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Columns : In My Sights

My Inner Cro-Magnon

Maybe our ancestors were on to something with their protein-rich diets and intense interval exercise regiments.

March 14, 2011  |  by Dave Smith - Also by this author

Illustration: Sequoia Blankenship.

Ever since I was a kid I have been fascinated with cavemen. Oh yeah, lots of kids are. But for me it was something personal.

It started in ninth grade World History class with a film strip (way pre-PowerPoint). Early versions of modern man began to appear on the projection screen. Primitive Homo erectus, massive Neanderthal, and then the eerie image of our immediate ancestor, Cro-Magnon man!

A gasp escaped the class and everyone's gaze settled on my face; as the oddly protruding ridge above my eyes furrowed they all looked on in wonder. Cro-Magnon had not gone extinct; he had quietly infiltrated the ranks of "modern man" and was sitting in their class.

Seconds passed and then they all began to laugh as, apparently, my look of consternation only aggravated my similarity. I was the class clown and they assumed I was clowning when, in fact, I was equally amazed and concerned that the image on the screen did, actually, look a great deal like me. Needless to say, I have taken an interest in our ancestral roots ever since.

Well, many years later I feel darn good about my primitive lookalikes as science begins to find out more and more about them. A lot of what we know now makes me wonder what the heck happened to us? Cro-Magnons were big, athletic, and healthy until they died (mostly young), and had bigger brains than we do. All this is coming out in the new wave of diet and exercise books extolling the lifestyles of our ancestors.

Let's take diet books for example. "The Paleo Diet," "Neanderthin," "The New Evolution Diet," to name just a few all claim our primitive self would be munching on freshly dead organic something, with a side of berries and nuts in season. The nomadic hunter would do as little as possible to get by until the time to hunt, fight, or run came. Actually, that does sound a little like the lifestyle of a few of my friends.

These diets turn the food pyramid on its head and would have us chowing down on meats, green veggies, nuts, and beans and skipping all the things civilization has brought to the table, like bread, pasta, and pizzas, gang. It seems the herds didn't stick around for the wheat, barley, potatoes, or oats to get ripe, or whatever it is they do.

Even fruits take a hit, as several authors say because they only occur in nature seasonally, our bodies shouldn't get them regularly. Apparently, between the fruits and starches we consume we have become fat and sick and these things need to be purged.

Exercise too is being "cavemanified" or something. Short bouts of intense interval training to match our hunting exertions or maybe our "get outta here there comes a cave bear" sprint to at least get ahead of our hunting partner, have become the recommended regimen for our newly discovered primitive selves. In "The Four Hour Body," the author claims that by reclaiming the truest understanding of our bodies we can do all kinds of feats of weight loss, exercise, and reproductive skills...yep, reproductive skills and I have your attention?

So, my crime fighting brothers and sisters, I think you might find it interesting to stop by your local library and peruse a few of these volumes. I'll give you the gist right now: 1) Stop eating all starches. 2) Meat, beans, and veggies should be your only food sources at least six days a week. 3) Learn to make exercise play again with short intense bouts of exertion.

Now, I know this all sounds goofy as it goes against the FDA's guidelines and all that, but I can tell you I don't have a lot of faith in those guidelines anyway. Too many of our own die far too young and I don't think it is just the stress of the job and shift work. I think diet and exercise are often neglected and now science is coming around to my way of thinking: more meat, less bun.

Dave Smith is the creator of "Buck Savage" and a retired law enforcement officer from Arizona. Currently, he is the lead instructor for Calibre Press' Street Survival seminar.

Comments (2)

Displaying 1 - 2 of 2

Chuck @ 3/15/2011 3:19 PM


I think you mixeded up Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon.

We are Cro-Magnons, with nicer clothes, caves and tools.

Ryan Murakoshi @ 3/15/2011 8:48 PM

Good article and glad this is finally coming more and more into the light. One thig I would add, and I've been personally doing and teaching paleo nutrition as an occupation for the past 3 years, no beans. Try irritate the gut much like the grains do and compromise the immune system. Also add in good fat sources to replace a good amount of calories in the eating plan. Don't overeat too much proteins, cause that too can cause fat to increase on the body. Good fats include avocado (and A oil), nuts (not peanuts, they're legumes), grass fed butter and fat from grass fed meat sources, olive oil, just to name a few.

Hats off to you on the article. And for those who think it's all a bunh of crap, try it for 30 days. Eliminate the grains completely. I did it, and have never felt better. Hope to be joining you all on the beat soon.

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