
I know many people 'go paleo' to lose BF and this blog is about my personal experience of paleo living (along with rants on religion, the Media etc...), so I want to share with you exactly WHAT I have been doing to get this way.
YOU CAN GET THIS LEAN, and you can do it without supplements and vitamin pills, gainer drinks, endurance or cardio circuits on foot/bike or rower, chronic and intense ab-isolation, exercises, ab-gizmos (including electrodes or passive machinery of any kind), diet books, ab training books etc... Oh - and this won't cost you a penny.
Paleo: High Fat Diet = Low Fat Body
Read my top 10 nutrition tips here. Basically eat lots of fresh meat, seasonal veggies, nuts and occasional dairy if you want. Moderate fruit (try to stay seasonal). Never avoid animal fat. Do not calorie count. Eat until full. You may progress to fasting after a time - but the fasts should feel intuitive and not become a fight against hunger.
Paleo: High Intensity Workouts = Low Fat Body
First of all - check out my workouts. They are listed 1-11 and contain no ab isolation work. The abs are engaged in the lever and ring work and in stuff like the Kill Carry. My workouts sum to about two 30 minute workouts a week.
Paleo: Playful & Functional Workouts = Low Fat Body
You will see that I 'play'. This could be wild swimming, climbing (getting rarer due to family commitments, hence the second weekly workout is climbing specific), and two one hour sessions of martial arts.
The martial arts start with a warm up of press ups (3x5), and then some sit ups/crunches or V-ups (usually a total of 15 reps in all), followed a saw-tooth pattern of activity, with short intense skipping drills and some sparring. The time under load is brief but intense. Some session are solely skill or form-based so are of a very low intensity for most of the whole hour of the class.
I would also point out that others in my class do these same exercises but have no where near my definition. I know this sounds a bit narcissistic, but I just want to point out that it is not necessarily this ab work which is revealing my abs!
My formal workouts feature sprinting and pull ups, handstands and rows. I work the major planes of movement.
Total workout times then, sum to about three hours a week - which is easily half the amount of 'formal' exercise I used to do - and less oriented around 'cardio' (the traditional fat burning stuff), and much less ab-centric.
In summary I am doing less work using basic exercises with great intensity. I reckon it is the 'formal' gym sessions that in exercise terms are of the biggest benefit. For me THE big change is that of diet. Low carb means less insulin, means lipolysis. Obviously I have not got the best abs ever - genetics plays a part - but they are as good as I have ever got them to look. All achieved without really trying to do anything other than live like a wild man.
So there you have it! If only I had known all this twenty years ago.....Meh!