Arthur De Vany is 71 years old, 6’1″ and 200 pounds. He’s never sick and can do anything he wants to. He doesn’t live off 30 different medications the way most American’s do. One of my biggest fears is growing old and being unable to walk the way my grandmother is. It was the goal of weight loss that got me started with fitness, but it is watching my grandmother struggle with her own body on a daily basis that is keeping me in the game of fitness. Arthur De Vany is not only an inspiration, but an example of what a practical approach to fitness and nutrition can produce.
He was born in Davenport, Iowa – however, his hometown is Los Angeles, California where he finished high school and was signed on to a minor league baseball team. He started weight lifting at age 16, and has been at it ever since. De vany studied economics at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is now the professor emeritus of economics at the Institute for Mathematical Behavioral Sciences at the University of California, Irvine. Out of all of Arthur De Vany’s accomplishments, the most interesting is how he injects economics to every aspect of life – including fitness.
- His theory is that economics not only happens around us, but within us as well. The biggest problem with modern day mathematics and economics is that we are taught that eveything happens around the “average,” and that we should focuse on the shape of the bell curve.
- In truth, according to De Vany, all events of significance follow certain “power laws.” Events that we feel that are rare – bank crashes, natural disasters, blockbuster movies, human wealth – are more important than the average. The average is used to develop stable models.
- These stable models are incorporated in most fitness regimens which are based on a homeostative view of the body. This means that the body is a self-regulating system that will maintain iself ina continous, stable condition. This is why we are taught to eat meals from a balance of food groups and why we are told to exercise on a regular basis using majority aerobic activities such as jogging or cycling.
Lessons from a 71 Year Old Man
So how does a 71 year old man stay in such great shape?
Arthur De Vany believes that short bursts of high intensity exercise are better than slow, steady exercise. He talks about how sprinters are much healthier than distance runners because they are more in tune with our evolutionary nature.
- De Vany tries to imagine the environment as it were thousands of years ago – when humans were hunters and gatherers. This is important because our bodies still “think” we’re hunters and gatherers. Most scientists agree that genetically, we’re the same as we were 40,000 years ago.
- Evolution is extremely slow, and occurs over millions of years, not thousands of years. The important thing about Arthur De Vany is that he practices what he preaches. He knows what works and is able to use his teachings to maintain a bodyfat percentage of seven percent.
- Recently, a research institute rate his biological age at 32. According to De Vany, “Hunter gatherer’s don’t age like Westerners do because they retain their metabolic fitness.”
- De Vany believes that high intensity, brief training is closer to how our ancestors lived. He advises against too much endurance training and states that, “chronic aerobic exercise overtrains the heart, reducing the chaotic variation in heart rate which is essential to health.
- He also believes that most weight training programs involve too many repetitions and sets, and are too routine. His advise to most athletes is to decrease duration and frequency while increasing intensity.
- According Arthur De Vany, the objective of any exercise and diet program should be to counter hyperinsulinemia (chronically elevated insulin) and hypoexertion (wasting of the body’s lean mass through inactivity). Fast, intense workouts promotes specific hormones which fight these two health risks plaguing western society.
The Evolution of Evolutionary Fitness
Chapter One: Diabetes
Arthur De Vany married his first wife, Bonnie, in 1957. He has one biological and two adopted sons. His biological son, Brandon was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes at the age of two, and a few years later his wife Bonnie was diagnosed with the same condition. He soon realized that their doctors were wrong and began experimenting with a variety of diets.
High blood sugar is dangerous for diabetics and is lowered by insulin injections. However, Arthur wanted to see if he could keep blood sugar low on a consistent basis. He soon found that foods such as beans and pasta (recommended by doctors) was increasing Bonnie’s blood sugar. The moment he eliminated carbohydrates from her diet, her reliance on insulin injections dropped dramatically. However, this wasn’t enough. Bonnie developed a rare, life-threatening complication – systemic vasculitis. His son Brandon was seeing great results from the low-carb diet.
Chapter One: From Fat to Carbs
For millions of years, humans were hunter-gatherers. Agriculture and settlement began only 10,000 years ago. This is when our diet and living conditions began to change. We began living longer only because we were better protected from predatory animals, however we began to struggle with new diseases. According to De Vany, “We live like lab rats. A lab rat has a life expectancey three times that of a wild rat because it is protected from accidents or disasters.” So, a longer life does not necessarily mean a healthier one.
The diet of our caveman ancestors was actually incredibly high in fat. The major change in our diet since the last 10,000 years has been an increase consumption of carbohydrates. Agricultural settlements gave way to an increased consumption of bread, potatoes and rice. Carbohydrates are the biggest impediments to fat loss. If those carbohydrates are not burned off, they turn into sugar. Pasta is basically a bowl of sugar (well, sort of). High carboydrate intake causes incredible spikes in blood sugar. The diseases that come from a high carbohydrate intake are similar to that of morbid obesity: diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes (to name a few).
Chapter Two: Developing Guidelines
Arthur De Vany’s style of eating is not like the Paleolithic Diet, nor is it like Atkins. He placed more stress on fruits, vegetables, and exercise thank Atkins. He also feels that massive intakes of saturate fats are also unwise. His goal is to combine Paleolithic principles of eating with modern day life. De Vany realizes that modern day comforts are not going away, however we can try to live a more humble lifestyle. Our ancestors ate when they could and lived a predominately stree-free lifestyle (except for when they were being attacked by a wild beast).
De Vany’s Nutrition Guidelines are as follow:
- Do not eat three meals a day. Skip meals, eat a late dinner or breakfast. Maybe go on a fast for a day. Hunger is not the enemy.
- Shop only on the outer edges of the supermarket, where the food is fresh.
- Avoid bread, muffins, pasta, bagels, rice, potatoes, cereals, vegetable oils, beans, or anything in a package.
- Spice up your food with basil, garlic, parsely, spring onions, avocadoes, and nuts.
- Use olive oil.
- Focus on fresh fruit. No fruit juice.
- Eat lots of fresh raw, steams, sautee, or grilled vegeables.
- Eat lots of meat (might be hard for vegetarians)
De Vany on Bodybuilding:
In a recent interview from T-mag , Arther De Vany was asked about the bodybuilding method of dieting. Here was his response:
Calories are energy. Excess calories are stored as fat. Too many bodybuilders that I see are too fat. They only look good when they’re in contest form. They do tend to follow a binge eating pattern that’s close to those of bulimics and other dysfunctional eaters. Eat like mad to grow, then starve to get cut for the contest. Throw in some dehydration for good measure.
This is damaging to the brain and can eventually lead to a form of anorexia when the hypothalamus becomes damaged. Remember, your brain shrinks too when you starve yourself for a period of time. Random or intermittent hunger is good and protective of the brain.
Muscle mass can easily be gained without eating excess calories. Growth hormone directs nutrients toward muscle. Insulin sends them the other way toward fat. Eating all the time raises insulin levels and drops growth hormone levels. So, you tend to make more fat.
On eating multiple times per day:
Many meals per day reduce insulin spikes a bit, but by substituting a nearly constant flow. Hence, total insulin is increased over the course of the day eating six or seven meals. This will make you more resistant to the action of insulin. Hence, your body must make more of it.
As your insulin drifts upward and you become resistant, you’re on your way to the Metabolic Syndrome X: abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, and a pre-diabetic state. No wonder a number of bodybuilders develop diabetes.
The overweight people and bodybuilders tend to share a common strategy (or failure) of eating many meals a day. Both have problems. The obese have many and bodybuilders manage to avoid some of them because they have such high activity levels. But, they both tend to die of similar diseases — diseases of metabolism.
The characteristic that links both these sets of individuals is that they both lack variation between the anabolic and catabolic states. They have a flattened and somewhat uniform metabolic state. The obese do little and eat steadily so that they seldom vary their metabolic state; they’re almost always in the anabolic (growth) state.
Bodybuilders who fixate on maintaining a positive protein (nitrogen) balance only enter the catabolic state when they work out. Fortunately, they tend to work out often and long, so they do enter the catabolic state for that period of time. But they ingest a meal soon after the workout and then go back into the anabolic state. This is bad.
It’s also a hassle to eat that often. It’s hard enough to eat three meals that you prepare well with fresh ingredients. Finally, you weaken the growth hormone response you get from exercise and when you fall into REM sleep.
Our ancestors never ate three square meals a day and they surely didn’t eat seven meals a day. They did forage over the land as they hunted and may have found wild plants and bugs to eat, but nothing like a protein bar (an entirely foreign substance to any human alive for most of our existence) or a high glycemic load supplement. Plants were only available seasonally to a hunter and hunting takes so much time and concentration of effort, there would have been little eating on the trail.
I calculate that they spent about one out of three days in fairly deep caloric stress. That is, they spent this time in negative caloric balance. This triggers growth hormone, which is protein conserving and activates the protective and rebuilding genes that express brain protective factors, heat shock proteins, and many repair and maintenance processes.
When you live in positive energy balance you 1) get fat eventually, and 2) your body expresses genes related to reproduction rather than maintenance. Growth factor expression is down-regulated during positive caloric balance.
Let’s face it, your genes don’t care about you. They just want to make sure you reproduce so they can live another day. When you’re hungry and active, they switch to growth and repair to keep you alive for a while so you can reproduce later.
I randomly pick a day when “hunting is lean” (or so I tell myself) to eat sparingly, but I’m always active on such a day so my body knows it is to conserve its protein stores and use fat for energy (this is the hGH signal).
My cardio is the fast pace of my workout. And it’s sprinting in a field or on a stationary bike. I alter the pace intermittently. I never put in the miles or time on a treadmill. It’s boring and worthless.
Look at joggers and distance runners. They aren’t slender, they simply have no muscle mass. They’re weak, they can’t generate power, and in spite of their slender appearance, joggers aren’t lean. The average body fat content of jogging club members was 22 percent in one study. Anything above 13% is deleterious.
I wouldn’t jog for health, but playful runs are wonderful. Vary the speed and terrain and you have a really great activity that’s fun and healthful. Routinized jogging is factory work, not natural activity. If you log long miles on a track, I believe you’re compromising your health.
De Vany Style Training – Get Stronger, Bigger, and Leaner
Arthur De Vany’s training style is surprisingly basic. He feels that most individuals over train. He’s a huge proponent of training when you feel like it and making exercise fine. He doesn’t like complicated and linear routines. When I think about it, a lot of recommendations are very similar to Crossfit in that they are random and constantly varied.
De Vany starts off his weight training workouts with a heavy compound exercise to get the blood flowing and release human growth hormone (HGH). He’ll usually start off with a light weight and perform 15 reps, then increase the weight and do 8 reps, and increase the weight again and do 4 reps His workouts are extremely fast paced. He focuses more on the “burn” rather than focusing on weight and reps. De Vany never takes his workouts to failure.
- Three Sessions Per Week
- Session One: Upper Body
- Session Two: Lower Body
- Session Three: Overall Fitness
- Choose a handful of exercises targeting large muscle groups
- Two weight training sessions per week
- Choose a handful of exercises targeting large muscle groups
- Keep rest between sets extremely short
- Go for a “burn” without going to failure
- Don’t worry about how much weight you’re lifting
- Rest of the training week should be balanced between high intensity intervals and sports
Evolutionary Fitness vs. Shah Training
I see a lot of similarities between Evolutionary Fitness and Shah Training. We both prescribe short, intense workouts and a higher fat diet. We both recommend some form of fasting as part of your diet and retreat from mainstream Bodybuilding methods of training and eating. I started researching Arthur De Vany due to a question I received from one of my readers on his training style. I’ve heard of him prior to that, but never took the time to read up on him or or his training philosophies. Now I’m glad that I did, because there is a lot I have learned from this 71 year old:
- I need to start making my workouts more fun again. I followed Crossfit-style training for a while. Then a bodybuilder friend of mine asked me why I keep doing random workouts. How can I measure progress with that kind of training? So then I went back to a more mechanical approach where I would be performing the same workouts multiple times per month.
- I’ve noticed some fat gain and actually decrease in progress. I never understood why Crossfit focused on randomized workouts, but now I do. The answer is Evolutionary Fitness: our bodies just weren’t meant to work that way. So now I’m going to be moving back into more randomized workouts. I still want to have something to meaure progress, so I’ll be repeating some workouts (kind of like the way Benchmark workouts work).
- Arthur De Vany is not a vegetarian and I know why. I’m a vegetarian by birth. I was brought up that way. I’m not going to start eating meat, but I am going to increase my protein intake. Over the past few months I’ve let my protein intake fall and my carbohydrates rise.
- The reason being I was having issues with recovery. But I know realize why low carb and fasting is so important. You can have a high level of energy without eating a whole lot of food. I now remember why I was making so much progress before.
- So reading up on Arthur De Vany has taught me a few new tricks, but more importantly it has affirmed what I believed. He has motivated me to move ahead with my beliefs. Someone once asked me how I know my methods will work for the long term.
- Next time someone asks me that, I’ll point them over to Arthur De Vany. I’d been following my own version of Evolutionary fitness for quite some time.