Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
20 Apr

A Beer Drinker’s Primal Story

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

When I was a kid, I was husky – that is what my mom told me. I was always a little chunkier than my siblings and most of my friends growing up in the 60’s. Because of that, I always had to watch my weight and what I ate. Gaining weight has always been easy for me.

Over the last 30 or so years, I have been a somewhat health conscious adult and lived largely by convention wisdom (CW) guidelines. I have always been physically active, fit, and pretty healthy. I rode a motocross bike up until I was 35 and played roller hockey to age 49. I rode mountain bikes, played racquetball, skied, learned to snowboard when I was 43, and would run 3-5 miles, 2-3 days a week. My dad ran the Boston marathon in his 50’s, so I guess he imparted a strong sense of fitness on to me. Keeping my weight down was always a challenge and something I worked at.

My weight stayed fairly constant, between 165 and 175 lbs, during that time. (I am 5’ 9”) My diet was pretty good I thought, eating bread without butter, potatoes without sour cream, oatmeal without sugar, cereal with low-fat milk; whole grain was king, fat was evil. I owned a bread machine and made my own whole wheat breads and pizza crusts. I was lucky not to have any medical issues, life was good.

I also have always been a beer lover and 20 years ago I started home brewing beer. Beer, after all, is low-fat, so no worries. I drink one or two beers a day during the week and twice that on weekends (if I am good.) I became a connoisseur and love to try all the different beers of the world. I get to travel worldwide with my job and I always seek out beers I have never tried before while out of the country.

After turning 45 or so, I started getting severe heart burn. My doctor put me on meds (of course) but I didn’t tolerate them, giving me the runs. I switched to OTC Pepcid type and that worked somewhat. I also at that point started to slow down a bit – less running, less hockey, less energy. And big surprise, my weight started to climb. When I turned 50, December 2009, my weight was the highest ever at 182 lbs. Not too terrible, but heading in the wrong direction and I didn’t feel like I was able to control it as I could in the past. I had to work really hard just to stay level, but I was running out of gas. Quitting hockey didn’t help. I was 50 and getting fatter. I had to make a change.

Here I am on the right at age 49, and with the rest of my family and playing bocce, Ocean City, NJ summer 2009.

In March 2010, I decided to try a low-carb diet, Atkins style, which I tried before in my 40’s with pretty good results, but never able to stick with it. Soon after starting, I was searching the internet for the carb content of certain foods and somehow came across The content was unbelievable, and I soaked it up. It all made so much sense to me. I knew Atkins was on the right track, but the Primal Blueprint was the course correction I needed. I became hooked on the information and to the community support, especially the success stories. I love MDA because everything you need is on the site. I eventually bought two PB books, more out of sheer gratitude towards Mark, than pure necessity. I also like the fact that Mark personally answered my emails, not once but twice. And he posts lists of other great websites that are, in reality, his competitors (18 Underrated Blogs…). Who else does that?

The idea that this is a lifestyle clicked with me. Atkins was a short term diet and the results don’t last once off it. (Duh!) People often ask me about the differences between Primal and Atkins. With Atkins, you don’t fundamentally change your eating habits; you substitute low-carb products for what you normally eat.  Low-carb bread, low-carb ice cream, low-carb snack bars etc, all loaded with fake factory ingredients and sugar alcohols. Over time, you drift back to the real crap and end up back at the beginning. With Primal, you learn to eat real food and you learn to like real food. You learn why the crap food is crap and you lose your taste for it. You make a real fundamental change and you understand why.

When I started Primal, I decided to see if it would work while maintaining my beer drinking/brewing hobby. After all, I really like beer and couldn’t see giving it up permanently, and besides, there was that 80/20 principle. I guess you could say I wanted my beer and drink it too. So I dove into the Primal Blueprint diet and was pretty strict, except for the beer, which I knew would add an average of 40 grams of carbs a day.

For exercise, I started hitting the weights 2 or 3 times per week and doing sprints or HIIT on most Sundays. Over the past two years, I learned a lot about fitness. My lifts have progressed and are now mainly from the large compound muscle groups, squats, deadlifts, bench press, military press, rows, pull/chin-ups, and dips. I use an upper/lower split routine giving my muscles 5-7 days rest between workouts per the book Beyond Brawn (which was linked from LeanGains which was linked from MDA). Last year I got a pair of Saucony Hattori running shoes which at 4.4 oz, are great. I got my 100 meter down to 15 seconds and I am now able to do 19 dips and 10 full pull-ups.

My diet is pretty simple. For breakfast it’s a shake with whey protein, a raw egg, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, flax meal, some berries or pumpkin and fish oil. Lunch is usually a Big Ass Salad with whatever leftovers I have from dinner, some cheese, peppers, carrots, oil, and vinegar. Dinner is meat or fish, some veggies and a salad, and of course, a beer. We usually try to cook extra meat for the next day’s salad. Dark chocolate is my dessert, and nuts, coconut, jerky, or cheese make a great snack. I also have a great recipe for pumpkin bars that are good for traveling or as another snack. Planning ahead is absolutely the key for diet adherence.

The first few months following the Primal Blueprint did not produce much in the way of weight loss. I was probably gaining muscle at the same rate as the fat loss. I had to tell myself to “stay with the program,” knowing it was the right thing to do. Finally after two months, the scale started to move. I lost 22 pounds on the scale in the first 16 months to what I consider my “ideal” body weight. This is the weight I easily maintain. This is not the fastest change, but it was relatively easy compared to other diets I have tried. The beer may have slowed down progress, but that’s OK, it’s my cheat. Besides, what’s the big rush? As long as I am on the right path, heading in the right direction, why make it harder than it is.

So here I am at age 52, two years Primal, and at my lowest weight since I can remember. My heartburn is gone, my eczema is much better, and just got a new 15 year term life policy with a super-preferred rating. My blood pressure is typically 110/70 with a resting heart rate under 60. Not a huge transformation, but I feel like I am in the best shape of my recent life with much more energy. I find that the longer I have been Primal, the easier it is to stay with it. Plus, while I have cut down on beer a little in exchange for red wine, I have not given it up.

I wonder how bad beer really is. It is slightly sprouted (malted) and fermented and does not contain the barley germ, husk, or bran… Maybe a blog post, Mark?

I am still currently active with hobbies and sports including biking, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing and snowboarding, volleyball, golf, and I’m thinking about playing roller hockey again.

I am very passionate about this lifestyle and I tell anyone who will listen to me about it. Many of my friends and coworkers have gone Primal with great success. My wife started eating this way at dinner time initially and has eventually become more Primal over the last two years. She too has had success with weight loss.

Finding MDA was like finding a magic chalice on the beach. My wish for great health has come true. Thank you, Mark Sisson.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Great story! Your before and after photos are such a testimonial to the primal way. Beery good….NG

    Neandergirl wrote on April 20th, 2012
  2. Amazing Dad, Im glad to have seen you change so positively

    DaveW wrote on April 20th, 2012
  3. Congratulations, very inspiring.
    In my case Atkins was the one who put me in the right track and I am grateful to the old man, who was a pioneer (and gave credit to his predecessors). My transition to Primal was painless. Many people who deride Atkins have not taken the trouble to read his book.

    WildGrok wrote on April 20th, 2012
  4. Wow, amazing. Really well done. I admire your open-mindedness to try Primal in the first place, as well as your perseverance, especially when the weight wasn’t coming off.

    Note to guys with tummies on the beach:
    That white horizontal line of skin that didn’t get sunburned doesn’t look too good :-)

    Susan Alexander wrote on April 20th, 2012
  5. Wow you look great. And I also love your explanation of the primal lifestyle. I certainly realised “crap food tastes crap” and can’t believe what other people will put in their bodies. You also explain really well that primal is lifestyle NOT a diet with guelling exercise. Leaving more time & energy for the good things in life. Well done.

    Hilary M wrote on April 20th, 2012
  6. PS: Love Friday stories…….

    Hilary M wrote on April 20th, 2012
  7. WOW!!!! You look absolutely amazing!! Congrats on your success. I love the fact that you haven’t given up on beer!

    Coconutz wrote on April 20th, 2012
  8. It is fantastic that one can eat poorly for the first 600 months of their life and get results like this in only 16.


    Ray wrote on April 21st, 2012
  9. Dude, that body is something that most 20-year olds would envy.

    Makro wrote on April 21st, 2012
  10. I’d also like a post on beer–as much as I love the taste, it has always been horrendous for my stomach (bloating and discomfort that lasts for days, much worse than other alcohol). Pretty sure all those fermented yeasts really mess with gut flora. Also, I’ve seen a big trend in beer-drinkers and eczema or “unexplainable” skin rashes. I have a feeling it’s pretty bad for you, but I’d love some more scientific evidence to back it up.

    Emily wrote on April 21st, 2012
  11. This is an awesome story. I’m so happy you’ve been able to find balance between what you love and the Primal lifestyle. And that’s its obviously working so well :)

    Becca wrote on April 21st, 2012
  12. “I wonder how bad beer really is. It is slightly sprouted (malted) and fermented and does not contain the barley germ, husk, or bran… ”

    Beer has always been my achilles heel. All I have ever had to do is quit drinking beer and 20 lbs will melt off of me almost instantly.

    If I really want to get fast results, I also quit bread.

    thegunny, 419

    thegunny wrote on April 21st, 2012
  13. I was a regular beer drinker that switched to red wine for the most part. However, I play in a band once a week and really wanted to drink beer during rehearsals and gigs. I tried a number of gluten free beers. The ONLY one I liked (and I like it alot) is Lakefront Brewery’s New Grist. Lucky for me it’s brewed in my hometown (Milwaukee) and available at most stores.

    Jake wrote on April 21st, 2012
    • I’ve tried several of the gluten-free beers. I thought New Grist was vile.

      Bard’s is pretty good. Red Bridge is tolerable in a pinch but gives me worse headaches than real beer.

      When I drink real beer, I favor stouts and porters. IPAs or wheat beers make me sore and achy the next day.

      John wrote on April 27th, 2012
  14. Great job. Thanks for sharing your story. Could you post that pumpkin bar recipe? Thank you

    Donna wrote on April 21st, 2012
    • I posted it, see page two of the comments.

      JoeBrewer wrote on April 21st, 2012
  15. As an avid homebrewer of 10 years, I have also often pondered how “bad” it is. The barley has been sprouted, soaked, and rinsed several times, which should take care of a lot of the phytate/antinutrient stuff in it. And, as mentioned, there is no husk/bran in beer, and the gluten content, so I hear, is VERY low compared to something like, say, a slice of wheat bread. All in all, I think it’s more like ingesting a sugary treat. Maybe not the best thing, but definitely not terrible either.

    Finn wrote on April 21st, 2012
  16. You could always get into making your own wine! Nice story.

    Lindsay wrote on April 21st, 2012
  17. I can’t add anything more from what all these nice folks said…. too true, way to go. I am like a female you, but older!. except my “homebrew” is Kombucha which is all-around excellent. I’m going to have to quit it because the sugar content (which makes a very fine ferment and a super fizzy Kombucha) has too much carb in it. I will be going through major withdrawal, but my good health is worth it. I’ve just started, was on Adkins too way back, and hated it. My cycling and running suffered, but I didn’t respect Adkins (full of fake you-can-haves) like I do Mark. I’m going to give this lifestlye a try, it makes so much darn sense!If I get to keep my athletics and look half as great as you I’ll be extremely happy!

    tradergirl wrote on April 21st, 2012
  18. Great story. I would love to have the pumpkin bar recipe you spoke of.

    julie wrote on April 22nd, 2012
    • Thanks Julie, I posted the recipe on the comments, see page 2 of the replies.

      JoeBrewer wrote on April 22nd, 2012
  19. “With Atkins, you don’t fundamentally change your eating habits; you substitute low-carb products for what you normally eat. Low-carb bread, low-carb ice cream, low-carb snack bars etc, all loaded with fake factory ingredients and sugar alcohols.”

    I love your story, and I appreciate your progress, but I cannot call this anything but a lie. You clearly did not read the Atkins book (any of them, frankly), or if you did, you only read bits of it.

    It is true that the Atkins *corporation* encourages the consumption of their products. But you could do Atkins with Mark-Sisson-approved foods without breaking any of the Atkins diet rules. In fact, Dr. Atkins used to encourage the consumption of whole foods when he was alive. The purpose of the substitute low-carb foods was to give LCers substitutes for when they were really missing SAD junk. At one point he was telling his dieters to not even touch his meal replacement bars til they were out of Induction.

    I’m tired of seeing Atkins’s work dissed by the Paleo/Primal community, especially by people who never read any of Dr. Atkins’s actual words. I don’t agree with everything he ever wrote or suggested (for instance, he said canola oil and soybean oil were acceptable fats, and this after reading Dr. Mary Enig’s work!), but to me the key thing about Atkins is the method of determining how many carbs you can tolerate in your daily diet and getting your blood sugar and insulin under control–and 9/10ths of us who are or have ever been overweight or obese need to learn how to do those things.

    By all means do it with primal food–that really is best. No one ever said you had to do otherwise.

    Dana wrote on April 22nd, 2012
    • Thanks for your comments Dana. I did read Atkin’s New Diet Revolution about 10 years ago and I have great respect for Dr. Atkins. Certainly he was on the right track, but for me, Primal and MDA work much better. I didn’t learn to eat as well with Atkins as Primal and I did use too many low-carb food substitutes when I tried Atkins. For many reasons I never stayed on Atkins for as long as I have been able to with Primal.

      JoeBrewer wrote on April 22nd, 2012
  20. I MUST disagree sir…”not a huge transformation?”

    Everything is relative, and I think your transformation is amazing…the before pics and your second “after” pic tell the story…great job.

    I’m 51, went primal last June, and loving it, though it is “slower” than some other regimens that don’t last. I find myself getting tempted to switch into some old routines to speed things up. But seeing your results for staying the course for two years is great inspiration for me…great job!

    Peter wrote on April 22nd, 2012
  21. Despite what you think, this IS a huge transformation!

    Meagan wrote on April 22nd, 2012
  22. Good work

    I have been eating primal for about 3 months now and lost about 4 kg’s. Also I have managed to keep my strength gains from my once a week lift to total muscle failure gym routine. It takes me twenty minutes a week and I use method. The rest of my exercise comes from things I love to do like surfing, golf and bush walking/ hiking – have not got into the sprinting thing yet

    I solved (or moderated) my beer dilemma by drinking only super dry (low carb) beer. Would think you could brew your own of this by allowing the fermentation process more time than the kit recommends but this is just my own guess.

    John wrote on April 22nd, 2012
    • Man, I tried low carb beers, it’s not beer.

      karl wrote on April 22nd, 2012
  23. I used to train for 18 minutes, twice a week and got to 265lbs at 10% fat (I’m 6″1′). People would ask me what I did and wouldn’t believe me when I told them. Check out Charles Poliquin (my hereo..), the original HIT master. Great Site

    Dave S wrote on April 22nd, 2012
  24. How many diet and lifestyle regimes are there? Success is everywhere but very few feel the motivation to succeed in the first place. Got to get back to basics. The body follow the head. First stop Attitude adjustment. If you forget that important step you’ll just end up doing your head in when you fail time and time again.

    Personal trainer melbourne wrote on April 23rd, 2012
  25. Thanks for sharing! I am a massive beer geek (it is my life’s calling, seriously) and have been struggling to reconcile my barley-lovin’ ways with the primal lifestyle. Since beer is my “thing”, I have studied the health benefits as well as the costs – and, for me at least – the benefits far outweigh the costs.

    And in just the very short amount of time since going primal, I already feel better – not just in general, but when I pick up a pint because I know that I am choosing the right path for me. Plus, what goes better with a nice, local bison steak and roasted veggies than a good, home-brewed beverage?

    Miss Dev wrote on April 23rd, 2012
  26. Fantastic! Ahhh! I love this story! I have traveled nearly the EXACT same path as you. Seriously, the paragraph directly under your first beach photo is my story, verbatim! (including the two emails from Mark himself) Nine months on PB, and I am not only 50lbs lighter, but fundamentally, I am a completely revived person! You’ve inspired my first post on MDA. I love this site, and I’m so deeply, madly, in love with primal living! Grok on, everyone!

    Kait wrote on April 23rd, 2012
  27. Beer’s my 20 too! 😉

    Ali wrote on April 23rd, 2012
  28. Great job! You look fantastic and not at all like your old self. Thanks for the inspiration. The toughest part of the PB is giving up of our favorite things. It’s wine, for me, so I can relate to the beer issue. I found, though, that I did okay having less of it. I felt “cleaner” without it and now I’m cheap date. One or two glasses, once or twice a week, and I’m good.

    Tina wrote on April 24th, 2012
  29. Looking good and the family all look fit and healthy too which is nice. Not too often you see entire families looking so well.

    Nick wrote on April 25th, 2012
  30. Quite Unbelievable! IT WILL TAKE MORE TIME FOR ME TO DIGEST.

    Santanu Ghosh wrote on April 25th, 2012
  31. I’m a homebrewer myself (26 years of it), and also a wine fanatic. There are just some things I won’t compromise on. I can give up the fresh baked bread and go for alternatives. I can dump the rice (wife is Asian, it’s a staple) and all of the other grains and anything with processed sugar. But, I’m not going to stop drinking beer or wine. These things bring me great enjoyment and I don’t drink to excess so I see no reason to stop it.

    I’ts probably best to stay away from any of the major labels and stick with the microbrews. There are gluten free beers on the market as well as some fine recipes for those who need that. For wine, some of the cheaper brands add sugar.

    Cory wrote on May 13th, 2012
  32. Great story! Where can I find your pumpkin bar recipe ?

    Kristi wrote on May 14th, 2012
    • Thanks, I post the recipe on page 2 of the comments. Cheers!

      JoeBrewer wrote on May 14th, 2012
  33. I love this success story! I also love beer, so I’m hoping I can pick it back up in a few weeks (in moderation, of course).

    AJ wrote on May 28th, 2012
  34. Us residents of the UK love a beer. I find some of my friends can get away with drinking a lot of it. I’m glad I can’t drink a lot – makes me concentrate on my health and fitness a lot more!

    Matt A wrote on June 28th, 2012
  35. Great job brother! I am 48 and just started PB this month. I know I’ll see results eventually and you story helps to inspire me to stick with it!

    Jeff wrote on July 23rd, 2012
  36. Pardon the interruption folks. I spend quite a bit of time lurking here and I can’t help but fulfill a need to step on a soapbox for a minute. Even though I will NOT go paleo, there is still a lot of great information to be found here at MDA that can be used for folk like me. At the very least, it’s very useful information presented in an entertaining way with a great group of people contributing comments.

    I went on a paleo-type diet many years back and while I lost a lot of weight, I just wasn’t happy. I will never leave pasta, bread, or pizza. I won’t give up potato chips, fries, or cake. Giving up beer? MADNESS!

    Beer is one of man’s greatest success stories. We require hydration, but we cannot always get it solely from food. Drinking water has always been risky business and I’m sure a lot of Groks suffered serious GI disasters, possibly death, from drinking water tainted with wildebeest poo.

    Then comes beer to the rescue, as depicted on a Sumerian tablet, one of the oldest inscriptions known to man, which laid out the rations of beer allowed for workers. They’d BETTER let the workers have their beer or Ninkasi, the Sumerian beer goddess might not be pleased! While these early Iraqis produced a number of visual records related to beer and its use by the ‘little grok’, it would also find its way to be a daily staple in the diet of the pharaohs.

    Some might argue that beer came with man’s agricultural stage and as such, it is not primal. I view it more as a use of man’s intelligence to ensure his survival along the lines of cooking meat in fire. The critters that survive in our bodies to do us harm do not survive in beer. No, it wouldn’t have come without the cultivation of grain, but you’re just looking for rationalization here anyway, right?

    Beyond the flavor and the social lubrication it provides, let’s face it: man has sought ways to inebriate himself from the moment he found he could do so. Even animals have demonstrated this desire. Some years ago, a train of corn derailed, leaving a delivery of corn out in the elements to ferment. It wound up luring bears from miles around, who were all getting loaded from the primitive beer. Maybe they were just there for the easy pickins, but I say they were doing what comes naturally: showing up for the FREE BEER!

    Quite simply, many of us might not be here today if it weren’t for our ancestors drinking beer.

    brainfan wrote on August 11th, 2012
  37. I love that you drink beer, and still lost weight on the Paleo diet. I’m also a homebrewer. You my friend are my hero.

    Chris wrote on September 10th, 2012

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