Updated: Jul 16, 2018
The MAF Method is a philosophy I developed over the course of four decades to help individuals of all ages and physical abilities, and persons with the widest possible spectrum of physical issues and personal goals, reach their highest levels of human performance.
Primum Non Nocere is Latin for “First do no harm.” Primum Non Nocere is Latin for “
First do no harm.” All health professionals learn this edict early in their educational process, as it is a driving principle of healthcare worldwide. I have embraced this imperative ethical principle throughout my career, and my foremost piece of advice to people everywhere is that it’s a motto everyone should adopt. Both health and fitness are requirements for optimal human performance. Unfortunately, rates of poor health and impaired fitness continue to rise worldwide. Most remedies for various ailments—whether they be food, drugs and dietary supplements, fitness programs or other therapies—only address symptoms, while ignoring the root cause of the problem. Examples include fad diets that continue to contribute to the overfat epidemic, workout plans that increase injury while reducing health, and over-the-counter drugs and dietary supplements that don’t treat the cause and can produce side-effects. Oddly, people continue to believe in these remedies and diets despite clear evidence to the contrary. Few are spared, including young people, fitness enthusiasts and even professional athletes. The “fit but unhealthy” paradox is seen in those who are powerful enough to perform great athletic feats, but are nevertheless plagued with injury, illness, disease and sometimes even death. The hallmark of our society and healthcare system is to treat symptoms instead of treating the cause of these problems (or preventing them in the first place). This approach to healthcare is obviously not working.
Central to this philosophy was the realization that there is no single best diet plan or ideal exercise program that works for everyone. And yet the key to achieving optimal human performance is unlocking something that resides in each of us — the potential to burn high levels of fat for fuel. This in turn leads to better health and better physical and mental energy and performance.
Although all humans share this fat-burning capability, each is very individual in his or her needs in achieving it. Only by honest assessment and by taking control of your own destiny can you be truly healthy, fit and enjoy a very high quality of life. However, there are some unifying principles that serve most people.
MAF stands for “Maximum Aerobic Function,” referring to the body’s unique adaptation to burn body fat within the aerobic system. Most of the body’s energy for daily living comes from the conversion of both sugar and fat to energy in the aerobic system. Those who rely on larger proportions of fat have higher physical and mental vigor, improved health, and better all-around performance. Those less able to burn sufficient fat must rely more on sugar, resulting in less fat burning each day — a problem associated with reduced health, including low energy, increased body fat and weight, less endurance for daily living, and lower physical fitness.
Beat Sugar Addiction
One of the most common causes of reduced fat burning and diminished health is the consumption of sugar and other refined carbohydrates. These junk foods have become a staple in the diets of millions of people — but addiction prevents their elimination. More than any other food they directly interfere with one’s ability to be healthy and fit. In fact, one meal or snack of sugar or refined carbohydrate not only can turn off fat burning and significantly disturb hormones, it can also switch on genes that cause disease. The MAF Method focuses in eliminating these foods from the diet.
Turn on Fat Burning
After eliminating sugar and junk food, the next most important step in stimulating the body’s natural fat-burning capabilities is to train the aerobic system. By engaging the full spectrum of slow-twitch muscle fibers, which rely on fat for fuel, improvements in the heart and lungs, increased circulation, and better brain function, also occur. This also helps prevent many types of injuries and reduces chronic pain.
Without specifically training the fat-burning system, one could actually become aerobically deficient, a common syndrome associated with fatigue, increased weight and body fat, reduced immune function (since the aerobic muscle fibers are key site of antioxidant activity), and hormonal imbalance. Physical injury is common too as the aerobic muscle fibers 1) support joints, bones, and soft tissues, and 2) assist the fast-twitch anaerobic fibers in their functions. MAF provides simple exercise guidelines based on individualized heart rates that work for everyone from the sedentary to professional athletes.
Control Chronic Inflammation
Another important aspect of the MAF Method is addressing chronic inflammation, a very common condition that leads to reduced fitness and even serious illness. Most diseases begin in a seemingly benign way, without symptoms or signs. The chemical imbalances that trigger this problem are easy to control with diet and lifestyle. Specifically, by balancing one’s dietary fat intake by eating only natural fats and consuming certain foods — based on a person’s individual needs — it’s easy to avoid chronic inflammation. In doing so, many of the physical and mental problems seen during aging can be avoided, including cancer, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, weak bones and muscles, and Alzheimer’s.
Learning how to avoid the ravages of physical, biochemical and mental-emotional stress is an important part of my approach. Finding the ideal personalized diet, maintaining optimal nutrition, regular aerobic workouts with appropriate hard training, and other lifestyle factors that would normally lead to optimal health and fitness won’t work if excess stress interferes. Since the human body and brain has a unique system that manages stress perfectly well, learning how to enlist these natural activities is vital, and is another key to MAF.
How can this method offer a personalized, truly individual approach for all people? By doing what I’ve done throughout my career — begin with assessment. Through self-evaluation with the help of questionnaires and self-testing, and learning about the inner workings of the body, individuals are guided through the simple process of determining their particular needs in all key areas of health and fitness, from diet and nutrition, to exercise and the regulation of stress. The end result is improved human performance — including better brain function, increased endurance, avoidance of illness and disease, unlimited energy, and for athletes, continuous competitive improvements without injury.
In short, the Maffetone Method is not a cookbook plan, but an approach for health-conscious and active people who want to think out of the box, be creative to individualize their approach to sports to maximize results, and to develop their natural talents for years to come.
More specific and detailed assessment tools and guidelines are available at www.philmaffetone.com.