Designing an Exercise Plan

I have two very specific goals for this coming year with regards to my exercise:

  1. Lose weight (and maintain it)
  2. Improve overall fitness (strength & endurance)

There is a third element here that is really a subset of #2 in that I want to improve on my mountain bike. This is the benchmark by which all of this will be measured.

To do this I want to really prioritise my exercise and design a plan that covers all of these bases. This, of course, has to build upon my ideas around creating a regular schedule and routine and ultimately cutting out all the sugar, alcohol and processed crap that has crept in to my diet.

Lose Weight

Assuming everything else is dialled in this one should be easy enough.

  • Drop all alcohol, sugar and processed carbs
  • Stick to my exercise schedule
  • Utilise a reduced eating window (8 hour on, 16 hours off IF style)
  • Eat a high nutrient density diet
  • Keep all carbs in the post workout window (evening)


I need to do a couple of things here:

  1. Lose weight – so burn some calories
  2. Get stronger – so lift some weights
  3. Improve my endurance – do some cardio
  4. Improve my anaerobic (high intensity) fitness – do some high intensity interval training

With the weights I want to improve raw strength and strength endurance so I need two different workouts in there. My high end cardio (anaerobic) is merged with my strength workouts + one short but high intensity dedicated session. My endurance is tackled by a ride to work and back on Tuesday + my Saturday bike ride.

As I am 41 I also need to allow for some recovery in there somewhere so there are two days when I only walk the dog!

Weekly Plan

My goal here is to improve on the mountain biking I do on a Saturday morning so I top load the week and reduce volume and training frequency to recover for the ride.

Version 1.0 of my plan looks like this:

  • Monday – high volume strength & HITT training at the gym (90 mins)
  • Tuesday – bike to work (1 hour each way)
  • Wednesday – pure strength workout (5 x 5 style) + bike tabata
  • Thursday – 12 minute metcon + stretches and recovery work
  • Friday – rest: 60 minute dog walk
  • Saturday – big bike ride at trail centre (measure results)
  • Sunday – rest: 60 minute dog walk

Getting started

I am starting this program on the 9th January 2017 so will keep you posted on my progress and tweak the program as needed.

Designing my daily schedule for 2017

2016 has been quite the challenge.

We achieved a personal goal to buy (what will hopefully become) our dream house but we have spent six months renovating it (and are nowhere near done yet).

I also run a digital marketing agency in the UK called Bowler Hat. The business is evolving from offering just search engine optimisation to offering a range of services: Strategy, SEO, PPC, Content, Social and Web. Gobbledygook to most I guess but a necessary and difficult change for the business and industry as a whole. Managing this change is fun and rewarding but a challenge at the same time.

Then I have three children of 12, 11 and 5 and a wife – all of whom I want to see more of. Twelve hour work days leaves little time for family in the week. Factor in popping to the shops, walking the dog, exercise, cooking dinner and trying to wind down… there just is not enough hours in the day when you work 12 of them.

Time flys by so fast

This previous year (2016) I became more aware of how this stage of life parenting young children will soon be over. That makes me sad. But I can use that energy to focus my time better so I can enjoy all the time we have left with the children. In a blink of an eye, I will be 50 and I don’t want to look back and think “well Marcus, would have been good to get home a bit earlier and do a bit more with the kids”. Prioritise and change now. Don’t have regrets.

The overarching purpose of this blog is how to be happy, healthy, productive and successful for those of us 40 and above. How to navigate the modern world where we are all just so damn busy.

Clerly a big change I need to make here is to work fewer hours and spend more time with the family. This will require two major factors:

  1. Routine – less chaos to enable planning
  2. Productivity – removing all wasted time at work and home

My day

During the week most days I will be up at 6 am and in the office from 7 am. Often I will not be back home till 7 pm. Factor in some running around and various after school activities for the kids and it is pretty much a routine of wake, work, cook, eat, sleep & repeat.

This needs to change.

My priorities

This year my priorities are:


I want to spend more time with my family. More time helping my eldest kids with their homework. More time being around to spend quality time with my youngest and playing with him after school. More time to spend with my wife. Just more time at home and less time wrapped up in the stresses of work.


Health is a difficult one to pin down and is primarily about doing more of the good (food, exercise) and reducing the bad (inactivity, stress, alcohol, bad foods). My main focus here will be to improve our diet even further (which is already pretty damn solid) which really just comes down to cutting out alcohol & sugar and then having more time to shop, cook and prepare food for in the week.


I want to be as fit and strong as possible for as long as possible. This is primarily so I can continue to enjoy my life into my fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties even. I would also like to be lean and strong and look good (just being honest here). I have a desk job where I sit down most the day so it’s super important for me to exercise for my physical (and mental) health.

I also want to get better at mountain biking and a large component of this comes down to fitness. So, I want to exercise but tailor it towards my general goals and towards my chosen sport (which requires cardio and strength).


I want to have a less stressful year. I am developing a business and still renovating a house. This is alongside a fast-paced life at home with two near teen children, my youngest (5) and my wife (who has MS that we manage through diet). My life is a little stressful. So, this will be more about stress management than the removal of the things that apply stress.


I can tend to use alcohol to wind down after a fast paced day. It allows me to switch gears from work mode to chilled mode. Usually whilst cooking on the evening. Due to the hours, I work this tends to be unhelpful and just feeds into bad sleep, more stress and negatively impacts my fitness and health goals. I am going to revisit my thoughts about alcohol in a future post but for now, I will cut out all alcohol in January whilst I revisit that.

Time for myself

Whilst most of this involves improving the time I spend with my wife and children I also want to have some more time for myself. Maybe regular exercise and meditation go most the way for this but I may also want to spend an hour on the games console a couple of nights a week. Not too much to ask I hope.


Sleep. Often overlooked but so, so important. I want to allow for 8 hours sleep each night. I tend to need somewhere in the region of 7 to 8 hours. Closer to eight when I am exercising. So any schedule has to allow for a full eight hours with some time to wind down before that. Ideally three hours of time to just chill out and 15 mins to

My schedule

The below looks at my daily schedule – I will detail my work schedule in another post covering all the time management and productivity hacks I am working into my daily routine in 2017. The goal is work less hours but eliminate wasted efforts (80/20 rule) and push productivity up.

To summarise I am looking for:

  • More time with the family
  • Regular exercise
  • Less stress
  • More relaxation time
  • Improved health, fitness and lose a bit of weight

Monday to Friday

  • 5:30 am – get up: cold shower, coffee, some chess tactics for fun
  • 6:40 am – leave for work
  • 7:00 am – work: 8 hours 30 mins at work
  • 7:10 am – meditate for 10 mins
  • 3:30 pm – finish: drive home
  • 4:00 pm – home: see the kids
  • 4:15 pm – exercise, shower and get everything ready for tomorrow
  • 5:15 pm – cook
  • 6:00 pm – eat as a family
  • 6:30 pm – walk the dog (as a family)
  • 7:00 pm – two hours to relax or even catch up on work if needed 🙁
  • 9:00 pm – go to bed to read for 30 mins
  • 9:30 pm – sleep for eight hours

This allows me to get three hours of time each night to just chill out and get an eight hours sleep each night if I need it due to increased exercise. If not I can read more.


Saturday I tend to do my big bike ride for the week. This is the main goal of my exercise here and my benchmark. I don’t want this to eat into family time so up at 6.30am and meet my riding buddies at 7 am. I also need to sort out the meal plan and food shopping for the week.

  • 6:00 am – get up with my youngest (coffee etc)
  • 6:45 am – bike ride
  • 12:00 pm – home
  • 12:45 pm – meal plan for week
  • 1:00 pm – shopping
  • 3:00 pm – chill out


Sunday is just to chill out with the family so no schedule there. That said I do want to take the kids swimming every Sunday morning so I can teach the youngest to swim before our summer holiday.

  • 10 am – take kids swimming
  • 12 pm – sort out clothes and schedule for week
  • enjoy the rest of the day

Spend the rest of the day just hanging as a family. Walk the dog. Play some chess with my kids. Watch a movie together. Eat a nice dinner. Just fun.


To make this happen I also have to remove all the wasted time and inefficiencies in my day to day life. Time spent looking for my keys, time spent sat in traffic, time lost in my email inbox, doing our shopping day-to-day and any other wasted time but that’s a story for another day and a future post.

There you go

So there you go folks. I will be putting this into practice from the 3rd of January when I am back at work and will report back on the progress as I go. I will also follow this post up with a look at how I am going to strive to reduce time in my work and home life to give myself more time to relax.


Week 1 – went okay. Have made a few small revisions but in practice I am sticking to the schedule. Did not exercise as much as I intended but was tired post xmas and the shift from getting up at 8 am to 5.30am was not an easy one. First day of week 2 I am up and feeling good so exercise is starting in earnest today.

Paleo Diet: Personalised and Improved for 2016

In addition to my three months alcohol free I am further customising our diet to really focus on maximising health. We follow what is a largely Paleo Diet inspired way of eating with tweaks for autoimmunity. The basic diet guidelines leaves some room for self interpretation and that is where we have made a few missteps and have some room for optimisation over the coming three months.

I figure with alcohol removed this is a perfect time for me to tweak the basic Paleo template to include more of the good stuff. I guess it also does not hurt to add that we have been a little naughty over the Christmas break. A few takeaways and too much alcohol. We always eat well but I want to eat as clean as possible for the next few months and really maximise nutrition.

The diet I am looking to develop is ultimately fine tuned as a starting point for those of us in our fortieth year and beyond to keep us happy, fit and functional for many more years to come.

Basic Paleo

Robb Wolf is pretty much the standard bearer for what is or is what is not Paleo and I tend to look at Robb’s site first. Few reasons for this but the Paleo theory has led to a pretty dynamic diet which has, much like our good selves, evolved over time. Low carb, high carb, high protein – all can be catered for within a Paleo template. However, for absolute beginners there are a few basic guidelines that helps you get 90% of the way there. Beyond that, you must experiment, tweak and customise the diet to your own specific situation and goals.

I pinched the following cute little table from Robb’s site but it sums things up quite nicely:

basic Paleo diet guidelines

So we have fruits, vegetables, lean meats, seafood, nuts and seeds and healthy fats in the okay to eat column. We then have dairy, grains, processed food of all types, sugars, legumes (beans), starches and alcohol in the avoid column.

For many people following these basic guidelines provides the simplest route to improved health, weight and sporting performance. This is somewhat of an umbrella approach and sure some folks are okay with a few grains or dairy and grass fed butter is okay for most but this approach provides a simple jump in point (which is important). Certainly, if you have digestive issues or health maladies of any kind rearing their ugly head (as many of us do as we enter our forties) then this basic template offers huge improvements without too much tinkering or experimentation.

For a more detailed overview of each of these categories head over to Robb’s site and read the overview of the basic Paleo diet tenets there.

Improvements to Paleo

There are a few people out there that have tried to tweak or refine the basic Paleo guidelines. The idea being that they are improving the core guidelines in some way. As with Robb Wolf most of these ancestral diet strategies have been founded by people who have fought their way back from complex health conditions that where traditional medicine offered little in the way of results.

Before we can look at ways to improve and simplify implementation of the overall Paleo prescription for those of us 40 and beyond we should look at the others diets that have tried this usually with a very specific goal.

Dr. Mark Hyman – The Pegan Diet 

The Pegan diet is interesting if somewhat strangely named. My initial feeling was that this would be a Vegan take on Paleo so include no animal products all. Rather the diet is inspired by the fact that Vegan seems to work for some folks as does Paleo. What the diet really does is focus more on vegetables, reducing the amount of meat, removing dairy for most and further promoting fish, grass fed meats etc in a lower quantity and to ensure you get some good omega 3 sources like sardines in the diet.

My take really is that this is just a sensible spin on Paleo which often gets regarded as a kind of low carb “eat as much bacon as you like” diet like Atkins rather than the sensible take promoted by Robb Wolf, Chris Kresser etc. To get around this the diet outlines key foods that should be included like oily fish and limits too much (cheap and nasty) meat products.

Dr. Jack Kruse – Epi Paleo

Jake Kruse comes off as a bit of a loon. This is a shame as he does have some good ideas so it is worth looking past the veneer of crazy.

His take on Paleo though I have a lot of time for. Jack has several tiers where he believes we should focus our food intake. These almost sit above standard Paleo and provide clearer guidelines on what should be eaten to maximise nutritional input.

Ideally the diet should include the following in order of priority (if not volume):

  1. Shellfish
  2. Crustaceans
  3. General Fish
  4. Organ meat of grass fed pastured animals
  5. Muscle meat of grass fed pastured animals (Paleo starts here in Jack’s opinion)

The diet also strongly suggests the inclusion of:

  • bone broths
  • sea vegetables

The diet also considers meditation, circadian rhythms and exercise as part of the core prescription. Jack also asks that any nightshade vegetables are removed ideally and certainly where there is proven illness or inflammation (potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, aubergines/eggplants etc).

The practical takeaway here is to maximise fish input and ensure small omega three fish like sardines, prawns, highly nutritious food like mussels etc are a regular part of the diet as they are just so packed with goodness and less problematic than traditional meat products.

There is a good overview of the Epi Paleo diet here:

The Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP)

The autoimmune protocol is close to my heart as my wife has multiple sclerosis that we keep largely under control and have done for five years or so with our own take on Paleo which we talk about at our other site:

The autoimmune protocol builds on the basic Paleo guidelines and recommends the removal of other food types with a goal to test if they are problematic:

  • Nuts & Seeds
  • Nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, aubergines / eggplants etc)
  • Eggs
  • Alcohol
  • Sweeteners

Much like the Epi Paleo and Pegan there is a focus on maximising nutrient intake and healing the gut so adding in bone broth and ensuring no grains, no dairy, no legumes etc are key components here.

I first heard of the autoimmune tweaks to Paleo from the original Paleo Diet book by Lauren Cordain and then this was expanded by Robb Wolf on his podcast (which largely launched Paleo out of the gyms and into the public eye).

The Autoimmune research has really been spearheaded by Sarah Ballantyne AKA The Paleo Mom in recent years who I have had the pleasure of working with in helping her manage her website. Sarah herself battles autoimmune conditions and as such has in the trenches experience which I think is essential when wading through the sea of often contradictory information.

The Perfect Health Diet

The Perfect Health Diet is not quite Paleo but it is certainly inspired by ancestral thinking and evolution and has reached many of the same conclusions. The Perfect Health Diet has helped to remove the scaremongering around carbohydrates and starches which has fed back into modern Paleo carbohydrate and starch recommendations (some good, lots can be bad, non is also hugely problematic over time). The whole carbohydrates picture is complex primarily due to the starting point of the individual yet it’s clear some whole food carbohydrates are essential and this needs to be adjusted around goals.

The diet also provides simplified instructions regards the exact types and ratios of foods available and has dared to question some Paleo stalwarts like the safety of pork.

Perfect Health Diet Recommedations

I think that the perfect health diet represents the best overall diet for most people looking to maximise health and longevity. It is of note that it is not finely tuned to specific autoimmune conditions and needs a few small tweaks such as the removal of potatoes and other nightshades should you have autoimmune issues yet for most it is practical and achievable.

The Paleo Cure / Personal Paleo Code

Chris Kresser is a Paleo practitioner who has been involved in the scene since the early days. Chris has a strong research background and a clinic where he has helped thousands of people who have tried many different approaches to deal with and recover from chronic health issues.

This research and practical experience has led to a strong understanding of how various dietary strategies like GAPS,  SCD and low carb can be used as tools to tackle specific issues. Additionally how the diet must be customised for an individual based on their current situation. That is the diet to fix a problem may not be the same as the diet to maintain health once it has been achieved.

Chris has a diet that he has called Your Personal Paleo Protocol and which has seemingly rebranded to the Paleo Cure (confusing). The approach though is to customise a diet based on the basic Paleo premise and all these many twists and turns to suit your specific needs at a given time.

More than anyone else on the Paleo scene Chris understands the need to identify an individuals situation and customise a diet accordingly so this is a great jump in point for those with complex health problems or issues not resolved by basic Paleo.

Terry Wahls – The Wahls Protocol 

Terry Wahls is a medical doctor who used Paleo principles and functional medicine to reverse the ravaging effects of Multiple Sclerosis (an issue close to my heart). Terry declined rapidly after diagnosis and spent four years in a tilt recline wheel chair and was almost completely confined to a bed. During this time she researched brain health and the autoimmune disease process and devised a diet that was designed to A) halt the autoimmune process and B) provide optimal nourishment for the brain.

Terry’s story is truly amazing and a testament to the power of the human spirit and how diet and lifestyle changes can impact ones individual health. I recommend everyone watch her TED Health video to get the full story.

The Wahls diet tackles things primarily from these two directions to halt and heal but really focuses on covering all of the nutritional bases to ensure healthy brain and central nervous system functioning. As such there are some great takeaways with regards to keeping our brains functional as we age – something I certainly care about.

The problem with Paleo

The main problem with Paleo is that it is predominantly a loose set of a high level guidelines with a hell of a lot of scope for personalisation. Much as you could follow a vegetarian diet and just eat toast and pasta every day you can craft a far from perfect diet under the basic Paleo guidelines. I think there may be a bit too much entrenched ‘meat is good’ mentality which eclipses the fact that fish is also good and that most folks are simply not going to source high quality, organic and grass fed meat (certainly in the UK / busy families etc).

We also have a lot of people that think that Paleo is basically a low carb or Atkins style diet which is far from the truth and leads to some frustrating opinions online.

If we dig in we see that there are several diets that are suggested as being optimal for health:

  • Conventional dietary guidelines
  • The Mediterranean Diet
  • Paleo / Ancestral Diets
  • Low Fat Diets
  • Low Carb Diets
  • Vegetarian Diets
  • Vegan Diets

That is just the tip of the iceberg and each diet has it’s own detractors and fans. The big conflict I see at the moment is between the pro fat and anti fat crowds. We have those like Dr. Dean Ornish and Dr. Roger McDougal which firmly believe in the power of a low fat diet for everything from MS to Cardiovascular disease. Then the pro (good) fat crowd which includes Paleo and the likes of Dr. William Davis and Dr. David Perlmutter who argue for the inclusion of more dietary fat. We even have folks like the Bulletproof Executive telling us to drink butter and refined coconut oil products in our (bulletproof) coffee every morning.

The main takeaway here is that it is super confusing out there and many people have success with many different dietary strategies. Even the BBC has picked up on this and has articles on the low fat, high fat conundrum.

If we look at the diets of traditional people we see populations eating high fat and protein diets, high fat and dairy diets, low fat carbohydrate heavy diets and all without the modern diseases of civilisation. Therefore it would seem that there is no perfect combination of macronutrients and those arguing for such a case are likely incorrect or trying to push an overly simplified generalisation.

In fact, if we think from an evolutionary perspective. Humans would likely have eaten high carb some times, low carb some times and somewhere in between at other times. It is crazy to think that ancestral diets would have had a perfect split of carbohydrates, proteins and fats on a daily basis. You kill a huge beast – you are going to eat that huge beast for a few days so protein and fat. Berries are in season – you may eat super high carb for a while. Factor some seasonality into this and it is likely we would have swung between periods of lower and higher carbohydrate and other macronutrients. The human body is very flexible and some variation in the foods and macronutrients we eat throughout the seasons is natural – there likely is no single perfect prescription for every single day of our life despite dietary guidelines to this effect being everywhere.

The issue of food quality and in particular organic and pasture raised naturally fed meat makes things difficult further still. In many cases Paleo makes the assumption we are eating food that is naturally grown be that meat, fruit or vegetables and for most real people we are eating what we can find (and afford) in the supermarkets or local shops which  does not always live up to these lofty standards. Certainly supermarket chicken is a nasty old affair.

From a diet prescription perspective having this many natural variables is troubling – we want simplicity. Do this and see this result. Maybe this is why so many diets work for a while and then plateau. There are actually diets like the Paleo inspired AltShift diet that recommends shifting between high and low carb days and this is not miles away from the treat day approach often used (and taken to the extreme by Carb Nite).

There are a few variables here so how do we improve Paleo? How do we create some practical and easy to follow guidelines? How do we make it more suitable for your average 40 something? Is it tweaks to the recommendations to keep our body and brains healthy? Is it a more practical approach to the implementation? Improved guidance with regards to customisation? All the above? The following is my attempt at a prescription so you can take all that Paleo has to offer and ensure you are maximising to keep yourself physically and mentally healthy to a ripe old age.

Improving Paleo for the Average Joe (and Jane)

A lot of diets start with what you can’t have. That sucks a bit as it starts you off on a negative footing so lets look at the wondrous world of food that you can enjoy.


Vegetables should form the base of your diet and be the thing you eat in abundance. That is they should be at the bottom of your food pyramid. Lots of colourful, seasonal, vegetables. Cooked and raw. Fermented. Just eat lots and lots of vegetables of all shapes and sizes and you are going in the right direction.

  • vegetables of all shapes and sizes
  • don’t go crazy with the starches (potatoes etc) *
  • try and include vegetables with prebiotic fiber
  • eat cooked and raw vegetables
  • avoid nightshades if you have autoimmune issues


I am a big believer that starch should be tailored to personal situation and matched to activity levels. I am not against carbs and the science shows that they are essential but everything from no carb, low carb, high carb has it’s place – I think of these approaches as tools and they must be tweaked for the individuals tolerance / situation.

As some general guidelines I think the following works:

  • 20% to 30% of calories – for general population who are not athletes – this level of carbs would tend to promote longevity and limit the ravaging effects sugar can have on our brains as we age so for those of us 40 plus looking to extend our lives you will want to sit about here
  • 30% to 40% of calories – active people or athletes *

Athletes can also take additional carbs after activity or on training days if required

To keep this simple I just tend to have some carbs with dinner and keep breakfast and lunch low carb. A sweet potato or some roots. If I have been inactive (working at my desk and little else) I will keep it lower carb on the evenings as well. My wife who walks 10k a day on average and runs tends to need a bit more so she fills the gap with dark chocolate bounties – not ideal but the exercise certainly allows her some flexibility that I don’t really have.

There is a really comprehensive (and totally sane) look at carbohydrates on the perfect health diet site.


I find the ancestral mindset really useful here – consider where you live and what fruit would have been available? Three bananas a day? I don’t think so. The availability of fruit would have been seasonal and there would have been a lot of berries with apples and pears likely available at certain points.

Most modern fruit has been modified to be sweeter than it would have been – I still remember the crab apples that just grew in my garden as a kid and they were edible but not pleasant.

Fruit is okay and high sugar fruits can be good after exercise but don’t go crazy. Fructose (fruit sugar) does us no good in large amounts so that morning glass of healthy fruit juice needs to go.

Some basic rules for fruit:

  • berries are low sugar and ideal
  • ideally aim for seasonal fruit so you are not scoffing bananas every day
  • give yourself a bit more breathing room for fruit in summer
  • use fruit for a post exercise sugar boost if needed


If Paleo gets one thing wrong it is that it points people towards meat over fish. Generally fish is a safer choice and white fish hits the lean protein guideline perfectly. However, it is the shellfish and crustaceans that really provide benefits as we age and we try to have mussels at least once a week. Also smaller oily fish like Mackerel and Sardines provide a cheap, convenient and healthy way to get our Omega 3’s in.

Fish is not without it’s problems though and farmed fish fed unnatural diets (pretty much all Salmon) should be avoided where possible. As a tip the fish in the freezer section generally tends to be wild and from the sea so start there.

  • Shellfish – not a lot but try to include once a week
  • crustaceans – prawns are lovely
  • small oily fish – three to four times a week
  • avoid large fish – this tends to have the worst issues with polution
  • lean fish protein – better than most lean meats

I know not everyone is super keen on fish but if you can work some sardines into a big ass salad a couple of times a week at work (or just eat them out the tin as a snack as I do) then have shellfish, prawns and cod one night you are really moving in the right direction.


There is nothing wrong with eating meat. Meat provides a comprehensive range of nutrients and protein and lets be honest, is very tasty. Meat in the UK is not quite the horror story it is in the US but there is still an order of preference.

As a general rule of thumb: wild or traditionally reared (grass fed) animals are better. Limit animal fats – saturated fat is not the demon it was once portrayed as however the fat is where the nasties build up (if your meat is organic and grass fed then don’t worry about this).

The following is from the Perfect Health Diet site:

If we were to rank popular meats by their healthfulness, the order would be (1) fish and shellfish, (2) ruminants (beef, lamb, goat), and (3) birds (duck, chicken, turkey). In last place would be pork.

We avoid pork pretty much. We will eat good bacon now and again but the correlation between pork and various diseases along with our own experiences means that joints of pork are off the table for good. There is an interesting study on pork and inflammation on the Weston A Price site that that I recommend anyone struggling with inflammatory conditions read:

Meat that can be worked into the weekly diet

  • Chicken breasts
  • Grass fed and pastured ruminants (beef & lamb)
  • offal – tough gig for some but very good for you if from healthy animals
  • birds (duck, chicken & turkey – ideally organic)

We avoid pork as much as possible which is not to say we never eat good quality bacon.


My mission here is to simplify and frame the Paleo recommendations in particular for those of us 40 or older. I want to provide a clear guideline for what you should eat to really maximise nutrition and health.

I would however welcome any feedback – what are you guys eating? What are you not eating? What is working for you? And most importantly of all – why?


The Farty Fourties

So, I have just returned from a trip with four old friends. We all turn forty this year and this was a chance for us all to get together, reflect, drink a bit too much, do some mountain biking and just generally have a bit of good, old fashioned bloke time.

The fart chorus

Night one was pretty much as expected. We were mountain biking on the following day so had promised to take it easy, yet, when old friends get together, well, we regress to what we did when we used to get together and it got a little raucous. It was a great night. We did call it a day at a reasonable time and went to bed at 12pm.

The following day the signs were starting to show. Farts, burps and acid indigestion. We are not the young men we once were it would seem!

A day of bike riding at Coed-y-Brenin followed which was a hoot and everyone was eating bacon sandwiches (I skipped the bread) then we had a selection of full english breakfasts and cornish pasties after the bike ride.

By the time we got back the fart chorus was in full effect. One of the group seemed to get away with it and he did not drink any beer and stuck with rum. Lots of rum mind – but no beer.

My farts were every 10 minutes – some real force behind them – but no real smell fortunately. One other member certainly had

My Pre Paleo Days

In my pre paleo style eating days I used to have bad guts. Smelly, frequent farting. Awful acid indigestion. Burps. Hiccups. Not nice for me or anyone else. It really used to do my head in with the acid being the worst offender in that respect. Any holiday where there would be good food and alcohol over a sustained two to three day period would set me off on the acid indigestion fart train. Not cool.

When I started to follow a Paleo style diet this largely went away. Stopping eating grains and dairy (and legumes but I never ate a great deal of them anyway) was seemingly enough despite the fact I carried on drinking to some degree.

Certainly now, lager and beer will set me off. Whether this is the gluten in the beer or something else to do with the grains it does not seem to happen with cider which is equally as fizzy. If I stick with clear spirits in moderation then alcohol does not cause me too many problems here. Lager causes problems, dark ales even more so making me believe it is something in beer itself and most likely the grains.

If I avoid the common foods excluded in a Paleo diet and beers of all sorts then my indigestion and flatulence goes away.

Why do we fart?

There are two key reasons why we end up passing wind known as exogenous gas and endogenous gas.

Exogenous gas loosely means gas (or air) that comes from outside. Common reasons for this are smoking, swallowing air, gasping, fizzy drinks, chewing gum and one I am guilty of, eating too fast. This is rarely a major issue and can be easily dealt with by some simple behaviour modification. It certainly makes sense to chew your food as much as possible to ensure proper digestion and extraction of nutrients. In fact, there are several well touted benefits of well chewed food with improved weight management and gut health leading the charge. This kind of gas is fairly normal and unlikely to get too much worse as we age.

Endogenous gas is gas that is created inside of us usually by the digestion of carbohydrates. What is really happening here is that bacteria in your gut is digesting and fermenting carbohydrates that you have failed to digest properly.

Why do we fart more when we get older?

Unfortunately, like so much else, this is a by product of ageing. Things we could get away with eating and digesting are now passing through without proper digestion and our aged innards are no longer able to digest the food properly so our gut bacteria is having a feast and rewarding us with the farts!

There is a school of thought that are modern diet and lifestyle is damaging our gut flora and with the passing of time we have decreased digestive abilities and a number of nasty gut invaders surviving on all the food we fail to digest. This creates a perfect storm in our underpants.

The fart solution

Fortunately, this is pretty easy to reduce in most people and simply following a basic Paleo style diet and cutting out grains, dairy and legumes will be enough to reduce flatulence to normal levels. For those still struggling after implementing the basic changes there are additional foods that can be avoided and other tools you can use to help give your digestion a fighting chance.

General Tips

These general tips will help most folks and for many may actually be enough to help kick your digestion into gear.

Eat simple meals – easy enough and rather than going for wildly varied stir fries try eating meals that look at lot more like meat or fish and a given vegetable or two. A steak, sweet potato and some broccoli. A piece of fish, some white rice and some asparagus. These kind of simple meals can really help.

Chew food thoroughly – digestion is a multi stage process that should start in the mouth. This involves the chewing to break the food down and exposure of the broken down food to the enzymes in your saliva. Simply chewing your food well (20 times or so) will ensure your digestion starts as it should and will ensure the next stages of digestion can do their job as they should.

Level 1 – should be enough for most folks

To take this further I would suggest a basic paleo diet template which simply put is the avoidance of grains of all sorts, dairy and legumes (beans). I would also suggest removing any processed food and simple carbohydrates. This for me was enough even when I was still not chewing properly and eating too fast.

Avoid the following:

  • All forms of dairy (cheese, milk & yogurts)
  • All grains and grain products (bread, pasta, cereal etc)
  • All legumes (beans & peanuts)
  • White potatoes
  • Beer & Ale (I know, I know)

This may seem excessive or difficult but give it a shot for 40 days and see how you get on. If your life is compromised by digestive issues then making these changes is worth the effort! Often, people can bring back in a few meals with white potatoes and white rice once the diet is established (and if there are no other health issues).

On the alcohol front I know this is a tough call for many but it can be a major cause of gas and digestive issues. I tend to do okay with Cider so I don’t think it is the gas we are drinking here so much as what the beer, lager or ale is doing to us on the inside. The only way to know is to give it a go. If you must drink during this period try to stick to good wines, clear spirits or relatively clean drinks like whiskey.

Level 2 – for those still struggling 

The foods that cause the most issues for all kinds of gut related problems from IBS to simply having too much wind are known as FODMAPs. This stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. These are specific carbohydrates that can’t be well digested by some people and as such are digested by the bacteria in the small intestine. The offshoot of this is wind. Lots and lots of wind. Sometimes smelly. Always noisy. Never welcome.

If you have implemented the simple tips and tried a basic Paleo diet template for 40 days and are still struggling then the next step is to eliminate FODMAPs from your diet.

Foods high in FODMAPs include:

  • Oligosaccharides – Garlic, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes and all varieties of beans.
  • Disaccharides – the primary disaccharide to avoid is lactose from milk.
  • Monosaccharides – fructose from fruits like nectarines, plums and all stoned fruits.
  • Polyols – these are sugar alcohols used in a range of processed, sweetened foods.

Foods low in FODMAPs include:

  • Peppers, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, tomato and courgettes
  • Bananas, oranges, grapes, melon, pineapple, raspberry, strawberry
  • Meat, fish & chicken
  • Almonds & pumpkin seeds.

FODMAPs are a little beyond the scope of this post but if you have tried everything else and suspect this may be the issue then for more details take a look at this FODMAP guide from Stanford Health Care.

Next steps

This largely comes down to digestive issues so once you have found the level at which you are comfortable then you may be able to implement an 80/20 approach and have a few of the foods you have knocked out. Truly, this is very individual and you have to see what works for you. Keeping a food journal during the elimination and reintroduction process can be really useful and I like the online journal system Diaro which you can use on your PC or Phone.

Remember though, my digestion is fine but I go away and start to drink beer and maybe eat some less than perfect food the problems can come back in a transient way. Likewise, it is interesting to watch everyone’s problems pop up from indigestion to skin issues – eating clean will help you just feel better and get more from your day.

Once your digestion has settled down you can try adding in a few additional elements to help build up a strong digestive system and capable gut. Note that I do all these things and if I go off-road then I still get problems so these are tweaks rather than replacements!

  • Add some soil based probiotics like Primal Defence Ultra
  • Create some fermented foods like sauerkraut
  • add some prebiotic foods (garlic, onions, bananas)

Hopefully this is helpful and simply eliminating the big three (grains, legumes and dairy) whilst taking more care to eat simple meals, chew thoroughly and avoid stress is going to make a huge difference. You really have to try it out though, give it a shot for 40 days and journal your results as you go.