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
In today’s edition of Dear Mark, I answer a question about the nutritional viability of beef suet, which so many people assume is waste. Then, I address an extremely common occurrence around these parts: the discovery of one’s newfound ability to maintain a low heart rate at higher energy outputs. Next I cover a question about alcohol, or, to be more specific, I give my two cents on what a reader can do who just can’t seem to give up beer. And finally, I address a reader’s concern that his much-beloved long, easy runs are doing damage to him over the long term.
My name is Joshua Roper. I have been doing the Primal Blueprint for a few months now and it has been great! I have discovered all kinds of new things about myself, including my insatiable desire for fat. I just cannot get enough of it for the budget I have. I live near a Hunter Cattle farm in Statesboro GA, which sells grassfed beef, and they also sell suet and various bones. I love their meat, but I can’t afford fatty cuts, and the cheaper cuts aren’t fatty enough to cover my fat needs. So I was thinking about suet. The fat on a roast or steak is the tastiest part to me and there just doesn’t seem to be enough of it, so why not just buy straight fat? Yet, I am not sure if it is healthy fat or how to eat it. I couldn’t find anything in the forums about it. I was wondering if it is good to eat? If so, how do I prepare it? I don’t know if I feel comfortable eating it raw. Should I try to get animal fat elsewhere, like bone marrow? I am a full time college student (Dual Math/Physics major) with a lean physique and a fast metabolism, but cursed with a $75 a week food budget. My constant thinking about eating fat is making it hard to think about other things, like math problems. Any help or insight into this strange new food source would be appreciated.
I actually wrote a post awhile explaining the merits of edible animal fats, including but not limited to beef suet. A followup post even showed you how to render raw suet into tallow – a helpful, useful cooking fat (because trying to eat raw suet is pretty gross).
Suet is mostly palmitic acid (a saturated fat), stearic acid (a saturated fat) and oleic acid (a monounsaturated fat, the same one found in olive oil). Polyunsaturated fats are found in paltry amounts, though since your source is grass-fed, it will be slightly higher in omega-3s than suet from grain-fed cattle.
Suet isn’t particularly nutrient-dense, but you may find that your suet takes on a distinctive yellowish hue; this is a sign of significant carotenoids in the diet, which cattle dining on fresh grass will tend to pass on in their fat to the consumer. Best of all, suet is relatively inexpensive, making it a fantastic way to add calories to your diet on a college food budget. If you can get bone marrow, I would definitely opt for that, too. There’s no official word on the micronutrient content of marrow, but it’s delicious. Also, it has a flavor that’s somehow “different” than just straight beef fat, which, along with the fact that bone marrow performs many important tasks including the rebuilding of bone and connective tissue, leads me to think that it contains compounds of considerable nutritional value beyond just the fat calories.
By all means, Joshua, eat the suet!
Hi Mark and crew! I’ve noticed that when I’m eating strictly Primal my heart rate is lower when running. I usually run on a treadmill in my basement and I’ve noticed about 5-8 BPM difference at the same speed/incline. Any reason why?
One of the main advantages of eating higher-fat, lower-carb is the improved aerobic efficiency. That is, when you’re able to access and mobilize stored and dietary fat for energy – rather than having inefficient fat-burning machinery and relying on carbs for all your athletic activity – you can suddenly go for longer runs while staying in the aerobic energy pathway. This is known as the aerobic base, or the cut off point after which you’ll start burning carbs for more than 50% of your energy. If you’re more reliant on carbs, you’re going to hit that point where glycogen begins providing the bulk of your energy sooner and at a higher heart rate.
Matt, you’ve simply expanded your aerobic base, which means you’re getting fitter. This is partly a consequence of your training and partly a consequence of eating more and better fat. Best of all, it also means you’re becoming (more) fat-adapted. Congratulations!
Peter Attia had a similar performance boost after going ketogenic, an experience he describes in excruciating detail. See if anything he wrote sounds familiar to you, and keep up the good work.
I have been on the Primal for 5 months. Still love my beer. Still drink too much. ANY ANSWERS?
Obviously, you could cut back on the drink. But assuming you’re not going to do that and just want some healthier options, I’ll give you some ideas.
Stick to wine. Wine tastes great, goes well with food, contains ample levels of antioxidants, and you can even improve the healthfulness of your food by cooking with red wine (which contains more antioxidant compounds than white wine). Oh, and it’s gluten-free.
Stick to spirits. As long as you don’t pair them with sweet mixers, spirits are low-carb and also have some antioxidant activity, particularly those aged in wood barrels (like Scotch). Robb Wolf’s signature drink, the NorCal Margarita, consists of good tequila, fresh lime juice, and soda/sparkling water. I can vouch that it’s a really good drink, but you have to use decent tequila.
Stick to gluten-free beer. I know how much beer means to some people; I still love it myself and occasionally sneak one. Thankfully, though, gluten-free options are getting better and better (and more widely available). See if you can find any of the offerings listed in this list of the best and worst gluten-free beers. It’s interesting that the top-rated beer was made with barley that had the gluten extracted from it. And hey, beer also reduces the formation of potentially carcinogenic compounds during cooking.
Whatever you choose to drink, think about establishing a good preloading regimen. I wrote a short article on how to avoid a hangover some time ago, and the folks at Highbrow Paleo did a two part series on reducing alcohol toxicity that went into even more detail. Read part one and part two. One of the Worker Bees swears by his regimen:
And, of course, if by “too much” you really mean too much, please seek the help of a medical professional.
Mark, as a former distance runner, I am sure you’re familiar with the feelings of well-being and elation sometimes produced by running. Although I adhere to a mostly Primal Blueprint diet and lift heavy weights 3x a week, I also really enjoy to run. I don’t push myself for speed, and I incorporate plenty of walking. In fact, when I run, I never feel out of breath and I maintain a low intensity throughout. I find that after these runs I feel very peaceful and calm, and my legs don’t feel dead. You know that the “long run” (slow, aiming for greater distance) is the primary form of training for the distance runner. Does such light, long-distance training elevate cortisol that much beyond walking for the fit individual? Again, I am not aiming for a “cardio zone” or anything, just taking a nice slow run of up to 12 miles and enjoying nature. Could this really be harmful?
You’re doing it in nature. As shown in the post on forest bathing, simply spending time in nature has the tendency to lower cortisol levels, or at least normalize them. These lowered levels are accompanied by lower blood pressure, low pulse rate, and greater parasympathetic nerve activity. In other words, spending time in nature has a de-stressing effect.
You’re maintaining a low intensity and not pushing yourself for speed. I’ve always maintained that it’s the constant pushing of race-pace intensity over long distances that constitutes chronic cardio. It doesn’t sound like that’s what you’re doing.
You’re never out of breath. Again, this is an indication that you’re not going too hard for too long. You should be able to maintain a conversation, even if there’s no one to talk to.
You feel peaceful and calm afterward with plenty of pep in your step. These are not the subjective mood markers commonly reported by people with elevated cortisol.
You incorporate plenty of walking. Walking not only breaks up the potentially stressful running; it even reduces subjective reports and objective measurements of stress in older adults (who are likely far more out of shape than you).
You really enjoy it.
I think you have your answer, Sam. Keep it up.
Thanks for reading this one, guys. Send along any other questions you might have. Grok on!