Anaerobics (Pre-Publication Booklet)

Intensity, Strength, Freedom, and Health

Pre-publication Introduction

By: Mark Baker

Published: 2020

Read: 2020


Anaerobics proposes that most of the problems of human health come from being too domesticated. We are no longer exposed to the challenges that kept us healthy in the wild. 

Our bodies evolved to deal with challenges and environmental stress: scarcity (mostly) followed by spikes of abundance (intermittently). We have swapped these healthy cycles of under- and oversupply for an unhealthy stream of abundance.

This chronic abundance (of food, stress) causes many of our modern ailments. When we try to fix these ailments, we don’t remove the abundance, but we add more “stuff” (supplements, drugs, etc.). Adding more stuff to a complicated system is risky. It makes things more complicated and can have (long-term) unintended consequences.

The book’s proposed strategies to improve our health include the elimination of bad agents, variation (cycles of destruction and reconstruction), awareness of dose-response curves and the introduction of healthy stressors (high intensity training, weights, fasting, sun, dirt).

Worth Reading

This booklet is a collection of blog posts (I think) introducing the main subject matter for a forthcoming book (perhaps already self-published). It is written in a simple, blunt, entertaining style and is not overly worried about theoretical nuances or technical details.

The book’s approach is proudly not based on science, acknowledging that we know very little about complex systems such as (the health of) our bodies, and that sometimes the best approach is figure out “what works” from experience and with the help of a little bit of simple logic.

The book focuses mainly on nutrition (the benefits of fasting) and exercise (mostly high intensity), making some interesting connections with complex systems theory and the work of Taleb (via negativa, anti-fragility). There are some useful examples of high intensity exercise routines.

A provocative introduction to the author’s ideas, but in order to be more practically useful and theoretically convincing, a much broader and more structured approach is needed – the approach feels quite incomplete, many subjects are not covered (too many to name; there are many other interesting stressors such as heat and cold, etc., etc.). Perhaps the book will cover broader territory.

Key Takeaways

  • Jensen’s Inequality:
    • Two different inputs -> two different outputs.
    • Average of two inputs -> new output -> different from average of two outputs.
  • Dose-response:
    • 10*1 has a different impact than 1*10.
  • Variation matters (more than moderation).
    • Robustness of a system is marked by ability to cope with variation.
    • Ageing is decreasing (ability to deal with) variation.
  • Via negativa:
    • It is better to remove something than to add something to the system.
  • Exercise:
    • Don’t warm-up before (sometimes): allow for adaptation from immediate acidosis, oxygen deprivation.
    • Don’t feed after: let the body do its work of cellular waste removal and recycling (proteolysis and autophagy).

Key Concepts


  • Nature delivers food in an unbalanced, stochastic way.
    • Regular food is “un-natural”.
  • Nutrition provides environmental signals that influence cell functioning and gene expression.
    • Absence and presence of food trigger different processes in the body.
  • Absence of food triggers strategies to enhance survivability and increase chance of finding food.
    • Up-regulating of the senses.
    • Brain “improves” functioning.
    • Body preserves itself.
    • Removal and recycling of damaged cells (autophagy).
    • Suppresses pathologies.
  • Fasting is any period of substantially reduced calorie consumption.
    • Not necessarily zero, up to 500 calories.
    • Savory rather than sweet.
    • Various forms (intermittent, pro-longed, time-restricted).
    • Timing starts glycogen supplies of the body are near depletion (12 hours post meal or so).
    • Body creates glucose from other stores (fat, amino acids), ketosis, etc.
  • We don’t know yet what all the physiological effects of fasting are.
  • Over-eating may be evolutionary response to deprivation.
    • In today’s environment with abundant food: not helpful.
  • Engage in cycles of (intermittent) deprivation, ie fasting, and re-feeding.


  • Jensen’s Inequality:
    • Two different inputs (low and high) produce two different outputs (low and high).
    • Take the average of the two outputs produced (average output).
    • Take the average of the two inputs (average input).
    • Use the average input as a new input.
    • This new input does not create a value that is equal to the previously measured average of the low and high outputs.
    • The output doesn’t necessarily change in fixed proportion to the input.
  • Consequences for dose-response:.
    • 10*1 has a different impact than 1*10.
  • Variation matters more than moderation.

Sub-traction versus addition

  • When dealing with complex systems.
    • Better to remove something than to add something to the system (via negativa).
  • Getting rid of things that harm is better than taking something to counteract that harm.
    • Problems of second order, unintended consequences, long-term effects.


  • In “the wild”, autophagy occurs in response to:
    • Stress from exercise or nutrient deprivation.
    • Signaling from old or damaged cells that they need to be eaten.
  • Design similar stress mechanisms:
    • Exercise.
    • Food deprivation.
    • Background radiation.
    • The sun.


  • Body is anti-fragile.
    • It needs stress to improve.
  • The body builds resistance against stressors.
    • Weight training: good (hyper-gravity resistance).
    • High carbs: no good (insulin resistance).
  • Hormetic stress has been replaced by chronic stress.
  • Ageing is decreasing (ability to deal with) variation.
    • Reduced range of effectiveness:
    • Accumulation of damage.
    • Robustness of a biological system is marked by its ability to cope with variation.


  • As you get older -> diminishing exercise capacity -> more robust and hard exercise.
  • Dynamic endurance (interval training) – acidosis, oxygen debt – no warm-up…:
    • 2 * 800 meter sprint, five minute wait, twice a week, no warm-up.
    • 6 * 200 meter sprint (or 30 seconds), three minute wait.
    • 3 * 400 meter sprint (or 70 seconds), five minute wait.
    • 2* 300 meter sprint (or 45 seconds) – 90 second wait – 150 meter sprint (or 20 seconds).
    • 6 * 150 meter hill sprints, walk down.
    • 10* 100 meter sprint, 1 minute in between.
    • 18 *60 meter sprint, 3 sets, 1 minute between reps, 8 minutes between sets.
    • 100 meter sprint (3 minute recovery), 150 meter (4 minutes), 200 meter (8 minutes), 150 meter (6 minutes), 100 meter.
  • Weight training:
    • Adaptation to “hyper-gravity”.
    • Minimum effective dosage.
  • Don’t feed immediately after exercise.
    • Let the body do its work of cellular waste removal and recycling (proteolysis and autophagy).

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