Top 10 Fasting Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Folks, you know I’m a long-time believer in intermittent fasting for longevity, autophagy, mental clarity, fitness performance, metabolic health, and more. I’m excited that Dr. Jason Fung has stopped by the blog today to share a bit about common fasting mistakes. Enjoy!

So, you’ve decided to add some fasting to your lifestyle. Excellent. No matter how much you have (or haven’t) read on the topic, you’re likely to find aspects of fasting to be challenging or even frustrating. It can be hard to stay on track when you’re feeling hungry, irritable and not really noticing any changes.

It’ll become tremendously easier once you begin to experience the health benefits of fasting, but we all know it takes a little while for that to happen. Benefits like mental clarity and improved energy will show up sooner than significant weight loss. Plus, the benefits you experience will depend on what kind of fast you’re doing and how well you stick to it.

But if you’re making fasting mistakes, you might never accomplish the benefits you were hoping for. . Before you throw in the towel, I want to help you identify some possible fasting pitfalls you might not be aware of and also help you avoid them. Plus, don’t miss the Number One reason fasts fail, shared at the end of this article.

1. You’re Snacking or “Grazing”

Look, the entire purpose of a fast is to contain your eating within certain windows of time. Snacking or “grazing” all day long is basically the opposite of fasting, so stop thinking that you can get away with it. Fasting is “on” or “off”—there is no gray area. Even having “just a bite,” no matter how healthy or how little, will almost invariably kick your body out of fasting mode and will interfere with the healing process responsible for fasting’s many benefits. It also creates a situation where your body is producing insulin all day long. Bad idea.

Avoid grazing by putting snacks and food out of sight. The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” really applies here. You’ll be amazed how much easier it is to bypass snacking when the food isn’t sitting right in front of you. If you snack out of habit, get creative and find new, non-food based habits. If your snacking comes from genuine hunger, you may need to re-evaluate the meals you eat during your eating window. Make sure you’re getting enough healthy, unsaturated fats with each meal as these will keep you satiated for longer.

2. You Aren’t Drinking Enough Water

This is not only a common fasting mistake, but a mistake most people make no matter what their diet is. Drinking a minimum of eight glasses of water daily is essential to staying hydrated and healthy. Some signs that you aren’t drinking enough water include dizziness and lightheadedness, feeling tired, or constipation.

Even worse, when you don’t drink enough water, your brain may try to trick you into thinking that you’re hungry, so you get the vitamins and minerals you’re lacking. Minerals like potassium and magnesium are essential to your brain health. So don’t be surprised next time you feel hungry but find that drinking a glass of water makes the appetite disappear. Various kinds of tea are also a satisfying way to hydrate, or try some bone broth if you’re truly struggling.

3. You Aren’t Consuming Enough Salts

Speaking of vitamins and minerals, appropriate salt intake is vital to your health. Now, when I say “salt,” I’m not talking about the kind you put in a shaker. I’m talking about electrolytes, which are essential to your diet. Sodium (Na), which is also commonly known as table salt, is one of these electrolytes, along with potassium (K), magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca), and chloride (Cl).

How can you tell if you’re low on electrolytes? Some symptoms of electrolyte deficiency are anxiety, irritability, trouble sleeping, muscle spasms, fatigue, digestive issues, and dizziness. If these are the kinds of symptoms you experience during your fast, lack of electrolytes could be the answer. Try taking some pink Himalayan rock salt and placing it under your tongue to dissolve. You can also try drinking some pickle juice — just make sure it’s from high-quality natural pickles and not the kind made with sugar.

4. You’re Eating Right Before You Go To Sleep

Your body needs time to digest all the food from your last meal before you go to sleep. If you’ve scheduled your eating window to happen right before bedtime, your body will be taking all the time you’ve allotted to rest to digest instead. That takes energy, and instead of waking up feeling restored and ready to take on the day, you’ll just feel tired.

When you’re following a fasting plan, a seven-hour window is an ideal amount of time to leave between your last meal and when you go to sleep. Even three or four hours is enough to make a difference. Unfortunately, with crazy work schedules and early mornings, a lot of people aren’t able to stick to that three- or four-hour window. It’s more like get home, eat dinner, and go straight to bed. If this is you, the next best thing is to eat a light meal, like salad, and avoid a meal filled with carbohydrates and protein.

5. You’re Eating Too Much of Some Food Groups

When we cut certain foods from our diet, especially carbs, it’s easy to rely on other food groups, like nuts and dairy. They’re readily available and a staple of most diets.

Nuts are a low-carb, healthy fat option, but only in small amounts. They’re great to add to fruit or veggie salads, and they’re easy to grab a handful of when you need a quick snack. But those quick snacks can add up, especially on top of eating full meals. Nuts are high in good fat, low in carbs, and are a good source of protein, but too much protein can be detrimental to your fast. Excess protein that your body doesn’t need is converted to glucose and stored as fat. If you’re fasting to lose weight, this is the exact opposite of what you want.

Dairy, the other easy food group that too many people defect to, can cause inflammation, upset stomach, bloating, gas, and other kinds of discomfort. If this is a pattern you’ve noticed with your own health and eating habits, try cutting out dairy for a few weeks and see if these symptoms improve. If you haven’t noticed these symptoms, be more mindful of your eating habits and track how you feel after eating dairy.

6. You Aren’t Eating Enough of Certain Food Groups

As easy as it is to eat too much of one food group, it’s equally easy to not get enough of another. Just because you can eat “whatever” you want during your eating window doesn’t mean you should. Empty calories and junk food are momentarily satisfying, but they don’t fuel your body. Eating the right foods provides your body with the nutrients it needs to thrive throughout the day; these foods will also keep you feeling fuller, longer.

Vegetables are one of the best food groups to keep you nourished and thriving. They’re low calorie and they provide different vitamins and minerals like potassium, fiber, folate, vitamin A, and vitamin C. Fruits are also healthy, but don’t overdo it, as most are high in sugar. Fruit juices typically have added sugar as well. Naturally flavored drinks and teas are the healthiest option. Nuts are high in fat and a good source of protein, as are eggs. Refined carbohydrates and sugars are highly unnecessary for your body and if you’re going to include them in your meals, there should be very little.

7. You’re Pushing Your Body Too Hard

Did you dive off the deep end and go from zero fasting to attempting 24-hr fasts every other day? Back up and take a more moderate approach first. Don’t expect fasting to be easy right away. Not only will your body need time to adjust, but your mind will, too. If you’ve been accustomed to three square meals a day, plus snacks and calorie-filled drinks, your body has gotten used to this routine.

Your body needs time to adapt. First it burns through stored sugar and then it will start burning body fat for energy. Start slow and get a feeling for this new practice. You can start with a twelve-hour fasting period and twelve-hour eating window. When eight hours of that fast are during your sleeping hours, this window is relatively easy. Once you’ve become accustomed to this schedule, you can reduce your eating window to ten hours. Continue decreasing your eating window by two hours every one to two weeks, until you’ve hit the fasting period you want.

8. You Have the Wrong Mindset

Fasting provides your body with everything it needs to thrive, but without the right mindset, you’re bound to fail. Focusing on the negative, like not being allowed to eat certain foods or at certain times, will easily spiral into other negative self-talk. The harder you are on yourself, the more difficult it is to achieve success.

Rather than thinking about how hard the fast is, focus on the positive that will come out of it. Fasting allows your body to heal. Fasting can help you lose weight. You’ll feel more energized and have a clearer mind. Whatever the reason you’ve chosen to fast, focus on that. Fasting with a friend, family member, partner, or online community is another way to hold yourself accountable and can be very helpful.

9. You’re Too Stressed

When you’re stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is problematic when fasting because it can prompt your body to break down muscle tissue instead of fat. When fasting, your body should tap into stored body fat and preserve your healthy muscle tissue.

If you’re stressed on occasion, this shouldn’t cause much of a problem. But if you’re chronically stressed, that constant release of cortisol can lead to a breakdown of muscle tissue.

Not sure if you’re stressed? Here are some symptoms:

  • Teeth grinding
  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Apathy
  • Anger
  • Digestive problems
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating

Alleviate stress with deep breathing, positive visualization, an epsom salt bath, and stress-relieving teas. If you can, take some time off from work. If you’re an outdoorsy person, relax in nature.

10. You’re Inactive

Being inactive is one of the biggest mistakes people make during their fast. If you aren’t eating, you should rest and save your energy, right? Wrong. Exercise is a great way to improve your fasting. Activity increases fat burning and boosts circulation. Going outside and getting some sunlight and fresh air can improve your mood, making you more likely to stick to your fast. Movement generally makes people feel better than sitting on the couch inside all day; being inactive makes you cold, tired, and unfocused.

Since a lot of people work sedentary jobs that tie them to a desk all day, exercise isn’t a convenient way to stay active. But taking a short walk or stretching are two easy ways to get your blood flowing throughout the day.

Fasting shouldn’t be synonymous with suffering. If you’re feeling deprived during your fast, be sure that you aren’t making any of the above fasting mistakes. Ease yourself into your fast, stick with it, and enjoy the results when they come with time.

But there’s one more—in fact, the number one reason fasts fail….

Can you guess what it is?

***Giving Into Cravings

Which is why I want to tell you about my new favorite secret weapon for staying fasted longer and with less difficulty: Pique Fasting Teas. Why tea? The combination of catechins and caffeine gives you a higher chance of experiencing tangible benefits from fasting. It suppresses hunger cravings, boosts calorie burn and supports malabsorption of unhealthy fats and sugars.

These Fasting Teas include ingredients targeted at maximizing the fasting experience:

1) Organic highest ceremonial grade matcha, which increases levels of l-theanine to calm and tide you through your fasts with ease. 2) Organic peppermint, which is a natural appetite suppressant with calming properties. 3) Proprietary blend of high catechin green Tea Crystals, which regulate the hunger hormone ghrelin and increase thermogenesis (burning fat for fuel). This helps you to stay fasted and see quicker results. 4) Additional plant ingredients including ginger and citrus peel to support digestion and enhance autophagy.

As with all of Pique’s teas, you can rest assured these are pure and Triple Toxin Screened for pesticides, heavy metals and toxic mold. For a limited time only, if you order through the Mark’s Daily Apple link, you can get up to 8% off and free shipping (U.S. only).

Thanks again to Dr. Jason Fung for today’s post. Have questions on fasting protocols or missteps? Share them below, everybody, and have a great day.

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I Saw the Extra Weight I’d Carried My Whole Life Slip Away

It’s Monday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Monday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

My visual transformation isn’t all that impressive. In fact, despite having a completely different body composition, I weigh more or less the same that I did six years ago.

My real transformation has occurred on the inside and in the way that I try to embody the Primal Blueprint principles in the way I live my life.

Before Primal Living:

  • Out of shape
  • Abysmal self-esteem
  • Without a clear life path

6 Years Since Discovering Mark’s Daily Apple:

  • Owns a Health & Fitness blog and coaching business
  • Inspires others to find their self-esteem through leading by example
  • Recreational athlete in Powerlifting, Strongman and Highland Games
  • Loving life every day

I first heard of Mark and his message about primal health back in 2013. At the time, my husband and I were living in a modest cabin in the woods of Northern Maine and the extent of my fitness routine was the obligatory jog now and then or some exercise videos that mostly involved bodyweight training. Our cabin had no electricity or running water which meant that we were gathering, cutting and stacking firewood by hand so that we could stay warm during the long winters. Turning manure, bending over in the garden, hauling hay for our goats and clearing woods for future pasture were serious back killing chores and we knew we needed to find a way to get stronger in order to support our active lifestyle. Coupled with this was my husband’s chronic GI distress and autoimmune condition, Reactive Arthritis, which led us down the road of research into how a grain-free, sugar free diet could improve those ailments.

As is often the case, primal nutrition and heavy lifting principles were deeply entwined from the very beginning of our journey towards optimal health. And as we cut out wheat and sugar, we also began learning the functional movements of the squat, deadlift and pull-up. With a manual treadmill we found in the barn, we regularly blasted ourselves with intervals after reading from you the importance of sprinting. Your fitness principles of walk far, run fast, lift heavy came so naturally to us and in the setting of the lush, Maine woods, it felt that much more primal to get in tune with our ancestral physiques.

You might imagine that the stronger and more fit we became, the more we wanted to eat better to support that. Before long, our backs felt bulletproof chopping and stacking piles of firewood. My husband’s arthritis improved. I was seeing the extra weight I had carried my whole life slip away. We had gone to the woods to seek a lifestyle where we could call the shots and pursue our healthiest existence. But in the process, we had the rude awakening that our bodies were the weakest link in the chain of health. Our minds were strong and our homestead was strong, but our bodies were not. And so when we saw the benefits of the Primal Blueprint massively improve our existence, it was like coming out of a bad dream and I woke up one morning thinking “hey, this is really something to live for.”

While I graduated college with a degree in writing, I never really had found my purpose or a career I was passionate about giving my 9 to 5 energy to. I always believed that I had a lot to share with the world, but couldn’t conceive of what avenue to take, but with this new primal lifestyle, I discovered a completely unexpected passion. Always the chubby book nerd my whole life, taking on sports in school out of social pressure and obligation but never out of true interest, here I was, suddenly wanting to pursue fitness and wellness as a career.

We ended up leaving our little homestead for my husband to travel down the long (and still not complete) road of becoming a Dentist. He studied for biochemistry and tests and I studied strength and conditioning in between my long hours at Starbucks. (Side note: I managed to make it 2 years working there without consuming sugar and my coworkers would always marvel at my dedication of turning down a free Frappuccino. I explained to them that eating primal, my energy was consistent throughout the day and better than ever and seeing the positive effects of my nutrition in my day to day life was all the motivation I needed to persist.) The years we spent studying for our individual pursuits, we also spend wrecking ourselves on the barbell and on the field doing sprints and without following any strict program, we simply tried to remember to walk far, run fast, lift heavy. Slowly and surely, our body composition improved and I took on my first personal training clients.

Now living in Salt Lake City, I think of myself more as a Strength Coach than a personal trainer and before walking that road I didn’t even realize there was a difference. I see my colleagues often get wrapped up in ideal programming principles and I try to remember the basics: pick up heavy stuff and put it overhead using good technique, train for explosive speed and go on long hikes outdoors.

I use my personal experience to help guide my athletes on the emotional journey of becoming strong and realizing their physical potential. I have so many people, primarily women, come to me saying they want to lose weight. But as we begin working together, they quickly see that in fact their goal is much more complex that a number on the scale. They learn that it feels good to get strong and learn how to move in ways they never thought possible. I see the look of fear in their eyes at approaching a back squat for the first time and I recognize that look of fear because it’s the same one I felt when I started my journey. I see timid women who hate their bodies do a pull-up for the first time after working hard for a year and then it’s like poof… now they love their bodies because they unlocked this talent for strength they never knew they had. When that happens, the number on the scale matters so much less to them because now they have a performance goal. Now they are pursuing health rather than weight loss.

Although I am not strictly a Primal Blueprint coach, I still hold onto those principles while I teach other people how to lift and what strategies they can use to build balanced nutrition. I encourage them to seek nutrient-dense foods rather than counting macros or calories and to eat when hunger ensues naturally rather than adhering to six small meals a day. I feel confident coaching strategies like Keto and Intermittent Fasting because I have done the research on the health benefits and have the anecdotal evidence to back it up from my own experience. I am always trying to do what your blog did for me, which is to teach them ways they can figure out what health uniquely means to them. I still try to embody the idea that you instilled in me: study how our ancestors thrived to learn how to seek our healthy existence in a world that can often be toxic.

My transformation doesn’t come through in a before and after photo, but I believe I have gained a million times more than if I had lost 100 lbs and cured 10 autoimmune conditions. I discovered my life’s path and spend every day trying to guide others to do the same.

Thank you,
Hill

primalpillarsstrength.com
Instagram @primalpillars

The readers featured in our success stories share their experiences in their own words. The Primal Blueprint and Keto Reset diets are not intended as medical intervention or diagnosis. Nor are they replacements for working with a qualified healthcare practitioner. It’s important to speak with your doctor before beginning any new dietary or lifestyle program, and please consult your physician before making any changes to medication or treatment protocols. Each individual’s results may vary.

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Dear Mark: Antibiotic Recovery, Sprinting on Keto, Preparing for Bad Sleep

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions. First up, what can a person do to help their gut recover its barrier function after too many antibiotics? Are there any foods, supplements, or dietary strategies? Second, what can explain rapid fatigue during sprint sessions on a keto diet? Is this simply part of the deal, or are there modifications you can make? And finally, what do I do when I know I’m going to get a bad night’s sleep?

Let’s go:

Mark – any idea how to cure leaky gut caused by overuse of antibiotics. Tried raw dairy for a month to no avail.

First of all, check out my post on leaky gut. Read through it and follow my suggestions for preventing and treating intestinal permeability. It’s a great place to start.

Then, let’s look at some other interventions that have been shown to improve recovery from antibiotic therapy. While most of the studies referenced don’t explicitly describe antibiotic-induced leaky gut, anything that improves gut function and restores healthy gut bacteria will also normalize leaky gut—since it’s the eradication of native gut bacteria that causes antibiotic-induced leaky gut.

Fermented dairy. You tried raw dairy. What about fermented dairy? While raw dairy has its merits, it’s fermented dairy that just works for recovery from antibiotics. Yogurt is a good option to try, although the evidence is a bit inconsistent. Kefir is probably better; it’s been shown to improve patients’ tolerance to triple antibiotic therapy during treatment for H. pylori infection. This is even worth consuming during antibiotic therapy, as many of the probiotic bacteria found in fermented dairy show resistance to common antibiotics.

Fermented vegetables like sauerkraut are also must-eats. The fermented cabbage contains ample amounts of L. plantarum, a bacteria strain that’s been shown to prevent antibiotic-related diarrhea in piglets (another omnivorous mammal). Good options exist in stores (check the refrigerated section; shelf-stable pickles and kraut aren’t lactofermented), and even more are available in farmer’s markets, but the best way to get the most bacteria-rich vegetable ferments is to make your own.

Supplemental probiotics are fantastic here, too: large doses of the desired microorganisms delivered directly to your gut. Some of the strains used in Primal Probiotics, like B. clausii and S. boulardii, have been shown to be effective against antibiotic-related diarrhea, so that could be a good choice.

Don’t forget the food for your gut bugs: prebiotics. You need to eat fermentable fibers and other prebiotics like resistant starch to support the growth and maintenance of the helpful bacteria that improve gut barrier function. Consider eating cooked and cooled potatoes, unheated potato starch, leeks, garlic, onions, green bananas, apples, pears, berries, and pretty much any fruit or vegetable you can get your hands on. Plenty of them are low-carb enough to work on a keto diet, if that’s your desire. Oh, and dark chocolate is a great source of fiber and polyphenols, which have prebiotic effects in the gut.

Incorporate intermittent fasting. Going without food for a spell gives your gut a break and induces autophagy, which can help with tissue healing.

Get dirty, too, to introduce potentially helpful bacteria. Go out and garden. Go barefoot at the park (do your due/doo diligence, of course) and practice tumbling, or roughhouse with your kids (or friends). Don’t immediately rush to wash your hands all the time (unless you’ve been handling raw meat and/or dog poop).

Whatever you do, don’t stress too much about the antibiotics you had to take. Stress is awful for gut health and you’ve already taken the antibiotics—which were probably necessary—so that ship has sailed.

If probiotics with prebiotics aren’t helping (or making things worse), you might want to try going the opposite direction—removing all plant foods and doing a carnivore diet for a few weeks. While I have doubts about the long term viability and safety of eschewing all plant foods, enough people have written to me about their great experiences resolving gut issues with a bout of carnivory that it’s worth trying.

When on a strict keto plan, why do I become so quickly fatigued while attempting a HIT sprint workout?

The first five seconds of a sprint are primarily powered by phosphocreatine (or creatine phosphate), a “quick burst” energy source that burns hot but disappears quickly. This is the stuff used to perform max effort Olympic lifts, short sprints, and other rapid expressions of maximum power. It doesn’t last very long and takes a couple minutes to replenish itself. A keto diet doesn’t affect our creatine phosphate levels. If anything, it should improve them if we’re eating meat.

After five seconds, anaerobic metabolism of muscle glycogen provides the lion’s share of your energy needs. The longer your sprint, the more glycogen you’ll burn. The less glycogen you carry in your muscles, the shorter your sprint. Because once you run out of creatine phosphate and glycogen, you’re left with aerobic metabolism—great for longer distances, not so great for max effort sprints.

Keto dieters tend to walk around with less glycogen in their muscles. If that’s the case, longer sprints will be harder.

If you want to keep sprinting:

Do shorter sprints. Try a 10-second hill sprint rather than a 20-second one. Really go hard. Heck, you can even do 5-second sprints and derive major benefits; just do more of them and make sure to recover in between. There’s no rule saying you have to sprint for 20-30 seconds.

Take longer rest periods. Give your muscles a chance to replenish more creatine phosphate (and take creatine or eat red meat and fish, which are the best sources of dietary creatine).

Eat 20-30 grams of carbs 30 minutes before a sprint session. See if it helps. Alternatively, you can eat the 20-30 grams of carbs after the sprint session to replenish lost glycogen stores (without really impacting your ketone adaptation, by the way).

Most people figure out their sprinting sweet spot while doing keto. They may have to play around with the dosages, durations, and rest periods, but you can usually make it work. Be open to trying new permutations.

If you knew you were going to have a poor nights sleep, what measures would you take to reduce some of the damage?

I would exercise hard that night. Normally, a bad night’s sleep tanks your insulin sensitivity the next day, giving you the insulin resistance and glucose tolerance of a diabetic. A good hard interval session the night before a bad night’s sleep, however, counters the next-day insulin resistance.

I would make the most of it. Don’t dawdle. Don’t beat yourself up because of the impending sleep deprivation. It’s going to happen. You have to accept it, not let it destroy you.

Enjoy it. A little-known acute treatment for depression is sleep deprivation. That’s right: a single night of sleep deprivation has been shown to ameliorate depression in patients with clinical depression. Sometimes the effect lasts up to several weeks. It’s not a long term or sustainable fix for clinical depression, obviously, and you can’t do it every single night—chronic sleep deprivation is a major risk factor for developing depression—but it can improve your mood if you give in to it.

I would set out a jar of cassia cinnamon. I always add cassia cinnamon to my coffee in the morning after bad sleep; cassia cinnamon the day after a bad night’s sleep attenuates the loss of insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.

That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for writing in and reading! If you have any input on today’s round of questions, let me know down below.

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References:

De vrese M, Kristen H, Rautenberg P, Laue C, Schrezenmeir J. Probiotic lactobacilli and bifidobacteria in a fermented milk product with added fruit preparation reduce antibiotic associated diarrhea and Helicobacter pylori activity. J Dairy Res. 2011;78(4):396-403.

Bekar O, Yilmaz Y, Gulten M. Kefir improves the efficacy and tolerability of triple therapy in eradicating Helicobacter pylori. J Med Food. 2011;14(4):344-7.

Erginkaya Z, Turhan EU, Tatl? D. Determination of antibiotic resistance of lactic acid bacteria isolated from traditional Turkish fermented dairy products. Iran J Vet Res. 2018;19(1):53-56.

Yang KM, Jiang ZY, Zheng CT, Wang L, Yang XF. Effect of Lactobacillus plantarum on diarrhea and intestinal barrier function of young piglets challenged with enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli K88. J Anim Sci. 2014;92(4):1496-503.

Jitomir J, Willoughby DS. Cassia cinnamon for the attenuation of glucose intolerance and insulin resistance resulting from sleep loss. J Med Food. 2009;12(3):467-72.

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Dear Mark: Exercise-Induced Asthma, CBD for Diabetes, Warm-ups In the Morning

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions from readers. First, what’s the deal with exercise-induced asthma? Is there anything we can do to lessen its impact and incidence? Second, is CBD oil helpful for diabetics? And finally, do bodyweight exercises always require warm-ups? What about workouts in general—do you need to warm-up before every single session?

Let’s find out:

The first question comes from Caue Cavallaro:

since you are the go-to person when it’s about health, for me, do you have any material related to exercise induced asthma? I had it every now and then but since I started training for triathlon it’s happening more often. Thank you!

This is a classic response. When I was doing triathlon (and training others in the sport), exercise-induced asthma was incredibly common. These were some of the fittest people on the planet, and yet they were wheezing and coughing like they were completely out of shape.

The common denominator was inflammation and oxidative stress. Back then, most of us didn’t know anything about either—and we were loading our bodies with tons of both. Anything you can do to reduce excess inflammation and oxidative stress in a healthy, sustainable manner will help.

First and foremost, how are you training? I’d really consider getting your hands on Primal Endurance or reading this post. The quick and dirty version is that to train the aerobic pathway, you have to go easier and slower than you think. Take 180 and subtract your age. That’s your target heart rate. Stay under it to remain aerobic. You’ll go so slow and so easy that it won’t even feel like you’re training. This will increase how fast you can go while remaining in the aerobic fat-burning zone, and it will limit your tendency to overtrain. Overtraining is the primary reason for exercise-induced asthma because when you overtrain, you’re heaping excessive inflammation and oxidative stress on your system. And you’re doing it every single time you train.

This “easier” style of endurance training is totally applicable to triathlon. Spend a good month or so (longer for most, but you’re probably reasonably fit and ahead of the game) focusing on that for the bulk of your training, building that aerobic base. Pepper in some more intense stuff, some “race pace” running/swimming/biking, some strength training and sprints.

How are you eating? Too many seed oils high in omega-6 fats and too many refined carbohydrates (to support the overtraining, of course) will tilt the balance toward inflammation and oxidative stress. Switch over to more saturated and monounsaturated fat sources, like butter, coconut oil, avocado oil, and olive oil. Be sure to eat fatty fish or take fish oil to balance out your omega-3:omega-6 ratio. Eat fewer carbs, and even consider going keto to enhance your fat-adaptation. The low carb approach goes hand in hand with training easier in the aerobic zone, as it demands less carbohydrate.

You’ll want to support your glutathione production with whey protein, raw dairy, and NAC supplements. Glutathione is the body’s premier in-house antioxidant. We most famously use it to detoxify harmful substances like alcohol and reduce oxidative stress, but glutathione also combines with nitric oxide to become a potent bronchodilator called nitrosoglutathione. Bronchodilators open up the airways and facilitate air flow. Having inadequate glutathione can impair your production of nitrosoglutathione and make your asthma worse—or trigger it.

Choline can help. Studies have shown that getting some extra choline reduces the airway inflammation and oxidative stress in people with asthma. You can take a choline supplement or eat a few egg yolks each day.

Good luck!

Regarding CBD/hemp oil, Carmen asked:

Is there oil for diabetics??

They’ve actually looked at CBD for diabetics. In animal studies, it reduces the incidence of diabetes and shows promise against diabetic complications like high glucose-induced endothelial dysfunction.

But the only human study was a bit of a dud. It compared CBD alone, CBD with THC, and THC alone in people with type 2 diabetes. Only the THC alone improved blood sugar, pancreatic beta cell function, and lipid numbers. CBD was ineffective, if harmless.

When you say, as soon as you wake up, do a quick superset of pushups – doesn’t it require a warm-up session beforehand? Can you really do them right away, as soon as you get out of bed? Is a warm-up not always essential?

I mean, you don’t have to do them right away. I can definitely see an argument for brushing the teeth and having some coffee first. For waking up a bit to get the most out of your workout. But if you work out on a regular basis and have a good base level of strength—which our commenter seems to have—you should be able to do basic bodyweight exercises without much of a warm-up.

If pushups are a major effort for a particular person, then a warm-up is a good idea.

As for the essentiality of warm-ups in general? Warm-ups become necessary when we stop moving for most of the day and do a big workout a few times a week. Warm-ups are necessary when we sit for 10 hours a day, using terrible posture the entire time. Warm-ups are important if you’re going really hard, really intense, and really heavy (think a big CrossFit WOD, a set of heavy deadlifts, or something similar). Warm-ups aren’t as essential if you make your entire lifestyle a movement session.

Thanks for reading, everyone. If you have any comments, input, or questions, leave it down below!

Take care.

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References:

Mehta AK, Singh BP, Arora N, Gaur SN. Choline attenuates immune inflammation and suppresses oxidative stress in patients with asthma. Immunobiology. 2010;215(7):527-34.

Weiss L, Zeira M, Reich S, et al. Cannabidiol arrests onset of autoimmune diabetes in NOD mice. Neuropharmacology. 2008;54(1):244-9.

Rajesh M, Mukhopadhyay P, Bátkai S, et al. Cannabidiol attenuates high glucose-induced endothelial cell inflammatory response and barrier disruption. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2007;293(1):H610-9.

Jadoon KA, Ratcliffe SH, Barrett DA, et al. Efficacy and Safety of Cannabidiol and Tetrahydrocannabivarin on Glycemic and Lipid Parameters in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Parallel Group Pilot Study. Diabetes Care. 2016;39(10):1777-86.

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Don’t Miss the Ancestral Event Of the Year—Paleo f(x) 2019!

Inline_Mark_SpeakingPaleo f(x), my favorite holistic health and fitness event in the world, returns to Austin, TX, April 26-28th! Yup, that’s right around the corner! In case you missed it the last 7 years, Paleo f(x) is the ultimate Who’s Who gathering of the ancestral health movement—as well as the best Primal party you’ll ever go to, hands down.

I’ll be one of the speakers in several Mastermind Panels, and I’ll be giving a talk on “The Top 5 Most Common Mistakes When Starting a Health Coaching Practice.” Our very own Elle Russ, host of the Primal Blueprint Podcast, will also be speaking as will my friend and co-author, Brad Kearns. You can look for our Primal Health Coach and Primal Kitchen teams, too, among the vendors.

You’ll also be getting deep inside the brains of other world-class speakers including New York Times bestselling authors, physicians, scientists, athletes, health entrepreneurs, fitness professionals, biohackers, and more. Robb Wolf will be joining me, along with Chris Kresser, Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, Dr. Michael Ruscio, Ben Greenfield, and dozens upon dozens more. You can register for the event and see a full list of speakers here.

I had such a great time rubbing elbows with thousands of like-minded Primal/Paleo enthusiasts at last year’s Paleo f(x). The Palmer Events Center featured all the biggest companies in the ancestral health sphere along with over 30 expert speakers. Overall, there wasn’t a dull moment, an empty belly, or a lack of enthusiasm among the pop-up community of Primal/Paleo attendees.

2019 promises to be even more of a thrill. The event features:

  • Keynotes: Be empowered and inspired by the thought leaders of the wellness movement at the keynote stage talks. (You’ll find me in this crew.)
  • Workshops: Work live with coaches and fitness experts at the small group expo floor workshops. Master your squat, conquer your kettlebell swing, or have fun at a “Primal Playout.”
  • Cooking Demos: Learn new mouth-watering Paleo recipes, up close and personal with your favorite bestselling cookbook authors and foodie bloggers.
  • Paleo On-Ramp: The special beginner-friendly stage has “Paleo 101” level talks that gently introduce you to real food and optimal living.
  • Health Expo: Discover an array of health-conscious, paleo-friendly companies and sample delicious foods on the expo floor.
  • Book Signings: Meet all your favorite authors and speakers at book signing meet and greets.
  • Networking: Connect with entrepreneurs, creatives, and other passionate “builders” in the Paleo f(x) networking lounge. Includes special guided networking sessions for bloggers, fitness professionals, and health practitioners. If mingling isn’t your thing, Paleo f(x) also offers special guided networking sessions. You’ll be matched with 8-12 other attendees who share your similar interests, so there’s no way you’ll leave without making personal and lasting relationships with your paleo/Primal tribe.
  • Special Events: Celebrate the community and join us for the Saturday Night Charity Festival.

I’ll also be walking the ground floor for the entire event, so it’s a great chance for us to meet. Or catch me at my talk or at one of the Mastermind sessions.

Paleo f(x) takes place at the Palmer Event Center, a premier space in downtown Austin, adjacent to the city’s best food, music, and culture. Last year our Primal presence filled the streets, pervading every corner of Austin for the weekend.

This event is just around the corner (and tickets traditionally sell out), so be sure to register today!

Check out the website to learn more about why you won’t want to miss this opportunity.

I look forward to seeing you there!

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join the largest paleo event in the world

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Weekly Link Love — Edition 22

Research of the Week

GMO soybean oil (made to have less PUFA and more MUFA) causes less obesity than conventional soybean oil

12 weeks of keto improve cognitive function, eating behavior, physical performance, and metabolic health in obese people.

Older adults are still capable of growing new neurons, except if they have Alzheimer’s.

More inflammation, more impulsivity.

Want to bulk up your pet mouse’s colon tumors? Give him American cola, not Mexican.

A combo of EGCG and ferulic acid reverses cognitive deficits in mice with Alzheimer’s.

New Primal Blueprint Podcasts

Episode 322: Dr. Robert Glover: Host Elle Russ chats with Dr. Robert Glover, author of No More Mr. Nice Guy.

Health Coach Radio Episode 5: Ste Lane: Hosts Laura Rupsis and Erin Power chat with Ste Lane, a Primal health coach highlighting the importance and vitality of mindset in the pursuit of health and fitness.

Each week, select Mark’s Daily Apple blog posts are prepared as Primal Blueprint Podcasts. Need to catch up on reading, but don’t have the time? Prefer to listen to articles while on the go? Check out the new blog post podcasts below, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast here so you never miss an episode.

Media, Schmedia

The plaintiffs in an ongoing trial against Monsanto allege that the agrochemical company planted a mole in an independent lab to fake safety data for Roundup.

Primatologist Frans de Waal on human exceptionalism.

Interesting Blog Posts

How the timing of your training affects circadian rhythm.

These forest monks have it figured out.

Social Notes

Another “vegan” Youtuber got caught eating animal foods. You’ll never guess what happened next.

In last week’s SWS, I mentioned a product Kickstarter for Thin Ice, a wearable cold vest that claims to trigger thermogenesis. I want to make clear that I wasn’t recommending it, just expressing interest in the concept. I have no connection to the brand and no clue if the product actually does what it claims.

Everything Else

Look for a coffee-related giveaway this coming Monday on the blog. Has nothing to do with April Fool’s. (I never joke about coffee.)

Why are we “still waiting” for a male birth control pill? Maybe because the only viable one they’re trying to push lowers (an already historically low) testosterone.

Workism isn’t working.

Shmita, the ancient Jewish practice of agriculture.

Things I’m Up to and Interested In

We can do epidemiology, too: A new study on carb consumption and heart disease finds that “strong and probably causal” links between coronary heart disease and glycemic load/index “exist within populations.”

Concept I found interesting: Sex differences in pain sensations.

This is worrisome: A “sex recession.”

I’m intrigued: “In order to reveal how ‘peculiar a creature we are,’ Stewart-Williams offers an alien scientist’s perspective on modern human civilization, studying us as we would study animals in the wild.”

I’d send my kids here (if I had anymore of the right age): The first USDA-certified organic high school where learning to farm is a graduation requirement.

Question I’m Asking

Men: Would you take a birth control pill that lowers testosterone? Women: Would you want your men to take a birth control that lowers testosterone? And I guess this follows, too…how do you feel about women’s birth control pills’ effect on your own hormonal picture?

Recipe Corner

Time Capsule

One year ago (Mar 24– Mar 30)

Comment of the Week

“‘Physiological Functions and Metabolism of Endogenous Ethanol and Acetaldehyde in the Reindeer’ is a bit of light reading that pairs well with a smokey single malt from Islay on a cold winter night.”

– I’m waiting for someone to bottle endogenous reindeer moonshine, Aaron.

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Weekly Link Love—Edition 20

Research of the Week

Neolithic Brits hosted massive feasts that drew people and pigs from all over the island.

Researchers say they’ve found a cholesterol-lowering drug without the muscle-damaging side effects of statins.

Among people with kidney disease, higher oxalate excretion in the urine predicts kidney disease progression.

“Our estimates imply that prescription opioids can account for 44 percent of the realized national decrease in men’s labor force participation between 2001 and 2015.”

High intensity interval training slows colon cancer cell growth.

After age 70, your fitness is the best predictor of lifespan.

Maternal infection during pregnancy increases the risk of neuropsychiatric disorders in the kids.

New Primal Blueprint Podcasts

Episode 319: Gretchen Rubin: Host Elle Russ chats with bestselling author, happiness expert, and good habit purveyor Gretchen Rubin.

Episode 320: Keto: Tippy Wyatt, Author of Asian Keto and Low Carb Cookbook: Host Brad Kearns chats with Tippy Wyatt in a wide ranging conversation about health, success, family, and balance.

Health Coach Radio Episode 3: Ali Watts: Hosts Erin Power and Laura Rupsis chat with Ali Watts about the differences between being a health coach and running a business.

Each week, select Mark’s Daily Apple blog posts are prepared as Primal Blueprint Podcasts. Need to catch up on reading, but don’t have the time? Prefer to listen to articles while on the go? Check out the new blog post podcasts below, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast here so you never miss an episode.

Media, Schmedia

Parents blame a nearby cell tower for an increase in cancer diagnoses at their elementary school.

“Trip of Passion,” a new film exploring the use of MDMA therapy for PTSD.

Interesting Blog Posts

Why the strange collection of sounds called music is a uniquely human obsession.

How the miniaturization of tools might have made us human.

Social Notes

My pantry staples.

Everything Else

Doctor delivers the bad news to his dying patient via robot.

Medieval diseases returning to Southern California.

Chickens gang up to kill intruding fox.

Things I’m Up to and Interested In

Film project you should back: Defying All Odds, the story of Dr. Terry Wahls astonishing lifestyle-based recovery from multiple sclerosis. This is an important story that people should know about.

Article I found fascinating: How the Inuit Teach Their Kids to Control Their Anger

I hope they look further into this: Inactive ingredients aren’t so inactive.

I’m not there yet: At what age do you feel 65?

Question I’m Asking

With “keto bloat,” the media seems primed to launch another barrage of “terrible keto side effect” coverage. Do you think this is legit concern or malicious fear mongering?

Recipe Corner

Time Capsule

One year ago (Mar 10 – Mar 16)

Comment of the Week

“For sure, ground sloth is slow food.”

– Excellent, Walter.

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Dear Mark: Protein Efficiency in Seniors, Earned Carbs, Hardgainer with Limited Time

For this week’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions from readers. First, is the reduced protein efficiency in older adults due to inactivity, or is it something inherent to the aging process, or both? Second, how does a person know if they’ve actually “earned” any carbs? Does everyone on a keto diet earn carbs by virtue of exercising, or is there more to it? And finally, how can a hardgainer with a packed schedule all week long and limited gym time maintain what little muscle mass he’s managed to gain?

Let’s find out:

Interesting observation on protein needs and training in Sunday with Sisson – general consensus is that older folks need more protein as they age but maybe that’s because they are less active and not simply a result of aging.

That’s probably part of it, but it’s not all of it.

In studies where they compare resistance training seniors who eat extra protein with resistance training seniors who don’t, only the seniors eating extra protein gain muscle mass.

Now, it may be that a lifetime of inactivity degrades your ability to utilize protein, and if these older adults had always lifted weights they would have retained their protein efficiency. But maybe not. As it stands, all else being equal, an older adult needs more protein to get the same effect, even if he or she is lifting weights.

Enjoyable read. As someone who lives a ketogenic lifestyle, and who is athletically active, I am not sure exactly how to go about consuming the carbs I’ve “earned.” I rarely run into problems with athletic energy, at least not below anaerobic threshold. Not sure that eating more carbs will improve my performance. And, if they would improve my performance, how does one go about calculating earned carb replacement without losing the fat burning benefits of ketosis?

It sounds like you’re in a good place.

When I say “eat the carbs you earn,” I’m talking to the people who do run into problems with athletic energy, poor performance, insomnia, and other symptoms of exercise-induced stress. Typically, the people who “earn their carbs” are doing stuff like CrossFit, high volume moderate-to-high intensity endurance work, martial arts training, and team sports.

I doubt extra carbs will improve your performance if most of your training takes place in the aerobic zone. But if you wanted to experiment, you could try a small sweet potato immediately after a workout where you passed the anaerobic threshold.

That’s the best way to determine if you’ve earned carbs. Eat 20-30 grams after a workout and see if you enjoy performance gains without gaining body fat. There’s no consumer-friendly way to directly calculate carb debt; self-experimentation is it.

I recently took a job that has me out of bed at 4am and not home until 6pm Monday Through Friday. Is there an efficient way I can maintain muscle mass only lifting weights Saturday and Sunday? I’m a hardgainer at 5’10” and only 140lbs. I’m afraid giving up my 5 day split will ruin what muscle I’ve been able to gain.

Any hardgainer has to eat, and eat, and eat. Increase your food intake. Just eat. Stick to healthy Primal fare, but pack in the food. Meat, milk, veggies, potatoes, rice, eggs, avocados, fruit. Throw some liver in, too (old bodybuilder staple). It doesn’t sound like fat gain is an issue for you, so I’d take advantage of that and just consume calories.

As for training, get some exercise snacks in during the week.

As soon as you wake up, do a quick superset of pushups. Do as many pushups as you can. Wait 30 seconds. Do as many pushups as you can. Wait 30 seconds. Do as many pushups as you can. There you go. That shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes in the morning. Can you squeeze that in?

Repeat this every morning with a different exercise. Pullups, bodyweight rows, kettlebell swings, handstand pushups, dips, bodyweight squats, goblet squats, reverse lunges, reverse weighted lunges. Just choose one thing to do every morning, cram as many reps as you can using the same format (max reps, 30 s rest, max reps, 30 s rest, max reps). Buy any equipment you can if you choose to use weights.

When you get home at night, do the same thing with a different exercise. Morning pushups, evening KB swings, etc. That way, you get about 10 minutes per weekday of intense strength training without impacting your sleep or schedule in any real meaningful way.

Make sure your sleep hygiene is rock solid. Dim those lights at night, turn on f.lux or night mode, wear the blue blocking goggles, get to bed (ideally) by 8:30, 9 to give you 7 to 7.5 hours of sleep. Sleep is essential for gaining lean mass (and staying healthy in general).

On the weekend, hit the weights hard on both days, hitting the entire body. Go high volume/reps. If size is your goal, dropping the weight a bit and focusing on range of motion and a high rep count (10-15 per set) is very effective.

Food, sleep, reps. Good luck!

Thanks for stopping in today, everybody. Additional thoughts for these folks—or questions of your own? Share them below.

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References:

Tieland M, Dirks ML, Van der zwaluw N, et al. Protein supplementation increases muscle mass gain during prolonged resistance-type exercise training in frail elderly people: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2012;13(8):713-9.

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My Favorite Way To Play: Ultimate Frisbee Workout (with Video)

I’m a believer in working hard AND playing hard. When we get stuck in patterns of overwork and overstress, we lose the important connection with our creative, intuitive, playful selves. Our work suffers and so does our happiness (which means everything else, like our relationships, will, too). Stuart Brown, one of the world’s leading experts on play, calls play a “profound biologic process.” What we all know (or used to know until modern living helped us forget) is that play is an essential component of our physical development and general well-being. From a personal standpoint, the older I get the more I recognize play as the linchpin for my own sense of vitality. As a result, I prioritize play—even above exercise. Fortunately, however, I’ve grown into a new relationship with fitness as a result of play. I gave up the slog of grueling training regimens decades ago now, but to this day I’m still living more deeply into a play-based fitness vision. Let me show you a bit of what that looks like for me….

You all have heard me talk about Ultimate—probably as long as Mark’s Daily Apple has been around. The fact is, it’s as thrilling for me today as it was twelve years ago. Nothing else quite combines the diversity of essential movement and the heart of play like Ultimate does. In a single hour, I’m getting regular sprinting, lateral movement, agility training, recovery phases, and mind-body coordination to skillfully throw, catch and move on the field. I love the intense challenge and fast pace of the game.

Ultimate plays very similarly to rugby or football. The field has two end zones, and a team scores by catching a pass in the defensive team’s end zone. The defending team performs a “pull” (think “kickoff” in football) to start the match (and after every subsequent point scored). The offense moves the disc by passing to teammates in any direction. Once a player catches the disc, he must come to a stop as quickly as possible. From this position, he can only move his non-pivot foot. A player has ten seconds to throw the disc after catching it.

The disc changes hands either by turnover or after a score. A turnover occurs when a pass is not completed, intercepted, dropped, blocked, held for longer than the allotted ten seconds, or thrown out of bounds. The defending team assumes control of the disc immediately following a turnover, from wherever the disc lands on the field. There is no stoppage of play (unless a foul, injury or bad weather occurs).

From a physical standpoint, you’re out there running, leaping, twisting, grabbing, throwing, and bumping into other players. You use practically every muscle in the body (if you’re not, you’re doing it wrong) and, rather than long protracted runs, you engage in short bursts of speed and activity punctuated by walking and brief jogging (almost like you’re on the hunt). Not only does it take keen, quick thinking, remarkable agility and throwing accuracy, and raw athleticism, but it also promotes good teamwork and sportsmanship. In fact, Ultimate has an official “Spirit of the Game” (SOTG), a sort of mission statement that stresses sportsmanship and honor. Highly competitive play is condoned, but not at the cost of general camaraderie. Everyone is out there to have a good time and get some great exercise.

Check it out.

Want more ideas for active play? Here you go.

And for more on the importance of play for a Primal Blueprint lifestyle, check out these resources.

Now you tell me: what’s your favorite way to play? How do you merge the Primal goals of mobility and fitness with everyday enjoyment? Thanks for stopping in today.

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Glute and Hamstring Workout

Jessica Gouthro from Paleohacks is joining us today to offer tips for strengthening glutes and hamstrings without traditional gym equipment. Enjoy, everyone.

Strong glutes and hamstrings are more than just nice-looking legs and a booty.

The glutes and hamstrings are the strongest muscles in our skeletal muscular system. When we strengthen these muscles, we can prevent strain and injury while also enjoying a greater ability to squat deeper, lunge pain-free, push heavy objects, run faster and jump higher.

To best train those glutes and hamstrings, you’ll want to emphasize both leg curling (knee bending) and hip extension (or straightening) actions for balanced training. One of the best exercises that do this is the glute ham raise, or GHR.

Very few exercises can isolate the hamstrings and glutes without top-loading excess weight on the spine or testing your grip strength with a loaded barbell. Although you may think this exercise looks easy in comparison to a Barbell Romanian Deadlift or Hip Thrust, it is just as challenging (if not even more so) when performed correctly.

What Is a Glute Ham Raise?

A glute ham raise is an eccentric, or muscle lengthening, exercise that involves a fixed location of the feet, ankles, and hips and a hinge only at the knee joint. By securing the foot position and starting with a bent knee, we enable the hamstring to lengthen eccentrically against gravity using only our own body weight.

Rising back up to the starting position is done by a combination of hamstring contraction and assistance from the upper body pushing against the floor.

Typically, this exercise utilizes specialized equipment called a GHR machine (pictured) that can hold your feet and ankles in place and cushions your knees with a curved, shaped knee pad.

Since you may not have access to one of these in your home or gym, we have a great alternative you can do with a partner. All you need is a friend and a rolled-up towel to cushion your knees!

Partner Assisted Glute Ham Raise | 6 reps

Kneel down on a rolled-up towel. Tuck your toes under and straighten your hips. Lift your hands up in front of your shoulders and tighten your core.

Have your partner press down firmly on your ankles to secure your position. Keeping your hips and glutes tight, inhale as you slowly lean forward, hinging only at the knees.

Once you can no longer control the descent, use your hands to catch yourself and lower the rest of the way down. Push into the floor with your hands, and on an exhale, contract your glutes and hamstrings to rise back up to the starting position.

Complete six reps while your partner holds your ankles steady.

Note: This is an advanced exercise. If you find this exercise too challenging and cannot complete six good reps, you can try this next partner-assisted resistance band hamstring curl exercise as an alternative.

Partner-Assisted Kneeling Band Hamstring Curl | 8 reps per leg

Kneel down on a rolled-up towel, tuck your toes under, and get into an all-fours position. Extend one leg straight out behind you.

Have your partner loop a resistance band around your heel, just above your shoe. As your partner holds her end of the resistance band tight, bend your knee to curl your heel towards your butt.

Exhale and hold momentarily at 90 degrees, then slowly straighten to return to the starting position. Continue to bend and straighten your knee while maintaining that lifted leg position. Complete eight reps, then switch sides.

Note: You will feel this in your glutes on both sides as well as in your hamstring.

In case you don’t have a partner available, here are the five best glute and hamstring exercises you can do anywhere, by yourself. You’ll need a yoga mat, a towel, and an exercise band.

To get the most out of your efforts, I recommend performing all of these exercises at least two to three times per week.

Fire Hydrant | 10 per side

Kneel down in an all-fours position with your feet flexed (toes pointing to the floor). Lift one knee up and out to the side to hip height. Exhale at the top as you flex your glute muscles, then lower back down with control. Maintain a steady torso and upper body as you focus on contracting your glutes.


Complete 10 reps on one side, then switch to the other leg.

Note: Work slowly to ensure quality muscle contractions. Pause each time you hit the top and strongly contract your glutes. You’ll feel this on both sides, even though you’re working one side at a time.

Towel Slide Hamstring Curl | 8 reps

Sit at the bottom edge of your mat with the full length of your legs on a smooth surface floor, like hardwood or tile.
Lie down flat on your back and press your palms into the floor by your hips.

Place your heels on a towel and keep your feet flexed. (If you are working on carpet, use a piece of paper or two paper or plastic plates instead of a towel.)

Engage your glutes and lift your hips off the ground. On an exhale, bend your knees to slide the towel towards your butt. Stop when your knees reach a 90-degree bend. Inhale, and reverse by sliding back out to a straight body.

Complete eight reps, keeping your hips elevated the entire time.

Single Leg Toe Touch | 6 reps per side

Stand tall with your core tight and shoulders rolled back and down. Balance on one foot as you float the other just off the ground.

Inhale to hinge at the hips to tilt forward until your torso and top leg are parallel to the ground. Keep a slight bend in your standing leg and reach your fingertips towards your toes. Exhale to lift back up to standing, contracting your muscles.

Complete six reps per side.

Note: Keep your gaze on the ground to help with balance. If balance is still a challenge, you may hold onto a wall or chair with one hand while you do these reps.

Single Leg Balance Hamstring Curl | 6 reps per side

Balance on one leg with your torso and lifted leg parallel to the ground. Keep a small bend in your standing leg, and grab onto your quad for stability. On an exhale, curl your top leg towards your butt, while maintaining your hip and torso position.


Inhale to straighten your leg, reaching it out long behind you.

Continue six reps on one side, then complete six reps on the other side.

Single Leg Resistance Band Ham Curl | 6 reps per side

Slide one end of your loop resistance band underneath your left heel, pressing down with your heel to secure its position.

Lift your right leg. Loop your right heel through the other end of the band, positioning it on the back of your shoe. Place both hands on your left knee and hinge at your hips with your spine straight.

Exhale to bend your right knee to 90 degrees, then inhale as you lower back down with control, maintaining a small amount of tension on the band so it does not come loose. Your range of motion should be about eight to 10 inches.

Complete six reps, then switch sides.

Note: Hold onto a wall or a chair for balance if you need to.

How To Incorporate This Weekly Workout

Here’s a sample workout you can incorporate into your weekly routine.

Warm up with three minutes of light walking or jogging. Follow with three rounds of the circuit of seven exercises, resting for 10-30 seconds between exercises depending on your fitness level.

Note: Beginners can do just one round and work up to three rounds after a few weeks.

  • Partner-Assisted Glute Ham Raise [OR] Partner Assisted Kneeling Band | 6 reps
  • Hamstring Curl | 8 reps per leg
  • Fire Hydrant | 10 per side
  • Towel Slide Hamstring Curl | 8 reps
  • Single Leg Toe Touch | 6 reps per side
  • Single Leg Balance Hamstring Curl | 6 reps per side
  • Single Leg Resistance Band Ham Curl | 6 reps per side

Thanks again to Jessica Gouthro for these tips and to Brad Gouthro for demonstrating them. Be sure to check out Jessica’s other workout lineups on MDA:“Arm Workout Without Weights,” “13 Ways To Move More At Work” and “10 Moves To Help Ease Joint Pain.”

Questions or comments about exercises or glute and hamstring strength? Share them below, and thanks for stopping by.

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