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Author: Marty Gallagher

Marty Gallagher has been in the iron game for over 55 years as an athlete, coach and writer. As a young lifter he met and watched some of the greatest lifters in the world. He learned strength strategies from these men that would serve him for the next 50 years. This strength and power tradecraft came from master lifters whose only allegiance was to progress. These ultra-basic strength strategies serve as the foundation for the strength strategies he champions and represents to this day.
control insulin for fat loss

Control Insulin for Fat Loss – Lose the Sugar!

A few weeks back I wanted to find my copy of an old Bill Starr book, The Strongest Shall Survive. I found my old copy on a lower book shelf that I rarely look through. Next to Bill’s book was a copy of Primal Body – Primal Mind by Nora Gedgaudas. I had zero memory of purchasing this book. I plucked it off the shelf and could not for the life of me remember where or when I bought the book. As I perused the book, I could not believe I had purchased it and not read it: it was chockfull of insights. The premise of the book is twofold…

  • We need to shift our metabolism from sugar-burning mode into fat-burning mode to control insulin for fat loss
  • To accomplish this, we need to eliminate starch and sugar

Nothing more, nothing less. Modern man is obese and unhealthy because modern man has a carb-burning metabolism and lives on sugar. Primal man was lean and healthy because primal man had a fat-burning metabolism and lived on protein and fat.

Primal Man

From the beginning of the human species up until the widespread introduction of agriculture (usually pegged at 10,000 years ago,) all men everywhere had fat-burning metabolisms. For hundreds of thousands of years, primal people primarily existed on the animals they hunted and killed. They would augment animal meat with whatever fruits, vegetables, insects, nuts, berries or wild honey they would happen across – but these foods were accidental and incidental and always occurred in proximity to game.

Primal men would migrate with animal herds, parasitic vampires that clung to the herd’s periphery.  Primal men were as nomadic as the animals they followed to survive. Until the advent of formalized agriculture (an eye-blink) carbohydrates played a small part in the human diet. Man evolved and became fully formed hunting and eating animals.

control insulin for fat loss

Primal man might on occasion come across some wild fruit or vegetables, perhaps some honey, but this represented an insignificant and irregular part of the ancient’s diet. Protein and fat, derived from wild animals, was the primary source of calories. The hunter-gatherer societies existed for hundreds of thousands of years as mankind fully evolved, eating protein and fat, augmented with a small amount of natural carbohydrates and natural sugars. This high-octane, nutrient-dense diet became the optimal food/fuel for the human body. It still is.

Agriculture Changed Everything

Humans no longer had to hunt to eat. They no longer had to migrate in synchronization with animal herds. They could settle in one place and grow crops. They could survive on what they planted and harvested.  The advent of agriculture created all kinds of foodstuff possibilities. With grains, man created baked goods, beer, wine and liquor. Humans began existing on cheap, low-grade carbohydrate as their primary food-fuel.

control insulin for fat loss

All modern heath maladies emerged when man created agriculture and lifted the lid on Pandora’s Box.  Before the advent of agriculture there was no obesity, diabetes, clogged arteries or heart disease. Before the advent of agriculture men were larger and stronger, fitter and more muscular. Mankind degraded when the food-fuel of choice shifted from protein and fat to starch and sugar.  It was akin to trying to run a 600-horsepower Ferrari 488 on kerosene.

There was a widespread shift in nutrition, a replacement of protein and fat with much cheaper and easier to obtain carbohydrates.  Carbs created geographic stability, it was the end of the nomadic lifestyle of hunter-gatherer.  Primal societies were replaced with villages, towns and cities.

The core contention, the most profound thing Gedgaudas says is that, other than protein, fat and fibrous carbohydrates, anything you eat or drink is undigested sugar and once consumed is converted into sugar.

control insulin for fat loss

This simple Simon, Forest Gump-like profundity, this irreducible Zen factoid, resonated with me. Eat a bagel and it is turned into sugar (6 teaspoons of glucose) by the body. Drink a beer and it is turned into sugar. Eat pasta, a muffin, any starch carb, drink any kind of booze or soda and it becomes sugar when digested. When food or drink is digested and emulsified it is turned into glucose. Excess glucose spikes insulin. No fat burning is possible in the presence of insulin.

The solution is easy. Stop eating anything that isn’t a protein, fat or fiber.

Any nutrients consumed other than protein/fiber/fat are converted to sugar.  Sugar spikes insulin. When insulin lingers in the bloodstream, no fat burning is possible. If the system is never clear of insulin, no matter how hard you train, no matter how much cardio you do, no body fat can be mobilized and oxidized. Simple as that.

This nugget of knowledge made everything related to diet and leanness emerge from the fog of opinion into the crystal-clear clarity of useable knowledge. The first order of business for anyone serious about leaning out is to stop eating sugar and starch and purge the bloodstream of insulin. This isn’t rocket science: how do we clear the bloodstream of insulin? Stop eating anything other than protein, fat or fiber carbs. Stop eating anything that gets converted into sugar.

The goal is to shift the metabolism from a sugar-burning (glucose) metabolism into a fat-burning metabolism. How is this accomplished? Deprive the body of sugar.

Control Sugar in Your Diet!

The clarity of Gedgaudas’ message resonated with me. It clarified reality. Sugar and starch (and trans-fats) are my enemy. The bad news is that it could take 4-6 weeks of strict dietary adherence to shift a metabolism from sugar-burning to fat-burning. That’s a long time. Still, it intrigues me and clarified so many dietary questions. I really feel I now know everything I need to know about dieting.  See more information on Marty Gallagher.

They have a saying about the card game Texas Hold ‘em, “it takes five minutes to learn and a lifetime to master.” I feel like I just got taught the dietary equivalent of Texas Hold ‘em.

cardiovascular training plan

Cardiovascular Training Plan – Mix Modes to Goose Results

Within the universe of a cardiovascular training plan, there should be different strategies and different types and kinds of cardio that are done on a rotating basis. This keeps the body off balance and guessing and keeps cardio training interesting.

In mainstream fitness and mainstream bodybuilding, aerobic exercise is done but with no overarching strategy. Mainstream experts champion “moderate intensity” cardio sessions to “work in the fat-burning zone,” thereby maximizing cardio results. This zone is considered as 55% to 70% of all out capacity. Consider periods of working at 85% to 90% of capacity.  To monitor these heart rate changes a heart rate monitor is essential.

Intense and repeated aerobic exercise will literally reconfigure muscle fiber. Mitochondria cellular blast furnaces are constructed in muscles constantly worked intensely.  More mitochondria make muscles stronger, increase muscular endurance and make muscles more adept at processing nutrients and expelling waste products. To build mitochondria aerobic capacity must be above 80% and done for increasingly longer and more frequent training sessions.  I am a huge fan of the Polar H10 heart rate sensor for accuracy combined with Polar's phone app.  For a fitness tracker I recommend the Fitbit 3 for its 24/7 heart rate monitoring and 15+ activity mode tracking feature.

Aerobic Types

The cardio spectrum spans from steady-state pacing to burst or interval pacing.  Both types of cardiovascular exercise are required to have a comprehensive cardiovascular plan.


Establish a steady pace and maintain that pace for the duration of the session. Over time and with practice the pace naturally increases. Steady state pacing would be best exemplified by an experienced athlete running a 5K. The runner seeks to attain and maintain the fastest possible pace for the duration of the 5K without going into oxygen debt. When unable to supply working muscles with the requisite amount of oxygen, the runner “ties up” and is forced to slow down or stop to catch his breath. 

Cardiovascular Training Plan

Steady state cardio is optimally done with the mildest possible muscular contractions that require oxygen, ergo, the fewer and milder the muscle contractions the less the demands on oxygen.  See Polar Steady State blog.

Burst or Interval

At the other cardio pacing extreme is burst cardio, or interval cardio. The burst cardio goal is to go as fast as possible for as long as possible before oxygen debt forces a halt to the effort. Burst cardio could be exemplified by 40-yard dash sprints, or a rapid-fire racquet ball game, or an extended session of heavy kettlebell lifting. Interval cardio purposefully injects muscle contraction and muscle stress into the cardio format. The typical burst cardio session is burst, recover, burst again, repeat for the duration of the training session. In the interval cardio the athlete exerts 80-100% of capacity, oxygen debt be damned. Over time and with practice, the length of time the athlete exerts 100% is lengthened

cardiovascular training plan

In the interval cardio the athlete exerts 80-100% of capacity, oxygen debt be damned. Over time and with practice, the length of time the athlete exerts 100% is lengthened. Take a look at Len Schwartz above, the inventor of heavyhands in his 70's.

Mix and Match Cardio Pacing

In between these two cardio extremes lie a limitless number of degrees. What are the implications? Serious athletes need to understand the shades, degrees and types of cardio activity and their respective intensities.  The intelligent trainee rotates progressive resistance training routines, shifting back and forth between high intensity/low volume training and moderate intensity/high volume training. So too should the intelligent trainee shift back and forth between steady-state cardio and burst cardio.  Those that insist on staying with the same modes, done in the same ways, are doomed to stagnation.

Every training routine, no matter how effective or productive will, at some point, cease delivering results. The human body, given time, will find a way to neutralize the positive effects derived from the finest routine. Cardio gains are a result of subjecting the body to stresses that force it to adapt. These adaptations are the results we seek from our cardio efforts: the oxidation of body fat, improved stamina and endurance, improved organ health and function are monumental benefits worthy of the sustained effort required. Pro bodybuilders will rotate cardio types and kinds on a regular and periodic basis in anticipation of stagnation. So should you!

Cardiovascular training plan

In all forms of exercise, contrast is the progress stimulator. Create pendulum swings and alternate back and forth between burst and steady-state. You could alternate cardio pacing within the training week or you could concentrate solely on one cardio pacing type for weeks on end. Make like a cardio pro: periodically rotate training types and intensities. This keeps the body guessing and prevents it from attaining hemostasis – normalization of the training effect.  Rotation of type, from burst to steady state, keeps training fresh and vibrant and provides the athlete with both pure endurance and strength endurance.

Tools can vary, from nothing, hands and feet, to aerobic machines as expensive as small cars and as plush as the best chairs in your living room…built in TVs, internet access, all while you ride a posh stationary bike, climb a stair-climber or a step-mill, pull on a rower or hoist kettlebells, whatever the cardio or mode, pick either burst or steady-state.

Within each cardio format establish personal best performances (PRs.) The athlete then seeks to better recent personal best performances. Limits are continually assaulted as this is where the cardio gains lie – attempt to improve performance in either burst style or steady-state mode.

Best of all, if this type of sophisticated aerobic exercise is done consistently and coordinated with an equally sophisticated diet, body fat is forcibly burned.  When deprived of glycogen, emulsified carbohydrates, the body burns its second favored fuel source: stored body fat. Cardio done while glycogen stores are low or exhausted forced the body to burn its own fat.  Bad diet blocks fat burning. There can be no fat burning if there is any insulin in the bloodstream. Body fat cannot be burned before insulin. Insulin spikes in response to sugar.  

Coordinate your efforts with a solid diet and dissolve body fat. Leaner always equates to improved aerobic performance and improved performance equates to improve stamina, endurance and an improved (lower) body fat percentile.

The bottom line?

It is not so much the tool as the method; when you have an effective method, the tools can be varied.

the brain and transformation

The Brain and Transformation – Willpower, Enthusiasm and Synergy

Scant attention is paid to the psychological aspects of the transformational process. To reconfigure the human body, we must first reconfigure the Mind. The Mind can be the transformative acolytes best friend or worst enemy. Those that have undergone their own vital transformation will attest that there are identifiable mental states associated with the physiological phases that accompany a radical physical transformation.

The overarching goal of all things diet, exercise and fitness-related is to transform the body, i.e., improve muscularity, improve leanness, improve performance. Remolding the human body requires a skillful blending of serious exercise, disciplined eating and optimal rest and recovery. The exercise plan must be sufficiently intense; the diet selected appropriate and effective, formalized rest and recovery are not optional.

The task is nothing short of herculean: revamp the body. Add muscle, burn off body fat and in doing so automatically improve athletic performance. All athletic undertakings improve if the athlete (somehow) becomes significantly leaner and/or significantly more muscular.

The Process of Transformation

the mind and transformation

What is the core motivation behind all things diet and fitness-related? What causes us to join gyms, jog, diet, purchase supplements, hire personal trainers, purchase diet books and fitness equipment? I would suggest there is a single unifying commonality: a desire to change our body, to improve upon its current shape and degree of fitness.

The core motivation for the transformative process springs from the Mind of the individual.  A strong and reoccurring internal vision jump starts the process and sustains the process in the early stages.  We see and imagine ourselves in our idealized, reconfigured body, sleek and lean. In our mind’s eye we create mental imaginings; we see ourselves powering through life with our radically transformed body.

This strong internal vision is the key to developing the next steps of the transformative process.  See Huffington Post article – How to Use Visualization to Achieve Your Goals.”  The interlinked disciplines of training and nutrition combine to form “the process.”  These strategies need to be set into timeframes.  Various modes and methods are combined to reconstruct the body, to alter it, from what it is into a new and improved version, a streamlined version, a more muscular version and a more capable version.

Each week the ante is upped: the diet further tightened, the lifting made heavier, the cardio done faster and longer. Each week progress is coaxed, slight gains are registered in each of the intertwined disciplines. Creeping incrementalism occurs when the athlete sets the big macro goal into a timeframe (usually twelve weeks) and creates weekly micro-goals.

The sophisticate, moved to action, researches modes and methods and after comparing and contrasting exercise and diet templates, creates an integrated periodized game plan, A combined effort is launched in three separate areas, differing disciplines are pursued simultaneously: resistance training, cardiovascular training, nutrition. Three separate game plans are created and implemented.

See Practical Programming in Extend Your Life Force for information on periodization or for a more detailed explanation check out my book "The Purposeful Primitive" at

The Benefits of Transformation

There is a natural and predictable shifting of psychological perspective that occurs as the transformative process unfolds. Mental recalibration accompanies and assists every phase of the successful physical transformation. The Mind is recalibrated to aid the effort.

the brain and transformation

In the beginning, willpower powers the process. Initially we do what we do on blind faith and belief. Willpower is all about having the self-control and fortitude, the grit and gumption, the diligence needed to adhere rigidly to selected guidelines and strategies. Strength of will enables us to (initially) stay on track without regard for results. But for how long? Willpower is finite. See IDEA’s article on The Science of Willpower.” 

No matter how strong minded or determined a person is, at some point all acts of will must come to an end. Transformative Masters understand that once the process commences, the willpower spigot is turned on. Wisely selected resistance training, cardio and nutritional strategies start the process.

The transformational process is akin to fitness Ground Hog Day: the same fitness and dietary procedures are repeated, over and over, on a daily and ongoing basis. There are no breaks, no timeouts, no cheat meals or days off.  Food prep needs to be done before foods can be eaten. Cardio must be consistent and intense.  Weight training is made increasingly difficult.  Rest and sleep are legislated. All this new activity and upset need to fit into our already busy and hectic lives, no easy task.

Tangible results generate enthusiasm.  Genuine enthusiasm (born of results) is self-sustaining, like solar power or cold fusion. While willpower is finite, enthusiasm is infinite. Obtaining real results generates genuine enthusiasm. Where there is amped-up enthusiasm for the process, adherence becomes effortless. Long term adherence is the key to transformational success.

After weeks of small consistent gains, enthusiastic adherence morphs into synergy. When enveloped in synergy, the sum is greater than the individual parts. While the athlete remains in this synergistic sweet spot, muscle is built, body fat is oxidized, performance soars. When all the component parts are in place and practiced in a balanced and even-handed fashion, the trainee can ride the synergistic razor’s edge and experience the gain of a lifetime. Synergy carries us across the transformational finish line.

In the end willpower is a finite mental propellant.  It is important that the investment of that willpower yields tangible results before it runs out.  These results are what fuels enthusiasm and feeds the synergy of physical transformation.