One of my very favorite cartoons is Thundercats. I loved watching it as a kid and I still enjoy it now.
And gotta admit it: I kinda had a crush on Cheetara.
Who wouldn’t? Bright orange leotard, sweet bo staff skills, and the ability to run over 120 miles per hour.
She’s based off the idea of a cheetah; Cheetara’s main attribute is her wicked fast speed. The thing is, it takes a lot of training and nutrition to run like a cheetah.
So here’s some food for thought if you want to be a Thundercat, it’s the meal plan of the cheetah sprinters at the San Diego Zoo…
It goes on a 3 day cycle:
Day 1 – Sprint Demonstration Day
- 1-2 x 100m @ full effort – simulates hunting in natural habitat
- Fed 1/2 of 3 day caloric intake after running to simulate a successful hunt
Day 2 – Recovery Day
- Easy long slow walk in the park
- Fed 1/3 of 3 day caloric intake
Day 3 – Rest/Light Activity Day
- Fed 1/6 of 3 day caloric intake
Pretty cool! It mimics a hunt, then an easy day with some food left over, then a very easy day, and the next day the cycle starts over with another hunt.
This plan keeps the cheetahs lean and mean.
An interesting thought experiment with this is to think about how you could apply some of the same principles to your personal training and nutrition plan.
Doesn’t the cheetah plan above look a little like how a hunter might have eaten and lived during the paleolithic period?
Hard sprint, hard effort to take down some big meat, then a feast with your friends and family.
The next day, since there’s still food left you hang out and play around camp, not eating as much.
Day three you scout around gathering fruits and veggies and check out where the game animals are browsing.
Day four you go for the hunt and it all starts again…
Life was probably a lot like this for hunter/gatherers. And it’s doubtless why intermittent fasting, carb backloading, and other calorie cycling plans work so well for fitness and fat loss – it’s how our genes want us to eat.
Now, I’m not saying the cheetah plan above will turn you into Cheetara – you’d have to be a noble cleric from the planet Thundera for that.
But what can you take from this? What about the plan would work for you?
Here’s a very simple adaptation for someone wanting to get fit (who also loves the Thundercats):
Day 1: Power And Sprint Day
This is the day you get to hunt and feast. Rigorous effort followed with a delicious prize to follow.
Weightlifting session focusing on big exercises – Snatch, squat, deadlift, bench press, clean and jerk, and other BIG movements.
Follow this with some anaerobic sprints – Sled pulls, hill sprints, bike intervals, and other locomotive movements that will push your system to the max.
And then eating time. You brought down the wild boar with all your hard work. Now you get to enjoy it!
Assuming a 2500 Calorie/day diet, half of your three day average would be 3,750 Calories. You could make this one lots of meat and organs, the best parts of your prey. Smaller eating window, since butchering and cooking the meat would take time.
Day 2: Play And Build Day
There’s still some meat left over after yesterday’s hunt, so you stay close to home. You play with the kids and spend some time making camp more comfortable.
“Bodybuilding” Movements – Curls, triceps extensions, chest flyes, calf raises, and other smaller movements; nothing too strenuous (this is the building and moving stuff around your camp)
Play! – Tag, slacklining, frisbee, wrestling, ping pong, or anything else fun that you would do hanging out with fit healthy people you enjoy being around.
For food, you’d still have some meat, and some easy to pick fruits and veggies that you could gather without venturing too far. So add in some produce and have some of the leaner meat (not as prized).
At that 2,000 Calorie/day average, one third of your three day average would be… 2000 Calories.
Day 3: Light Scouting Day
Time to do some more gathering and plan your next hunt. You don’t want to wear yourself out too much, in case you end up with an angry auroch charging you tomorrow.
Looking around to check out the areas where game feeds and gathering more hard-to-find plants since you’re already out and about.
Walking or hiking, lots and lots.
And something to help relax you and get you ready for the hunt, like some yoga or tai chi.
You’re about out of big game meat, so you have some smaller, leaner animals for protein and fat. But you gathered a big assortment of greens and herbs so you have a small amount of protein and some huge salads. Based on the 2000 Calorie/day number, one sixth of your three day average would be… 1000 Calories. Not a lot, be enough to ensure you’ll be motivated to hunt tomorrow.
Conclusion: Sight Beyond Sight
Again, this isn’t meant to be a comprehensive plan for you to follow. Just a little food for thought.
Too often we get caught up in a certain daily rhythm, and our sight stops extending much beyond that. The thing is, if you want to keep your body changing, you can’t lock into a set routine. You’ll make progress for a while, then your body will plateau with whatever you’re doing, and then finally start making negative changes.
If you want to keep progressing, you have to keep changing your stimulus. Calorie and activity cycling plans like the cheetah-inspired one above are two ways. I’ll write about some more in the future…
The important thing is to keep things new and fresh, so you don’t get bored and your body doesn’t stop adapting.
Oh, and…. Thundercats Hooooooooooooo!