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...

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Month: June 2007

Art and Mark on Doping, Endurance and Health

A few months back I exchanged a series of interesting letters with Art De Vany on fitness, doping, cardiovascular health and other issues related to health and to endurance athletes in particular. Here’s the complete set:

I have followed with great interest your discussion and analysis of purported steroid use and home-run distributions. In a recent post, you asked about the incidence of false positives in sports drug-testing and you wondered how that might factor into the equation. I’ve given great deal of thought to that and related issues over the past 15 years and now feel compelled to add my two cents to your discussion – but on a much grander scale. At the risk of sounding a bit brazen, I would suggest to you and your audience that sport would be better off allowing athletes to make their own personal decisions regarding the use of so-called “banned substances” and leaving the federations and the IOC out of it entirely. (Even the term “banned substance” has a negative connotation, since most of these substances are actually drugs that were developed to enhance health in the general population). Bottom line: the whole notion of drug-testing in sports is far more complex than even the media make it out to be.

First, I should tell you that I was the Anti-doping Commissioner of the International Triathlon Union (ITU) – a relatively new sport within the Olympic Family – for nearly 13 years. I had to act as “prosecutor” on many doping cases (doping = drugs in sport). Prior to that, I helped write the first set of “anti-doping” rules for triathlon in 1988. Before that, I was an elite marathoner (2:18) and triathlete (4th Place Ironman Hawaii) in the ‘70s and ‘80s, so I have accumulated a fair amount of “inside information” regarding drugs in sport at the Olympic level. I also own a supplement company and have done extensive research on performance enhancement in pursuit of natural, legal alternatives.

There are three main points I want to make here: first, that it is impossible to fairly police and adjudicate drugs in sport; second, that the notion of a “level playing field” is a farce and, finally, that the performance requirements set by the federations at the elite level of sport almost demand access to certain “banned substances” in order to assure the health and vitality of the athlete throughout his or her career and – more importantly – into his or her life after competition.

Impossible to fairly police and adjudicate. Most people think that a positive test is conclusive proof of guilt, but the reality is that almost all these tests are nothing more than GC/MS (http://www.scientific.org/tutorials/articles/gcms.html for a good description) quantitative analyses that look for parts per billion of certain metabolites in the urine. They are not black and white indicators of guilt. They are wavy lines on a graph subject to interpretation by scientists with varying degrees of expertise. In many cases a “threshold level” is established

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Stump Sisson Friday

I get several dozen emails every day asking health and fitness questions. I try to respond to as many as I can. Often, readers will write in with similar questions, so I’ve decided that I’ll collect the multiples, as well as the toughest questions, each week and post my responses here. (First names only for confidentiality.) Let me know if this is a helpful feature for you. I’m game for just about anything that will benefit you, so don’t hesitate to contact me with suggestions.

Reader Ben wrote:

You’ve mildly badmouthed soy milk and tofu on your site many times,
usually citing processing as your biggest gripe. But what if I did
this “processing” myself? Is Big Tofu doing something insidious that I
could avoid doing myself? Real soy milk is basically just whole
soybeans that are boiled, mashed, and strained. To get tofu, just take
the real soy milk and add nigari (rinsed sea salt). Would the
mostly-healthy status of soybeans be preserved by doing this?

Big Tofu, I like that. Yes, my general beef with soy has to do with the processing . I think most can probably agree that just about any healthy, natural food, from fruit and vegetables to a humble soybean, can be and often is reconstituted into many less-than-desirable food products.

My general rule: eat food, not food products. But there is a bit of a dark side to soy food production, which you can read more about here . I’m not really “against” soy milk; I think organic, unsweetened non-GMO soy milk is certainly no worse for you than dairy milk and possibly better. And making your own tofu? I think that seems like a very healthful proposition.

Let’s remember that as “bad” as soybeans might be (this week), dairy is a food that nature intends for hoofers, not humans. I know many of you eat dairy, and some of you are fans of raw dairy. I think there’s plenty of room for individual preference. To anyone who worries about the phytoestrogens (plant hormones) in soy, while I share those concerns to a limited extent, remember that regular old dairy – even organic dairy – is loaded with bovine hormones. Soy milk consumption hasn’t created the epidemic of man-boobs that paranoid souls everywhere feared (but then neither has regular milk). I understand the other health concerns about soy , and while I am mindful of those concerns, I feel there are other far more pressing dietary concerns, such as sugar, trans fat and heavy food processing in general. I’m not in favor of heavily processed soy foods, but a little lightly-processed or fermented soy food, especially made organically or at home? Sounds great to me.

(I often discuss “marginal nutrition” issues here at the blog. I think soy is one of them. By marginal nutrition, I mean that first science reveals a potential health benefit of some food, and before you know it, every food company on God’s green earth is injecting said food into myriad food

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5 Medicinal Benefits of Green Tea

SMART FUEL

Last week the gang reviewed the basic varieties of tea. Tea is a naturally therapeutic beverage and I want to quickly highlight some of its important medicinal properties. Unlike many “herbal therapies” that I tend to be pretty leary of, tea has a well-documented multitude of health benefits. Though I do have a weakness for a morning cup of mud (but that’s between you and me), a daily cup of green tea is a wise habit to incorporate into your health regimen. I’ve been alternating between a glass of red and a cup of green tea with dinner lately for a well-rounded daily antioxidant boost.

Five excellent preventive benefits of green tea:

1. Cancer

2. Arthritis

3. Cardiovascular health

4. Immunity

5. A wide variety of other health issues

The pros: A handy reference

The cons: Mayo Clinic gives green tea a “ho-hum”

Never underestimate the lengths food companies will go to in order to tap into health trends:

This is Selva’s Flickr Photo

More Smart Fuel

What I eat in a typical day

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