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

Dear Mark: Beans/Legumes

beansDear Mark,

I’m a former vegetarian who still enjoys cooking with all kinds of beans. I don’t see them in any of the MDA recipes. What’s your take on them?

Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, split peas, etc.) aren’t, by any means, the worst thing you can eat, but they don’t make the ideal meal either. In my estimation, legumes fall into the “O.K.” category with wine, chocolate, cheese and other dairy, etc.

On the upside, legumes offer protein, and they tend to be good sources of several minerals like potassium and magnesium. On the downside, they offer only a moderate at best amount of protein (generally 4-9 grams per ½ cup serving). As the How to Eat Enough Protein post showed, legumes’ protein content is dwarfed by the 28 grams you’d get from a cup of cottage cheese or the 50+ grams you’d get from six ounces of several meats. And this relatively small amount of protein comes with a hefty carb content: as high as 28 grams for that same ½ cup serving!

Because legumes generally contain so much soluble fiber, they won’t result in sudden blood sugar spikes. However, as I said a while back in the whole grain post, at the end of the day carbs are carbs.

Yet, the Primal Blueprint philosophy allows for some carbohydrate content. I’ve suggested in the past 150 grams as a daily ceiling. There’s certainly reason to shoot for less (100 is even better), but 150 grams can be a reasonable goal for many of us. The key is to make as much of that carb “allowance” vegetable-based as possible. Legumes offer nutritional benefits, but what they offer can be found in equal to greater amounts within other foods that have lower carb content.

All this said, not all legumes are created equal. Some, like lentils, have higher protein content. Others, like peas, have lower carb content. Both glycemic index and glycemic load vary among legumes. Check out this “International Table” for more info on legumes and hundreds of other foods.

The ultimate point on “O.K.” foods is this: if you can make the majority of your diet “best source” foods (meat for protein, vegetables for carbs, etc.), you’ll meet your daily nutrient goals and have room to include a few “lesser benefit but high enjoyment” foods such as dairy and legumes. (That is, if you consider beans exciting. Cheese I can understand, but give me a a big salad over a bowl of kidney beans any day.)

An additional note: the bioavailability of minerals in legumes is compromised by the body’s difficulty in digesting them (hence the flatulence jokes). If you’re going to include legumes in your diet, preparation is everything. Diligent and tailored soaking processes are necessary for the proper digestion and nutrient absorption of legumes.

Check back in the near future as I’ll be posting exactly what I eat in a typical day and how it breaks down in calories from protein, fat and carbs.  Thanks for your questions and comments, everyone. As always, if you have a suggestion for “Dear Mark,” shoot me a line.

Roger Smith Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

My Carb Pyramid

Dear Mark: Sugar Cravings

The World’s Favorite Bean

Subscribe to Mark’s Daily Apple feeds

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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. Nice post! I can’t agree more that proper treatment of beans is essential! Soaking and/or sprouting beans in plenty of water for 24 hrs or more, and changing the soaking water is best. That goes for lentils too. When you do this, they’ll break down most of the toxins they use to keep animals from eating them before germination: lectins, phytic acid, protease inhibitors and other nasty things.

    Sasquatch wrote on April 14th, 2008
    • The quickest way to soak and cook beans is as follows: In a pressure cooker, boil beans in just enough water to cover them for 5-10 minutes. Drain, rinse, then fill up the pressure cooker 3/4 of the way full with water and your “soaked” beans. Put the lid on properly, then bring to pressure. Cook at pressure for 25-30 minutes for pinto beans. Drain and rinse with hot or boiling water water if serving hot; cold water if you want them in a salad. Serve hot or cold. Never gives me gas this way.

      carice wrote on January 7th, 2011
      • I didn’t know cavemen had pressure cookers.

        I soak legumes for 24 hours, changing the water four times. Drain, let sprout for another 24 hours, rinsing as often as possible. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer for 15 minutes, then stick the pot in a hay box.

        Rupert Picklefeather wrote on January 1st, 2012
        • They probably also didn’t have hayboxes.

          Sampson wrote on January 21st, 2012
  2. I also liked this post. Do you know if there are any beans that are especially high in carbohydrates?

    Also, I’m curious, why do you consider dairy just in the ‘okay’ category? My main concerns about dairy are either low-quality dairy (grain-fed, not organic, pasteurized) or the potentially high levels of dioxins and other pollutants that accumulate in dairy fats. However, the first is also a problem with low-quality meat and the second is also a problem with fish.

    I’d think that good quality dairy, with lots of protein, good saturated fat, and important nutrients would be on the list of best foods. I’ve been eating more of a primal diet lately, and I feel like I can’t get enough dairy. A former loather of milk, I’ve been drinking tons of raw, whole milk and eating a lot of cheese.

    Food Is Love

    Huckleberry wrote on April 14th, 2008
  3. Legumes don’t pack as much nutritional power as meat or veggies, but some of us cannot afford to eat animal protein at every meal. A 1 lb. bag of legumes costs about $1. I often mix small amounts of meat and beans to make an affordable protein serving.

    I also liked this post. Do you know if there are any beans that are especially high in carbohydrates?

    Size is a good general indicator. Larger beans like butter and lima are higher in net carbs than smaller beans like black and pinto. Soybeans are low in carbs because they are relatively high in fat.

    Sonagi wrote on April 14th, 2008
  4. (That is, if you consider beans exciting. Cheese I can understand, but give me a a big salad over a bowl of kidney beans any day.)

    The blandness and creaminess of beans makes them ideal for spicy ethnic dishes like hummus or dal.

    Sonagi wrote on April 14th, 2008
  5. My stomach usually revolts if I have too many beans….so needless to say I listen to my stomach. That and I don’t crave them like meat and fat…so nothing missed to me….except a musical concert from the bass flute.

    Mike OD - IF Life wrote on April 14th, 2008
  6. While growing up in New Orleans, “red beans and rice” was a staple at our house. I still love to eat it–I just leave out the rice. The one problem I have with it is portion control. I can eat the stuff till it’s coming out of my ears!!

    DaveC wrote on April 14th, 2008
  7. Would sprouting increase the carb content?

    Sue wrote on April 14th, 2008
  8. Anyone wanting to build lean muscle would be wise to disregard Mark’s dietary advice.

    Limiting yourself to 150 grams of carbs per day is fine if you’re trying to drop unwanted body fat.

    It’s not fine at all if you’re trying to create the optimal anabolic environment for building lean muscle mass.

    The notion that “at the end of the day, carbs are carbs” is patently absurd, and downright idiotic. It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where George is at the diner with his girlfriend with whom he wants to break up and she observes that “Eggs are eggs”. Well, that’s great but it doesn’t really mean anything.

    Try eating sugar all day, every day, or beans all day every day, and come back and tell me that “carbs are carbs”. It’s nonsense.

    Also, anyone who reads Superfoods Rx, written by someone who I’m pretty certain knows more about food than Mark, will see that beans are one of the superfoods, and for a variety of reasons.

    Pointing out that you can get more protein from cottage cheese is asinine. You can get more protein from plain old whey powder. So what? That doesn’t mean that it’s a well rounded food that should be chosen over other foods, unless of course your primary objective is simply ingesting as much protein as possible.

    The irony is that all that protein consumption won’t do for you what it could if you were also eating enough carbohydrate to keep your glycogen stores full.

    Barry wrote on April 15th, 2008
    • Thank you for making these points. I just modified my diet to cut WAY down on animal meats for many reasons. I want to lose weight and am focusing on a more plant based diet after lots of research.
      This article made me feel like I got it all wrong! Goal: cut body fat by 5%, cut body weight by 11%, build lean muscle, feel good. Can’t do that eating meat three times per day right?

      Pam wrote on April 6th, 2011
      • “Can’t do that eating meat three times per day right?”

        There’s plenty of success stories–including my own–that would disagree.

        Tyler wrote on May 27th, 2012
    • As a dietitian in training I agree. I was about to post a similar response to the nonsensical statement ” carbs are carbs”

      Robin l. Westrick wrote on August 26th, 2013
  9. Anyone wanting to build lean muscle would be wise to disregard Mark’s dietary advice.

    Barry, Barry, Barry,

    Where do I start..

    So let me get this straight. We are supposed to ignore Mark’s suggestions for building lean muscle mass, and adopt your ideas. Well, you know the old saying that a picture is worth 1000 words? In this case, I’d say it’s worth 10s of thousands:

    MarkArtBarry

    Dave C. wrote on April 15th, 2008
    • Exactly. I am 30 years old and don’t look as good an old Mark! Plus I tried the whole carbs for insulin to build size and it made me a strong fat ass. No thanks.

      nathan wrote on May 30th, 2010
  10. No matter what you do, beans will still create a lot of smelly gas in some people. If you do not want to take any OTC medications, there is a nice simple solution, a Flatulence Deodorizer by Flat-D Innovations or http://www.flat-d.com it is an activated charcoal cloth pad that you place in your underwear next to your buttocks. When you expel intestinal gas, it absorbs the odor out of the gas. No side effects and it doctor recommended. check it out

    Franko wrote on April 15th, 2008
  11. Dave, if you take a moment to pry your mind open, read my blog, and know my history, you’ll see that I spent the last 8 to 9 months cutting fat. You don’t build muscle and lose fat at the same time under normal circumstances. I did however preserve virtually all of my existing lean mass.

    Now, for about a month, I have been in a mass building phase so right now I haven’t got much to show off.

    Dave, go ahead and try building lean mass on 150 grams of carbs a day. Let me know how that works out for you.

    Barry wrote on April 15th, 2008
  12. Barry,
    I find it quite amusing that you would so aggressively defend carbohydrates when they clearly haven’t worked well for you.

    On your own site, you chronicle your transformation from 189 lbs. and 19% body fat to 167 lbs. and 10% body fat in eight months. During that time you supposedly embarked on a program of weight training for the purpose of building or maintaining muscle mass, yet by your own admission you still lost three pounds of muscle. Eight months, man. That seems ineffective at best and a big waste of time at worst. Any effective weight-training program will always at the very least preserve muscle mass – provided your diet is working on your behalf. You should have been building muscle while you were shedding the fat, Barry, but your devotion to carbs partly sabotaged your hard work You even had to starve yourself some days! By the way, I know what 10% body fat looks like and you may want to check your Tanita. I think you lost even more muscle.

    I also find it ironic that you cite Gary Taubes here several times, yet you seem to have missed the entire thesis of his book. Carbs drives insulin drives fat. You can work out all you want, but at some point you have to recognize that when you set yourself up as a “carburetor” (to use a great term someone came up with on Michael Eades’site) you get on an eating treadmill that requires more carbs to fuel the beast. Fine when you are young and can keep up with the work. Not so great when you decide all that work is not worth the results and you are hungry for carbs all the time. The carbs you so vehemently defend also require extra water weight (4:1 ratio) which will always have you looking smooth until you decide to “diet down.” Who wants to have to diet to look less bloated and feel better? When you cut the carbs and start to re-engineer your body to where you become a “net fat burner”, you see how easy it is to retain the muscle, burn the fat, enjoy your meals while consuming far fewer calories – and not missing them, etc etc.

    You seem to be reading a bunch of body builder books and mags. Please understand that this is not a body-building site and I am not a huge fan of the body-building mentality. While some of my best friends are BBs, my advice and goals for my readers here is to find the best body for you. That means being fit in all aspects of health – a useful fitness that doesn’t depend on oversized “expensive-to-maintain” muscles, but rather on an effective high power-to-weight ratio that results in a great looking body with minimal body fat and VERY little effort to maintain it.

    Good luck with your continued efforts. I can help if you decide you want some.

    Mark Sisson wrote on April 15th, 2008
  13. Nevermind your picture, Barry…what is your answer for the other two? Mark looks like something chiseled in granite by Michaelangelo, and he did it on low carbs. Kind of blows your theory out of the water. You’re the one that needs to open your mind. I’ve already opened my mind and have transformed from a carbo-munching aerobiholic based on the latest evidence as presented by Mark and others.

    Dave C. wrote on April 15th, 2008
  14. you wrote: “bioavailability of minerals in legumes is compromised by the body’s difficulty in digesting them”

    The indigestible carbohydrate in legumes is also present in cabbage, broccoli and most vegetables.

    Joe wrote on April 15th, 2008
  15. You rock, Dave C. Way to have Mark’s back!

    Other Donna wrote on April 15th, 2008
  16. Mark, those body fat percentages are estimates for the photos taken at the time.

    I actually was hydrostatically weighed once at 191 pounds, and again at 175. I lost no muscle whatsoever.

    My photo at 167 is a guess at my body fat percentage, based on the hydrostatic weighing two months before. Nothing more, nothing less.

    I’d like to know what planet you live on where you believe that you can be in a caloric deficit and build muscle while simultaneously losing fat. The only way to do that is by cycling calories (and carbs).

    Mark, if you’d bothered to read further you’d have seen that I reduced carbohydrates to lose the weight. I agree that to lose fat, cutting carbs, but not eliminating them, is an effective tool. That’s all low-carbing is, however- a tool. It’s not a “life style”, at least not for most people.

    So tell me again how eating carbohydrates sabotaged my attempt to lose fat? I mean, assuming you were correct and I did lose muscle, how in the world would you possibly conclude that eating carbohydrate was responsible?

    I love how you conclude that I “seem to be reading a lot of bodybuilder books and mags”. Wrong. I’ve read The New Rules of Lifting, and Starting Strength. I’ve read ZERO magazines on body building. If you’d like to show me how either of those books are body building books, feel free.

    I doubt you’ll reply Mark because you’ve already proven that you don’t know what you’re talking about, at least with respect to my own body transformation, and certainly with respect to the role of carbohydrates in a healthy lifestyle.

    Again, saying “at the end of the day, carbs are carbs” and lumping beans in with donuts, which is what you are doing, is idiotic.

    Barry wrote on April 16th, 2008
  17. Dave, again please read what I’ve said.

    Getting “cut” which is what you’d need to do to “look like a chiseled statue” is best done with a low-carb approach. I never said otherwise.

    Also, I did NOT say you cannot build muscle on low carbs.

    Low carb diets do not create the OPTIMAL anabolic environment for building muscle.

    Even diets like the Anabolic diet utilize low or no carbs during the week, and a two day carbohydrate bonanza on the weekend. Why do you suppose that is? Because carbohydrates are ANABOLIC.

    Dave, Mark.. both of you need to slow down and take the time to 1) read what I’ve said and 2) read my entire story on my blog if you’re going to criticize me.

    Barry wrote on April 16th, 2008
    • Barry,

      I really don’t like when people who just read a few book, think they are qualified to make all these arguments. First of all, bulking and cutting is a thing of the past. Read about leptin resistance a bit and you will see why. I used to be like you, constantly trying to eat a ton and gain muscle, but it was just too much work. I now have gone low carb and do strictly gymnastic type workouts and have dropped from 11% to about 5% bodyfat which is effortless to maintain and I am actually stronger than when I was lifting weights.

      Shane wrote on May 17th, 2012
  18. Oh, and Mark.. I have not cited Gary Taubes one time. I think you’ve got me confused with someone else.

    I am currently reading “Good Calories, Bad Calories” but I’m not far enough along to feel comfortable referencing the book.

    Also Mark, everyone who knows anything about fat loss understand the role insulin plays, which again is why I think low carbohydrates are an effective TOOL (not a lifestyle) for fat loss.

    Barry wrote on April 16th, 2008
  19. Barry,

    No one, including you, me, or Mark, can claim to be the way, the truth, and the light when it comes to nutrition and fitness. There is room for disagreement. There have been posts here where people have disagreed with Mark, and he’s actually modified his position on a subject. But when you throw out words like asinine, idiot, and “you don’t know what you’re talking about,” the chance for respectfull discourse is pretty slim.

    Come back after you’ve read Taubes and tell us again how eating low carb is not a lifestyle.

    Dave C. - DaveGetsFit wrote on April 16th, 2008
  20. Dave, I said it’s not a lifestyle for most people. I also agree that there are different strokes for different folks. What works for me might not work for you.

    Insulin resistant people wouldn’t want to try and build muscle with lots of carbohydrate because they would gain too much fat in the process, however it would still not be the optimal environment for building the most muscle mass possible.

    Most people cannot eat a diet of protein, fat and vegetables for the long term. Boredom, temptation, etc., will creep back in and they will return to eating carbohydrates. In my opinion, people should strive for a healthy balance instead of going to extremes.

    The unsustainability of the low carb lifestlye is why the Atkins diet and the entire low-carb diet craze has wained in popularity. People just can’t stick to it long term. Worse, when they do go back to eating carbs their bodies don’t know what to do with them so they tend to gain weight even more rapidly. Unless a person is highly insulin resistant there’s no need to reduce carbs below 1 gram per pound of body weight. Obviously, eliminating refined carbohydrate is essential but I think we all agreed on that long ago.

    Please note that I never called anyone idiotic. I think Mark seems like a smart fellow. His statements here, however, betray that perception.

    Barry wrote on April 16th, 2008
    • Barry, You are being disingenuous by saying you didn’t call anyone “idiotic”. Your aggressive verbiage is just so much verbal rock throwing with terms like “asinine” “downright idiotic” “patently absurd”, etc. It’s certainly not the way to anything that resembles civilized discourse. After all, we’re not talking politics here. If Mark only seems like a smart fellow, at least we can say that for him, whereas you don’t even come off as half smart, just informed enough to be dangerous and a bit of an egotist to boost judging by how much effort you’re putting in here. Also, I question that boredom and temptation creep in on a diet of fat, protein, and veg. I am FAR from bored with coconut oil, tree nuts, and ribs, man. Not to mention chicken piccata, grilled steak with herb butter, mixed green salad with pistachios, kalamata olives, and goat cheese, or kale sauteed with garlic, coconut oil, red pepper flakes…hell, I could go on for hours. I am certain that people can lose weight with a high carb, low fat diet since it’s been done. Is that the way to great health? I don’t think so. But that wasn’t your point, was it? Please tell us all again about how we must eat carbs to gain lean muscle mass. I didn’t get it the first 1,000 times.

      Tina wrote on June 15th, 2011
  21. By the way, here is a photo of Layne Norton, natural pro body builder. Layne eats about 450 grams of carbohydrate per day.

    http://www.gaining-mass.com/images/LayneObliques.jpg

    Barry wrote on April 16th, 2008
    • LOL…you don’t read about body builders, right?? Seems I remember that being another one of your defenses.

      Look man, you do not even seem to remember what you espouse one post to the next.
      You might want to ask yourself why you are so passionate about disagreeing.

      Have you even tried a Paleo diet for at least 90 days to make an educated, empirically/experimentally based argument??
      If not then maybe it is best you save your breath until you can say unequivocally, “I tried this and it does not work for me.”

      Just saying…

      Mark Couch wrote on January 2nd, 2013
  22. I think Mark seems like a smart fellow. His statements here, however, betray that perception

    To quote Ronald Reagan: “There you go again.” You seem incapable of expressing your opinion without denigrating others. There isn’t a thing Mark has written in this exchange that can’t be found in blogs written by other M.D.s and PhDs.

    I apologize to all for continuing the noise — I’m done.

    Dave C. - DaveGetsFit wrote on April 16th, 2008
  23. Barry, Dave,

    I think I’m done, too. I don’t even know why Barry hangs out here if he is in such disagreement. Methinks there is more than a little cognitive dissonance going on.

    I was a carburetor for most of my training days. It was nothing for me to regularly take in between 600 and 800 grams of carbs a day – some days much more. I was addicted to bread, pasta, potatoes, beer, ice cream, energy drinks – you name it.

    I have been eating low carb for almost 10 years, since I decided I didn’t want to beat myself up aerobically any more. I find it very easy to maintain this eating style. I have no cravings for sugars or carbs, so you can’t tell me “it’s a hard lifestyle to maintain.” I give no real thought to my diet at all, eating from a long list of foods that fit the Primal Blueprint and just not caring about the other foods. I skip some meals, I overeat sometimes, and I don’t worry about it. Barry apparently spends inordinate amounts of time figuring out exact ratios and planning his every meal and cycling high carbs days or weeks with low carb days to somehow maximize his muscle growth. That’s no way to go through life.

    I mentioned that BBs carry “expensive to maintain” muscle because they have to work extra hard to keep the extra muscle on and they have to eat more than they should for good health. That muscle is metabolically expensive. I repeat: this is not a bodybuilding site. In my estimation it’s counterproductive to life to want to add atypical “mass” and then to have to worry about whether a week of not working out hard or skipping a few of your six meals a day will cause you to lose it. Even in our hardgainer posts, I warn that it will take extra work and extra protein and fat to put those extra 10 or 15 pounds on. The ideal Primal Blueprint body is one you evolve to naturally through healthy regular eating and an exercise style that mimics our ancestors. No need for sacrificing hunger to cut the fat if you can cut the carbs way back. My diet is 57% fat, with 165 protein grams a day and 2500 total calories. I’m sure if I went back to eating carbs, I’d need an extra 1,000 calories in the form of carbs just to satisfy my hunger. Then I’d have to do more cardio to burn them off. It’s a vicious cycle and what I call “digging a hole to put the ladder in to wash the basement windows.”

    Mark Sisson wrote on April 16th, 2008
  24. In the past 6 months, I’ve been lifting weights and eating 100-150g carbohydrate a day (mostly “paleo” carbs plus fermented dairy).

    I’m lifting for strength rather than to pack on meat, but I have nevertheless put on 7 lb of muscle. My bodyfat percentage has actually decreased, and is below 10%. That’s with 2 short, intense weight/sprint sessions per week, and cycle commuting.

    Barry, you’re right about carbs being anabolic. It’s because they increase insulin, which is anabolic. The problem is, it’s anabolic to all tissues, including fat. The “Zucker fatty” rat has severe hyperinsulinemia. It’s larger and more muscular than your average rat, but it’s also morbidly obese.

    Growth hormone along with low insulin is how you promote an anabolic state for muscle but not fat. The best way to do that is restrict carb, do intense exercise and get lots of sleep.

    Sasquatch wrote on April 16th, 2008
  25. Although I not always agree with Mark’s articles, I do always read them with very much interest and learn something (or a lot) from them. In my case, I’m building muscle, but as I’m training for an Ironman: each week running +40 miles, swimming +10,000 yards and cycling +150 miles… my carb intake is and MUST be a lot! My point is that everything depends on each one special case.

    That would appear that I agree with Barry because my carb intake is very far up from Mark’s suggestion (while at the same time building muscle), but no… Mark’s article (for the average people) really seemed to me very useful in it’s principles (as always), and I would like to thank him (as a lot of us readers, I’m sure) for his devotion on health driving him to help other people, without asking anything back. It’s an admirable way to be, which many of us readers appreciate.

    I’m very surprised with Barry’s attitude. You can say it doesn’t work for you, that you don’t think so, that you’ve learned otherwise, etc, but you just can’t say “it’s nonsense or idiotic”… that doesn’t help in anyway the blog nor anybody, even yourself.

    Mark, just keep on… next!

    Victor Tellez wrote on April 16th, 2008
  26. Barry said:
    “Most people cannot eat a diet of protein, fat and vegetables for the long term. Boredom, temptation, etc., will creep back in and they will return to eating carbohydrates. In my opinion, people should strive for a healthy balance instead of going to extremes”.

    There is nothing extreme about the above diet. This is the healthiest way to eat. I hate the word healthy balance you talk about its just as bad as the “everything in moderation” line that health officials talk of!

    Sue wrote on April 16th, 2008
  27. Mark, I actually agree that in the long run putting on mass is unsustainable. All body builders eventually lose the mass because they don’t keep up the big eating.

    As to meal planning, I don’t spend much time at all. If you read further down on my blog I detail the “body transformation lifestyle”. I spend maybe an hour total on Sunday prepping food, and about 10 minutes each morning putting together the day’s meals. I do not worry if I miss a meal, and the meals are not planned beyond picking a protein, a complex carb, and optionally, a fat source. I’ve been doing this long enough that the calories always fall out the same every day because I generally eat the same foods. I agree, if I spent lots of time planning meals and stressing over missed meals, it would definitely be no way to go through life.

    I regard body building, or my attempt at it, as a hobby. I seriously doubt that I will track calories and eat for size for the rest of my life, or even for the next ten years. I’d like to build a solid base of muscle mass and then preserve it. I think that a 200 pound guy at 8 or 9% body fat doesn’t have to do much to preserve the muscle they have beyond lifting and eating maintenance calories. The calories required to maintain that amount of muscle would be about 3300. That’s just not very hard to eat that much, even when you’re eating clean like I do.

    I think it’s like the tortoise and the hare. Mark’s the tortoise. Slow and steady wins the race, so to speak, but sprinting ahead and then going slow and steady after you’re way out in front is also a great way to win the race. That’s my plan.

    Finally I am not here to talk anyone out of low carb eating. I think it’s a useful tool and for some people, essential for well being both mental and physical. I just don’t need it. Tonight I had a plate of pasta – two servings worth, smothered in a delicious tomato and basil sauce with locally raised grass fed beef. A delicious, healthy, anabolic and Earth-friendly meal. You just can’t beat that. In addition to that, I experienced no lethargy whatsoever. So, I do very well on a moderate to high carbohydrate diet. I just keep the refined garbage out. Semolina pasta is about as “refined” as I get and I don’t even eat that very often.

    In conclusion, do what makes you happy, but at least admit that a higher carbohydrate diet IS the optimal way to build pure muscle mass. Yes, there are many ways to skin the cat, but that is the best way to do it. You should only do otherwise if you are insulin resistant and put on fat easily.

    Barry wrote on April 16th, 2008
    • Barry you are a malaka

      JJ Tooms wrote on January 14th, 2013
  28. Sasquatch,

    I agree totally! Low carb bulking is an ideal way to build muscle while minimizing fat gains. However, you will not build as much muscle on low carb as you would on a higher carb diet.

    And honestly if you have good insulin sensitivity and time your carb intake appropriately you can eat a higher carb diet and keep fat gains minimal.

    Barry wrote on April 16th, 2008
  29. Very interesting points here!, but I agree with “Sonagi” as well about the cost-effectiveness of legumes. Legumes tend to be very cheap, and in my opinion very tasty as well! Try some of these delicious legume recipes for high-protein content such as the “Curried Lentil Soup”. Another great recipe is the “Two Bean Chili with Onions”, which is tasty and has the added beans-benefit to your heart, backed by research! A study in the Journal of Nutrition found that adults who consumed at least one serving of pinto beans every day for 12 weeks had significant reductions in cholesterol. Both of these recipes and other healthy, tasty recipes can be found on the ChefMD website: http://www.chefmd.com/recipe_display.php?id=13.
    Best, John La Puma, MD.

    John La Puma wrote on April 18th, 2008
  30. The bean was shown to reduce cholesterol but isn’t the reason why it did this was because beans can decrease digestion and absorption so you are not getting most of the nutrients out of your food. I don’t think that is a good thing.

    Sue wrote on April 18th, 2008
  31. Sue-Beans probably reduce your LDL cholesterol level for two reasons: first, because they contain soluble fiber, which binds bile acids in the GI tract (http://books.google.com/books?id=MQYNgHEaxZMC&pg=PA289&lpg=PA289&dq=soluble+fiber+ldl+effect+mechanism&source=web&ots=Jt9vAvhpGI&sig=AXvnM5tPd4NwOCDj32zYN2Y2s3A&hl=en)
    and second, because the sterols in the beans also reduce bile acid absorption. Because high cholesterol levels have been linked to heart disease, and recently the risk of Alzheimer’s, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080416081641.htm, it’s another reason to love beans!
    Best,
    JL
    http://www.ChefMD.com/book.php

    John La Puma wrote on April 25th, 2008
  32. John,
    there was a study that linked high carb, sugar consumption to alzheimer’s. Eating a high fat, moderate protein diet is very beneficial for the brain.

    Sue wrote on May 3rd, 2008
  33. Generally I do not post on blogs, but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so! really nice post.

    john black wrote on January 15th, 2009
  34. Are chickpeas really that bad? I always find a meal done with chickpeas in the slow cooker is very satisfying. I guess like you say in this article though, carbs are carbs…..

    Elliot Wilson wrote on May 13th, 2009
  35. Hi
    I wondered if anyone could give me some advice. I don’t eat meat, fish, or any flesh. I don’t eat eggs or milk. I’m mostly vegan, but not arsy about it and will eat cheese if there’s nothing else. Anyway, I need to lose weight (only about 20 pounds) and found that reducing carbs does help. But, it’s such a problem as you can imagine – there’s not much left to choose from. If you could advise me, what would you suggest I eat most of, or cut back on most, eg cut out wheat, increase beans – by the way I hate cooking but like potatoes! I do need to exercise more I know, and have started doing so, but I’m middle aged and don’t want to overdo it, but I’m so sick of looking fat and feeling sluggish. I’ve only had this problem for about 8 years and was always slim and active before that (even though I was vegetarian).

    Eve wrote on July 28th, 2009
    • @Eve
      Your diet is a big problem. Are you religious about it. Or you think that you are helping the animals. I don’t know where you are coming from.

      The important thing to lose fat is to get into low carb periods. This can be done by eating very little carbs during some times, could be by fasting. The longer the carb periods the faster the loss will be.

      You could fast all the time and lose a lot of fat, but the problem is that you also need a lot of vitamins and minerals for your body’s daily needs.

      So you cannot go on a long fast also. Vegetarian or vegan diet is nutritionally very poor, so you must get a lot of supplements. I don’t know where you will get enough Omega3. The only good supplement is fish oil. You must get some B12, zinc, etc.

      Read a lot about nutrition, if you are serious about living mostly vegan. It is a sure recipe to destroy your body. Vegetarians have at least some ways to get the healthy animal fats.

      I am also mostly vegetarian, but Mostly is the key word. And I am also thinking a lot about supplementing.

      Best of luck, may you survive your diet.

      Anand Srivastava wrote on August 3rd, 2009
    • I was a long-term vegetarian (~20 years) for ethical reasons. Eventually I came to terms with the fact that I was born an omnivore, not an herbivore, and nature itself is a harsh mistress.

      Ultimately, the choice you have to make is whether you care more about barnyard animals than you do about yourself and your family.

      It’d be nice if that choice wasn’t necessary, but, well, the real world is far from what I would consider ideal (and this is only the tip of the iceberg)

      But this is the life you’ve got, so make the most of it!

      Steve wrote on January 7th, 2012
  36. Hi
    Thanks for your reply. I don’t eat meat because it makes me want to gag when I think about what I’m eating. There are probably other reasons around animal welfare etc, but don’t want to start a debate on that :)

    Can anyone tell me what the max carbs are that I can eat in any one day. I looked on fat-loss 101 and it said that any intake over 100g per day will lead to weight gain. I can do 100g a day on some days, but I’m a night owl and sometimes get the munchies when I can’t sleep. I’ve tried saving my carb allowance for night time, but it’s so hard. Can I have up to 150g per day do you think?

    thanks for your help.

    Eve wrote on August 10th, 2009
    • I was a vegetarian for 15 years. I can offer some advice. What you don’t want to be is a GRAIN-FAT a tarian. Which is sadly what most vegetarians end up being. If you can consume milk and eggs then you will do much better – cottage cheese, buttermilk, yogurt. These fermented/consumed types of dairy are most healthy. Other options are Tempeh which is fermented soy. Tempeh is gross but grilled tempeh with the right sauce is ok. But the MAIN ADVICE is to UP UP UUUUUPPPP your veggies and fruits. And to ditch the grains. Beans should be light or occasional as a vegetarian (a dal every now and then, some chickpeas on salad. but not every meal). The worst thing you can do is be a Pizza-a-tarian vegetarian, grains and fat. Ugh! Finally Whey-berry shakes in the morning (with milk or water) are a great way to get extra protein.

      ladycyb wrote on December 23rd, 2011
      • Even though I now eat meat, I still occasionally get a craving for tempeh. I can’t say the same for tofu or manufactured pseudo-meats…

        Tempeh is real food, and it’s easier to digest than other legume-based foods. Goes well cooked in barbecue sauce (yeah, some sugar carbs, but it’s not like eating bread).

        I also like tempeh with miso, but that’s probably more of an acquired taste.

        Steve wrote on January 7th, 2012
  37. So peas are not a veggie from the “Optimal” group? They’re a legume from the “you can get away with it in moderation” group? Greaaaaaaatt.

    bob wrote on August 18th, 2009
  38. What’s the thinking on bean sprouts? Are they still classed as carbs or are they salad/veg.
    Broccoli sprouts are supposed to be a “superfood”, but what about lentil sprouts, mung bean sprouts etc?
    Do they contain lectins or other “anti-nutrients”?

    frenchmargaret wrote on February 16th, 2010
    • Bean sprouts are included in one of the recipes in the free user generated cookbook you got when you signed up. So beans can’t be that bad if bean sprouts are in a salad, I think.

      carice wrote on January 7th, 2011
  39. I’m sorry but the tortoise and the hair analogy was absolutely priceless! Barry, for someone with clearly ZERO experience in the field of nutrition, it amazes me that you would have the audacity to question and insult a man of Marks standing. And for the record, Bodybuilding reflects deep insecurities . Which is why (as Rippetoe says)you feel the need to paint yourself brown and stand onstage in your underwear, showing your muscles off to other men.

    pete wrote on March 6th, 2010
  40. What about pooping? Whenever I go low-carb I get constipated and there is nothing worse than not being able to go poo. What do you do about that?

    Sarah wrote on April 20th, 2010
    • You’ll only stop up at first. You’ll get regular after a week or so (though with less junk in you’ll have less junk out so don’t mistake that for being stopped up or lethargic). Make sure you get your veggies and some fruit. Some apple at lunch and a helping of broccoli at supper should move things along just fine. No fiber supplements.

      Jonathan wrote on April 27th, 2010
      • My experience as well. Once I went through a one or two (memory a bit hazy now) week transition period, I have been far — FAR — more regular than in the old higher carbs, with plenty of fiber, days.

        That you need to make sure you get sufficient (whatever that means) fiber in your diet in order to avoid colon cancer and other health issues is one of the many ideas that have pretty much been exposed as canards, IMO, by the Primal lifestyle exponents.

        Geoff wrote on November 17th, 2011
    • Then you’re not eating enough vegetables and fruit, which are definitely encouraged in a Primal lifestyle.

      Steve wrote on January 7th, 2012

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