Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

Tell Me More
Stay Connected
July 07, 2014

Dear Mark: 1000 Calories a Day, No Appetite After Exercise, and How to Not Lose Weight

By Mark Sisson
48 Comments

Small mealFor today’s Dear Mark, I’m taking three questions. First, I comment on Mick Dodge’s (the barefoot forest-living guy with the beard on the NatGeo show) claim that humans can thrive on 1000 calories a day. Is it true? Next, I discuss whether or not people need to worry about a distinct lack of appetite following exercise. Should they listen to their bodies or force down some food? And finally, how should a person who doesn’t want to lose weight go about a Primal way of eating?

Let’s go:

Dear Mark,

A few months ago, I saw a show on National Geographic about Mick Dodge, a guy who lives as a hunter gatherer in a rainforest in Washington state. He mentioned that the human body actually needs very little food, and he’s conditioned his body to live off 1000 calories a day. Is he right? Is this because of his primal [blueprint] diet? Or is he just crazy?

Thanks,

Isaac

There’s a difference between surviving and thriving.

I’m dubious about his claim. Is he weighing and measuring his grubs, cattails, and pine bark? Does he keep a FitDay account? Promo videos show him running barefoot through the forest, which looks like a great way to spend an afternoon but also increases his caloric expenditure and thus requirements. Plus, it’s a reality TV show. Those are notorious for stretching the truth and using selective editing to further a narrative.

Now, I’m not knocking Mick Dodge. I haven’t watched the show (just a few clips and I’ve read a couple things), but I dig his overall ethos and I suspect he’s just speaking about his own experience. I like his promotion of barefoot living – not just running. And what he says about the bare foot offering an entirely new sensory perspective on one’s surroundings is spot on. Even though we often focus on the utilitarian aspects of going barefoot – the altered loading of the lower limbs, the increased efficiency, the potential to reduce injury – the broadened sensory awareness is a huge benefit that doesn’t get enough credit. Plus, his apprentice that sometimes appears on the show – Will of Stone – came to PrimalCon Oxnard last year. Great guy, great kilt.

Let’s assume his claims are accurate, and he manages to maintain a decent physique, enough energy to run around the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest, and a modicum of sanity on a daily diet of 1000 calories. Good for him, but he’s an outlier. The vast majority of published research shows that people just don’t function very well on 1000 calories a day.

Heck, the most famous caloric restriction study of all, the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, used diets of 1560 calories a day to induce starvation symptoms in adult males who had previously been eating 3200 calories a day. And they weren’t running barefoot, foraging for food, climbing trees, or lifting logs and heavy rocks while on it. They merely maintained their regular walking habit of 22 miles a week. The symptoms were severe:

They became depressed, hysterical hypochondriacs. Most of them experienced bouts of severe emotional distress, and there was even an instance of self-mutilation (a guy cut off three fingers with an axe). Interest in sex vanished (and erections grew scarce), replaced by interest in food. Metabolic rate plummeted across the board, as did body temperature.

So yes, we can technically survive on 1000 calories a day, but it isn’t going to be pretty. And doing so while living off the land would be nearly impossible for most people.

Of course, the rules change when you have hundreds of thousands of calories attached to your body and available for utilization. The severely obese can get away with ultra-low calorie intakes because they’re consuming all the calories stored in their adipose tissue. This is why an obese 27 year-old Scotsman was able to fast for 382 consecutive days, consuming nothing but water, vitamin supplements, and his own body fat. He reached his goal weight and, as of the paper’s publishing date, was able to maintain it in good health on a normal diet.

Hi Mark,

Sorry to trouble you but I’m a bit confused. I’m trying to follow my body’s signals for hunger but I’m almost never really hungry after my workout for at least a couple of hours. I know you recommend occasional post-workout fasting. My goal being fat loss, is a protein-rich PW meal crucial? Should I eat something anyway?

Thanks for taking out the time to answer this.

Nish

As long as this “not being hungry” business only happens after you work out and you’re eating a sufficient amount of food overall, go with it. The body can probably be trusted if all your ducks are in a row and you have a healthy relationship with food. And if fat loss is your primary concern, you’re on the right track. Both intense exercise and fasting increase growth hormone, and growth hormone promotes fat burning. Just don’t take things to an extreme and suppress the urge to eat (eat when hunger ensues naturally – WHEN) and things will take care of themselves.

Protein eaten immediately post-workout can help muscle recovery and promote hypertrophy, but even the importance of the post-workout “anabolic window” is exaggerated. Unless you’re looking to wring every last drop of muscle-building potential out of your body, you’ll do just fine eating protein a couple hours after.

I’m a lot like you, actually. I generally don’t get very hungry after a workout. If I’m not hungry, I don’t eat, and it’s worked out well. Others may have the opposite response to training. Efficient fat-burners tend not to be ravenous after exercising because they’ve burned more fat and spared more glucose during the workout and don’t need the immediate glycogen replenishment from dietary carbohydrates.

People just respond differently to training. There’s no one “right” way.

Dear Mark,

I am a fifty year-old woman with a long standing history of gastric disturbances which have previously been put down to irritable bowel, and now peri-menopausal hormone fluctuations plus h-pylori – both of which are causing distressing acid reflux and nausea.

I am certain that the answer lies in my diet, which has always been carb heavy – particularly as I am a “pesca/vegetarian”.

My problem is that I am very small (5ft tall, and currently just 40kg) and I lose weight at the drop of a hat. I recently started a low FODMAP diet accompanied by some tips from your web site regarding grains, but I lost 4kg (from 44 to 40) in just over a week.

Can I follow a low carb paleo style diet without losing weight? I’m scared to keep going.

Thank you for any assistance or direction you may have.

Kind wishes,

Erica

Many people can maintain their weight while eating relatively low-carb. I can. It may just be that you can’t go low-carb and maintain your weight. That’s fine, and it doesn’t mean you can’t be Primal. Although I’m a proponent of only eating and burning as much glucose as you have to in a lifetime, I don’t think carbs are evil. I’m relatively agnostic on that front. I even support up to 150 grams of carbs from starches and fruits (not even counting non-starchy green vegetable carbs) on the Primal Blueprint carb curve for weight maintenance for most people (athletes will often go even higher). I just want people to know what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. My motto with carbs is basically “eat them as you need them.” For most people, that means tailoring their carbohydrate intake to their activity levels: when they train hard and long, they eat a few more carbs. For you, that may mean using your weight to determine the amount of carbs you need: when you start losing weight, you eat a few more carbs.

Besides, just because you’re on a low-FODMAP diet doesn’t mean you must eliminate carbs. Most tubers are low-FODMAP, except for something like sweet potato. Regular potatoes, bananas, white/wild rice, even some fruits are all acceptable. Review the list of foods to avoid on a low-FODMAP diet; anything else is fair game.

You’ll also have to eat enough food. I mean, that seems like it should go without saying, but you’d be surprised. Low-carb tends to reduce appetite because the foods are so nutrient dense, and because protein and fat are so filling. It’s easy to forget to eat when you’re not very hungry. Great for losing weight, not when you need to gain it. So:

  • Drizzle a little extra olive oil on your salad. No, a little more than that. There you go. Just like that.
  • Throw a little more potato on your plate and melt another pat of butter on it. Go on, do it. Don’t be shy.
  • Flip that roast chicken carcass over. You’re not done with it. See those little tender morsels of chicken flesh there nestled on either side of the spine? Those are the oysters (not oysters, although those are good, too). Dig your index finger in and pop ’em out. See that crispy little triangle down near the bottom? That’s the Pope’s nose, the perfect union of cartilage, fat and meat; rip it off and eat it. And you were about to throw the carcass out.
  • Keep snacks on hand. Dark chocolate, nuts, jerky, bananas. If you slice and dry the bananas, you can combine all four to make the greatest trail mix in the history of human history.

That’s it for today, everyone. Be sure to leave a comment for me or, if you have some additional advice, for anyone who asked a question this week. I know they appreciate your insights. I sure do.

Subscribe to the Newsletter

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

Leave a Reply

48 Comments on "Dear Mark: 1000 Calories a Day, No Appetite After Exercise, and How to Not Lose Weight"

avatar

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Jacob
2 years 2 months ago

I’m incredibly skeptical that Mick guy survives off 1000 calories a day. That’d be impossible to do unless he was completely sedentary, is 4ft 5in and weighs 110 pounds…..

Yes, I calculated a hypothetical BMR based off his age….

Animanarchy
Animanarchy
2 years 2 months ago
I had a great barefoot session the other day in a bit of forest bordering part the Lake Simcoe waterfront. I was running around on my feet dodging, avoiding, and leaping stuff, on hands on knees running like a quadruped, and went down some of a fairly steep hill crabwalking (though more like crabsprinting), and during the crabsprinting I was going between low branches and ended it with a leap at a tree that I essentially bounced off by just tapping it with my foot and then hand quickly after and changing direction almost 90 degrees, feeling light as a… Read more »
BillC
2 years 2 months ago

You have revealed your location. Lake Simcoe: between Lake Erie and Lake Superior, just north of Toronto.

Animanarchy
Animanarchy
2 years 2 months ago

Time to start collecting new yeti poop samples.
I’ve revealed my approximate location before and even for a while the specific town I’ve lived in for years on the forum
(not specified presently). But I like to keep to keep a modicum of discretion.
You never know who’s watching. 8 )

BillC
2 years 2 months ago

Though I gather you may travel 20, 30 miles in a day, multiple days in a row…

Groktimus Primal
2 years 2 months ago

Come steal my appetite. Even though ketosis can kill my cravings nothing but outright illness kills my appetite. Once a pig always a pig.

Megan
Megan
2 years 2 months ago

Maybe you should consider altering your inner monologue. You have a hearty and robust appetite! How about that?

Lucylu
Lucylu
2 years 2 months ago

Are you a shrink?

Wildrose
Wildrose
2 years 2 months ago

Ditto. I think the only thing that kills my appetite is nausea.

Animanarchy
Animanarchy
2 years 2 months ago
For me it varies. Sometimes I’ll eat next to nothing for a couple days, sometimes I’ll eat practically the minimum I need to for a week or so, and sometimes I go on eating binges but they usually leave me feeling unpleasant for a while. Lately I’ve been going heavy with the somewhat processed meat and cheese and a bunch of kefir and beer and some pickles/pickled stuff. My cravings for all the little nice things like fat, protein, salt, glutamates and alcohol kinda group together and become a significant driving force influencing what I’ll do. In this case I… Read more »
Dr. Anthony Gustin
2 years 2 months ago

Good point on raising the fat with low carb. A lot of people don’t realize you need to replace the carbs with something!

Shary
Shary
2 years 2 months ago

I lose too much weight if I go very low-carb, even though I incorporate plenty of good fats in my diet, including mostly fatty meat. (Actually, I’ve been known to eat butter all by itself. I love good butter.) I’m not exactly sedentary but I’m no athlete either. Metabolic differences between men and women, perhaps? Or maybe just individual differences?

Dr. Anthony Gustin
2 years 2 months ago

Do you do “refeed” days where you increase carbs? Are you strength training and not eating carbs after? Are you sleeping? There are a lot of different things that could be going on here. Also – what is “too much” weight loss?

Shary
Shary
2 years 2 months ago

No, I don’t do strength training, and I do sleep quite well most nights. My definition of too much weight loss is when the pounds keep dropping off even after I’ve reached what I consider a good weight. In my case that’s around 125-130 for my 5’8″ frame. After I added more potatoes and rice to my diet the weight loss stopped. I think my body just requires more in the way of healthy carbs and possibly more fats than I was giving it.

Dr. Jason Bussanich, DC
2 years 2 months ago
Shary, Be careful. I hear the word weight a lot in your concerns and in the original post. If you feel good, vital, libido, etc. Do not sweat the weight. You sound very insulin sensitive too me. ( a good thing) Everyone is a bag of different hormone sensitivity and weight set points. As a man who is in good shape but definitely is fighting his genetics, I wish I had your problem. I have even seen some patients that are diabetic, but are skinny as all hell. (lets call them vegans) Weight definitely does not correlate well to specific… Read more »
Shary
Shary
2 years 2 months ago

Thanks for your comment, but I think you misinterpreted. I’m not at all warped on the subject of my weight or my diet, nor am I diabetic or even close to becoming diabetic. I was merely pointing out that switching to a Paleo way of eating can be hit and miss until we figure out what works best for us as individuals. I just happen to be one who needs more in the way of good carbs to keep my body in that “sweet spot” of feeling good, looking good, and being healthy.

Jacqs Flying Primal
Jacqs Flying Primal
2 years 2 months ago

Good point. I was one of those people. Dropped the grains two years ago and did not increase the fat. I just didn’t know. I lost weight, and I couldn’t afford to as I was alread thin.

Jacqs Flying Primal
Jacqs Flying Primal
2 years 2 months ago

I meant to say I did not know to increase the carbs too. Lots of sweet potatoes etc for me now, white potatoes (nightshade family) bother me.

Meagan
2 years 2 months ago

I used to never get hungry after workouts. Now I do. I think possibly my hormones are normalizing. Or my body is just used to eating more food then I used to before.

Nocona
Nocona
2 years 2 months ago

Workouts always suppress my hunger for awhile. My hormones are in good shape. I can sure pack in the food after a couple hour cool down though.

John Finn
2 years 2 months ago

Or it could be just your metabolism adapting.

Diane
Diane
2 years 2 months ago

Homemade dried bananas are really good. Dip each slice in lemon juice before you put them in the dehydrator. Sprinkle cinnamon on some of them, too. Really chewy, kinda hard on the teeth, but so much better than banana chips.

As for low-calorie eaters, my boyfriend eats surprisingly little. He’s quite frail. He is also a raving hypochondriac and a moody depressive. I think I’ve spotted a link. I wish there was something to sprinkle on his food to give him my appetite.

Jessica
Jessica
2 years 2 months ago

He may actually have an eating disorder. Anorexia affects men as well. I really hope not, but either way, it’s good to know he has you to support him 🙂

Rowdy
Rowdy
2 years 2 months ago

It would be nice if, at the beginning of every post with an acronym like FODMAP, you’d say what it is so newbies have some idea what’s being talked about. Thanks!

Immaterial
Immaterial
1 year 5 months ago

He did link to this article:

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/fodmaps/

(I also had no idea, but following links is tech 🙂 )

Megan
Megan
2 years 2 months ago

I also struggle with eating enough. I just don’t like to eat beyond full/satisfied. I am tall and muscled, but I am thin and small-boned (5’9″, 133 lbs.). I’ve been applying some of the above-listed tricks to keep my weight steady, and if I slack off on the extra coconut oil or pads of butter, I really notice. It’s probably a part of eating paleo that fewer people have to deal with, but I’m glad Mark addressed this a bit.

Stephanie Turner
2 years 2 months ago

mmm… the Pope’s Nose! I also roast the turkey neck until crispy and always devour it without anyone else seeing… skin, meat & marrow! Me no share!

Keith
Keith
2 years 2 months ago

To the individual who is not hungry right after a workout, I have the same experience.

I usually finish up workouts around 6:30pm and don’t normally eat dinner until 9:30 or 10pm. The only thing I usually eat between 6:30 and 9:30 is an apple around 8:30.

It’s funny as on Wednesdays (often its an off-day from lifting), I’ll get home and be eating dinner around 8.

Glad to hear Mark doesn’t see a problem with this and I haven’t really experienced one.

Matt
Matt
2 years 2 months ago

I wish I could say eating too little was a problem for me. I am the complete opposite, no matter what my diet is 😀

Jacqs Flying Primal
Jacqs Flying Primal
2 years 2 months ago
I too struggle keeping my weight up. Starting out at 113 pounds at 5′ 4″‘ and after going Primal two years ago, I’m down to 105 to 108 (a slow slide). I recognize that “not being so hungry” feeling due to all the nutrient dense food I eat now. I have to force myself to up the calories. I know I am on the right track as I used to think of food all the time, watch cooking shows etc. I was thin, but starving. Now I’m thin but satiated. Still want to put on a few pounds, but afraid… Read more »
Don in Arkansas
Don in Arkansas
2 years 2 months ago

You mentioned the oysters and the pope’s nose on a chicken. My 2 favorite parts. I eat them first.

Lynn
Lynn
2 years 2 months ago
After close to 2 years Primal, what consistently happens is the day after an arduous hike or an infrequent run my hunger spikes and I need at least 3 full meals that day. This has been going on for at least 6 months, maybe longer but it took me awhile to spot the pattern. It’s so predictable now that I know to have more food around on the ‘day after’ than normally I would. Most other days I eat only one or two meals a day ’cause IF has become normal. So I don’t sweat it if I’ve been busy… Read more »
Kelda
2 years 2 months ago

Ditto, i find this too. So over the course of a week or varying activity my daily intake varies widely.

I suspect this is much how our forebears ate. I also notice variations over the course of a monthly cycle which demonstrates the effect fluctuating hormones can have.

The ravenous days are the ones where it’s easiest to eat ‘off plan’ I find or rather it’s hardest not to dive into something you wouldn’t normally; so having that kitchen stocked in advance (suitable primal food packed it out and about) is definitely the way to go!

Jacqs Flying Primal
Jacqs Flying Primal
2 years 2 months ago

Thank you for that information Lynn, this is helpful. I will start paying attention to that detail of more food after increased activity.

Lynn
Lynn
2 years 2 months ago

You’re very welcome. I’d be curious to hear if you experience something similar.

Kelda, great point. If I get caught short of food on the day after that’s when I’m most likely to want to hop into the car and go get something, anything STAT! 😀

Jacqs Flying Primal
Jacqs Flying Primal
2 years 2 months ago
I haven’t done any vigorous exercise for a while and so perhaps the “pattern” was harder for me to find. i would notice here and there that I felt awful, weak, and had to rest. I noticed over time that it came on after walking far or heavy work around house etc. Your post helped me to clarify the perhaps “why”. My weight decline actually began some 11 years ago due to facial neuralgia, a burning that is present all my waking hours, at that time I was a healthy 122 pounds at 5’4″. …I lost the weight due to… Read more »
Michele
2 years 2 months ago
I was pretty thin before beginning paleo mainly due to a ton of running, GI issues related to the grain based diet I was eating, and not realizing it’s good to eat fat. I’ve gained 5 lbs in the past 8 months and feel so much healthier overall. It took a while however to figure out how what starchy veggies work best for me and how much fat I needed. I need more fat than I ever realized I could eat. People who are on the thin side and new to this should look at the fat and carbs they’re… Read more »
TooThinToo
TooThinToo
2 years 2 months ago
I, too, have problems with keeping weight on with low carb. I lost 2 dress sizes after starting a primal/paleo diet for health purposes (after finding out I was a celiac) and had people telling me I was too thin. I felt great but, my face, especially, shows the weight loss. I quit exercising and added more fat…it didn’t help. In fact, I think I lost more weight after I quit exercising. I have been known to skin and eat an entire roasted chicken skin, not just the goodies. I asked a popular blogger–who says one must stay very low… Read more »
Heather
Heather
2 years 2 months ago

Due to stomach issues, I do all my workouts in a fasted state. While I am hungry after a daily workout, I am never hungry after finishing a half-marathon. I am lucky to eat one meal- which is normally ice cream. Not the healthiest of choices, but it gets me some calories. By the next day my eating has returned to normal. So on race days I usually am really low in calories, but as I am not running them every weekend, I figure once every couple of months isn’t going to hurt me.

amy
amy
2 years 2 months ago

Your explanation of why people with more calories stored in their adipose tissue can survive on fewer calories pretty much explains the entire juice craze, so thanks for that, because I had been wondering! 😀

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
2 years 2 months ago
I was hoping for better advice from Mark about avoiding weight loss. I have SIBO, so I have to avoid the very carbs he recommends because they aggravate gut symptoms. I can’t eat sweet potatoes, potatoes, rice, or bananas. Like Erica, I struggle to maintain my weight – I am 5′ 4″ between 100-105 pounds. Family and friends say I look too thin. I eat a lot (so long as I am not having a flare up). Baking and eating paleo treats (muffins, cookies, etc) has been the most helpful in avoiding weight loss (yes, I already eat lots of… Read more »
ZenChickChristine
ZenChickChristine
2 years 2 months ago
I’m not carb sensitive, but I gradually eased back on carbs for a couple weeks before cutting grains out. During the easing back I lost four pounds–I know that doesn’t sound like much, but you and I are pretty much the same size! After that point I began keeping a food journal to see what my “maintenance” intake of calories needed to be. Since starting the record keeping, I have managed to halt the weight loss. Keeping the journal may help you ensure that you’re getting enough. If you’re not sensitive to dairy, I strongly recommend traditional Greek yogurt, both… Read more »
jennie
jennie
2 years 2 months ago

I’ve been Primal for about 2 years. Recently, I started dropping a lot of weight. I’m 4’11”, 87 lbs, and still losing. You might want to try shakes. I make mine with coconut milk, oil, spinach, fruit, avocado, and protein powder (not exactly Primal, I know). Use whatever foods, liquids, and fats you can tolerate. Make them as caloric as possible. Even if I’m not hungry, I can drink one of these and get some much needed calories. This seems to have at least slowed down the weight loss.

Jake
Jake
2 years 2 months ago

Two words: Heavy Cream. It’s so calorically dense that you can gain weight drinking it even though it’s pure fat. It also doesn’t seam to trigger satiety like the fat on a steak does.

Jo
Jo
2 years 2 months ago

I used to be ‘eggetarian’ and an active cross fitter . I was hungry all the time . I have started to eat one of chicken and salmon at every meal with a healthy drizzle of coconut oil . I am still hungry more often than not . My weight is not an issue though . Guess each of us is made differently .

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
2 years 2 months ago

Thanks, ZenChickChristine!

Yes to the yogurt – I make whole milk yogurt, and eat that almost every day (after my 6 pound drop, I used part cream). Other dairy is often hard for me – I had a flare up lately eating too much manchego (which is allegedly low lactose). Nut butters can be problematic for SIBO, too.

Salixisme
2 years 2 months ago

In that last question about loosing weight – the suggestion about getting the last morsels off the chicken carcass before throwing it out is spot on – they are some of the best bits. BUT she should not be throwing that carcass out, she should be making bone broth with it!

Kiwigal
Kiwigal
1 year 3 months ago
I eat less than 1000 calories per day. On average. I eat about 700-800 calories. It’s been this way for a good two years now. It’s easy to do when you skip the packaged food, and you make meals out of fresh foods you prepare yourself. My lifestyle evolves around fresh fruit and vegetables, little meat (mostly tofu), and of course carbohydrates. I eat approx 8 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. For breakfast I’ll have either toast or weetbix, for lunch a salad or 1 sandwich and a side salad, and for dinner I have a stir fry… Read more »
wpDiscuz