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

Dear Mark: Hot Laptops, Wine Sulfites, Glutamine, Where’s Mackerel, and More

It’s Monday, and that means it’s time for another roundup edition of Dear Mark. This time, we’ll be covering laptops, fertility, and scrotal hyperthermia; sulfites in wine; glutamine as an anti-catabolic supplement; the scarcity of mackerel in the markets; and my hair engoldening protocol. If you prefer these roundup editions to the regular single question-and-answer editions, let me know. I’ll keep doing whatever you folks like best.

Okay, let’s get to the first of five questions:

Dear Mark,

I just finished reading the article on cell phones and fertility and I immediately started thinking about the computer that rests on my lap for hours a day and the waves that are transmitted to and from it. I was wondering if there are any studies linking wireless computing to infertility? Should I be taking the lap out of laptop?


There is some concern over laptop radiation affecting sperm motility and quality, but it’s generally accepted that the electromagnetic wave load from laptops using wifi is far lighter than that the load from mobile phones. The bigger problem may lie with scrotal hyperthermia, or overheating, from lap use of a laptop. Scrotal hyperthermia… it makes you shudder, eh?

Such eponymous use of a laptop does seem to increase scrotal temperature by about 2.8 degrees C, which some researchers think could affect male fertility. Since high scrotal temperatures have long been associated with lower fertility in humans, this seems like a reasonable assumption. Lap pads don’t really help, but keeping your legs apart (instead of locked together) mitigates some of the temperature increases. That said, the simplest solution is to never use your laptop as manufacturers intended – on your lap. Instead, just use a standing workstation, which – let’s face it – you should already be using for many other reasons beyond a hot scrotum (although that definitely suffices as justification!).


Noticed your list and saw you added one of my favorite wines Cabernet

Most include sulfites so do you have a suggestion for a good one without the added sulfites or chemicals in the grapes.



All wines contain sulfites, because sulfites are a natural byproduct of the fermentation process. Most vintners do add sulfites, because they act as a preservative and antioxidant. Without them, wines spoil more easily and more money goes into the preservation. Whites actually contain more sulfites than reds, and wines on average contain 80 mg/L sulfites, or about 10 mg per glass. A serving of dried fruit contains far more sulfites than a glass of Cab, for example.

If you really want to avoid added sulfites, drink organic wine. Makers of “organic wines” can’t add sulfites, but, again, there are naturally occurring sulfites so you can’t really escape them. Wines “made from organic grapes,” however, probably contain added sulfites, as they aren’t technically “organic wines.” Truly organic wines are also pretty rare.

Unless you are absolutely certain you have a sulfite allergy (which is rare), I wouldn’t base your choice of wine on the sulfite content. You’ll be missing out on a lot of delicious Cabs!

Hi Mark,

How do you feel about the 5 grams of Glutamine powder that I mix with some water right before I turn in for the night? There seems to be a lot of evidence to support that this strategy will prevent catabolism and help to preserve my lean mass during the 12-15 hour fast that is to follow.



Thanks for the kind words, Nick. In return, allow me to save you some money. Glutamine probably isn’t preventing catabolism in your  muscles. Are you a regular lifter? Squats, deads, full body movements, the whole nine? Do you eat a good amount of protein and healthy fats? Are you mineral replete? Do you get enough sleep? I’m guessing you have all that stuff dialed in, in which case glutamine isn’t going to do anything for your muscles.

Here’s a study on the effect of glutamine supplementation in young athletes performing weighted squats and heavy bench presses. Athletes received either glutamine (at 0.9 g/kg body weight, far higher than your 5 g) or a placebo. Both groups trained, and both groups improved muscle performance, body composition, and muscle degradation rates, but there was no significant difference between the two groups.

Glutamine has its benefits in certain populations. In the severely catabolic, post-surgical demographic (burn victims, blunt trauma victims, elective surgery patients), glutamine supplementation definitely helps rebuild tissue, improve immune response, and boost muscle protein synthesis, but I don’t think those benefits can be extended to the general, reasonable healthy population. Even if you’re breaking down your musculoskeletal system with heavy compound lifts, you simply aren’t in as grave a position as someone coming off a horrific car accident or dealing with third degree burns across a large portion of their body. Your damage is localized and relatively mild, and repairing it comes down to proper sleep, proper nutrition, including plenty of protein, and sufficient downtime.

Now, if you stop the glutamine and your performance suffers while maintaining all the other factors I mentioned, feel free to disregard this and resume the supplementation. Good luck!

Why is it so hard to find Mackerel at the supermarket?


I have a couple theories. First, mackerel is quite possibly the “fishiest” fish. A lot of other varieties can be dressed up with sauces, cooked until they’re bone dry and tasteless, or allowed to reside inconspicuously with the other ingredients in the dish, but not mackerel. It can’t be ignored. It doesn’t really dry out. It proudly proclaims to the world (and your tongue) that, “Yes, I’m a fish, I come from the frigid marine waters of the Atlantic, and I contain a lot of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, but I refuse to apologize. If my taste offends you, so be it. I’ll never be suitable for fish sticks and tartar sauce, and I’m okay with that.” It boils down to the fact that “fishy” is a negative flavor for a lot of people in this country and mackerel is the embodiment of “fishy.”

Mackerel is also extremely volatile. It doesn’t stay fresh for very long, and you have to freeze it a certain way (like, immediately upon catching it) for it to be palatable. We coastal folk can get mackerel without issue, but inlanders might have trouble. It’s definitely worth pursuing, though. If you have an Asian supermarket or a dedicated fish monger nearby, those are the places to look. The standard grocery store probably won’t carry it.

Mark, could you explain the best way to get that beautiful golden long flowing hair. My girlfriend joked that I might be able to get your body (I’m getting close.), I’ll never have that hair.

This is one area of my life that necessitates an ultra-strict protocol. I was originally going to turn this into a book, but I figure my loyal readers deserve a sneak preview of my hair color maintenance protocol.

The answer is heavy eyebrow lifts, 3 sets of 5, twice weekly. Clip weights to eyebrows, then perform eyebrow lifts, a la Fred Savage from Wonder Years and his arched eyebrows when surprised. Proper form is crucial – maintain jaw rigidity, keep your mouth closed, torso lean forward with slight break at the hips to maintain neutral spinal column and prevent weight-face friction. Alternate standard compound double brow lifts with single brow lifts for variation of stimulus (Tony Horton calls this “muscle confusion”). These lifts are the premier stimulators of hair pigment growth factor. Be careful, though. More than twice weekly results in overtraining and a boost to stress hormones, which can bind to hair pigment growth factor receptor sites, thus inciting hair pigment growth factor resistance and premature graying.

Alternatively, you could just be born with good hair genetics. That’s how I did it.

Well, that’s it for this week. Thanks for writing in with your questions, and, as always, keep sending them. I love to help out however I can!

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. So lemme get this straight, do the eyebrow lifts and I can turn my brown hair into blonde naturally?

    I’m off to Modell’s to buy the weights now!

    Anne wrote on June 20th, 2011
    • Ah, but how do I turn my brown eyes blue?

      Stephanie O. wrote on June 20th, 2011
      • Listen to Crystal Gayle!

        Archie wrote on June 20th, 2011
  2. I just bought some smoked mackarel from Whole Foods the other. It is made by a brand out of maine called Duck Trap. It is quite tasty as well.

    Jeff Friedman wrote on June 20th, 2011
  3. I find sauana very helpful with hair. After 15 minutes or so, the texture of the hair changes. Noticeably smoother after, and just looks better. I’d like to say it prevents hair loss, but I doubt it.

    The trick, however, does not work so well with my GF.

    charlie wrote on June 20th, 2011
    • haha

      Your GF doesn’t get smoother and better looking after 15 minutes in the sauna?

      April wrote on June 20th, 2011
  4. Let me see if I have the eyebrow exercise advice right. Should I do it like this kid?

    Dave Fish wrote on June 20th, 2011
  5. I like the multiple answered entries as long as you’re not leaving out any juicy important details (I don’t think you would do that). :) Thanks Mark!

    Kevin wrote on June 20th, 2011
    • I second Charlie. I really enjoy the question “roundups” :)

      Deb wrote on June 20th, 2011
      • I do as well. It allows for easy skimming and picking. The laptop question was relevant to me so I read it. The wine one was sort of so I read it. I skipped the rest.

        It allows me to read an article in less than a minute. All your other articles I love to read but they are very long and since its on one topic I always read it all since it all matters.

        These are my favorite posts after the success stories!

        Primal Toad wrote on June 21st, 2011
  6. Mark – I find that the eyebrow weights chafe some, and I’m also finding it hard to keep the weights from rubbing on my eyeballs. What are your suggestions for that? My hair has turned blonde, but the corneal scraping has me seeing red. Any advice?

    Hal wrote on June 20th, 2011
  7. Thanks for answering the glutamine question. I was recently wondering about it because I had heard it was a valuable supplement. Sometimes the supplement swirl makes it hard to find the truth!

    Crunchy Pickle wrote on June 20th, 2011
  8. For a good Biodynamic Cab, I love Benzinger. It’s a family owned Cali winery and a must visit when you are in wine country.

    Will wrote on June 20th, 2011
  9. We make our own wine, which is one way to avoid the added sulfites, and a fun hobby. There are a few good organic wines though, and most wines in Europe have a lower sulfite content. From my understanding, in Europe, it is not standard to add sulfites, though they are usually added to import into the US.

    Katie wrote on June 20th, 2011
    • Katie, can you describe how you make your own wine?

      Mofrobeat wrote on June 20th, 2011
      • I’m not Katie, but there are a number of different ways. You can buy kits (pour in juice, add the appropriate yeast, and wait), or you can actually get berries (grapes) and press them yourself. The process doesn’t change much from the juice to the grapes, just adds an additional amount of work. I would recommend starting easy and working towards the complex. Good luck!

        Hal wrote on June 21st, 2011
    • Katie… can you please tell us how? You did so well at telling me how to make beef jerky in my oven with ground beef… I want to make my own wine!!

      Primal Toad wrote on June 21st, 2011
      • Could you link me to this ‘how to make beef jerky in the oven with ground beef’ I’d be interested….. Thanks.

        Granuaile wrote on June 21st, 2011
  10. For those who are ready to tear their hair out over their hair issues I’d reccommend the CG-method (Curly Girl) which is a no-shampoo regimen. Can’t say how it’ll work for everyone, but it definately works for me. No frizz, natural curls and a healthy shine.

    Malin wrote on June 20th, 2011
  11. To my fellow Chicago readers, I have to give a shameless plug to my company! We sell fish and seafood (wholesale and retail) and we always have Mackeral in stock. We carry Boston and Spanish Mackeral, King Mackeral (Kingfish) in addition to about 80 other fresh fish varieties. Boston Mackeral is almost always frozen, Spanish Mackeral comes in frozen and fresh when available. Kingfish comes in fresh and frozen as well.

    Check us out for you fish and seafood needs.

    L. Isaacson and Stein Fish Company
    800 W Fulton Market
    Chicago, IL. 60607
    (312) 421-2444

    Naftali Garber wrote on June 20th, 2011
    • Been meaning to come here forever, seeing it on mda has given me the extra push I needed. I’ll be there on saturday!

      Steve T wrote on June 23rd, 2011
  12. Always use a spotting partner if you are performing heavy eyebrow lifts.

    Stevemidd wrote on June 20th, 2011
  13. Mackerel’s a tough one, you either love it or hate it. Same goes for mullet.

    We’ve got a classic place here in my town called Ted Peters (featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives) that makes a killer smoked mackerel. Every now and then I’ll take one home and mix it in with some eggs for breakfast (beats sausage any day).

    Zack wrote on June 20th, 2011
    • Ted Peters rules! We just brought back a stash of smoked fish spread (and the German Potato Salad) to North Carolina. No smoked mackeral, though. They say they haven’t been able to obtain any for months, for some reason.

      Jane Horning wrote on June 27th, 2011
  14. I’m just going to go out on my own, eye brow lift :)

    Jeanna wrote on June 20th, 2011
  15. Eyebrow weights…rofl.
    That has got to be one of the silliest things ever!

    Primal Palate wrote on June 20th, 2011
  16. Just a warning: too much eyebrow power-lifting turned my hair red. And now it’s stuck that way.

    kerrybonnie wrote on June 20th, 2011
  17. Careful Mark,

    Someone will believe you.

    Laws of the Cave wrote on June 20th, 2011
  18. When we were in St Thomas last winter we went fishing and caught some mackerel. We took them back to the townhouse we were renting and grilled them up. They were delicious. I don’t know that I agree on them being the ‘fishiest’ of taste, but what we did learn from our guide was that you need to cut out the dark strip that runs through the middle of the fillet before cooking. It’s actually an organ, not meat. And it tastes horrible. It wasn’t that difficult to remove, but I could see it being prohibitive to an effective commercial operation. On a side note, we haven’t seen it in any store or restaurant since we got back here to the midwest.

    Hay Fever Jeff wrote on June 20th, 2011
  19. Wow, didn’t realise how lucky we are in england to get abundant cheap mackerel. We get wild mackerel at out local supermarket at £3 for four fillets. It’s always been my go to for a quick home meal, and the fishiness you talk of is exactly why I love it so much. It has such a strong flavour of it’s own so requires very little meddling to make it delicious, for me it just takes a bit of lemon juice, lots of pepper, served with a rocket salad in dijon mustard dressing and it achieves perfection. And so healthy too!

    Eddy wrote on June 20th, 2011
    • I’m with you on this one. In Ireland, but got some smoked, peppered mackerel reduced in tescos the other day, first time I ever had it. It is indeed one of the tastist things I’ve ever had.

      Granuaile wrote on June 21st, 2011
  20. Couldn’t figure out why fish turned my stomach and made me gag just to smell it…then found out that I am “food sensitive” to fish. The body KNOWS…we just have to pay attention. Thank God for good fish oil supplements, which for some strange reason don’t seem to bother me.

    cjbrooks wrote on June 20th, 2011
  21. Good to know about glutamine. Lots of people in the gym use it and I have wondered as to the effectiveness of it in addition to a high protien diet.

    Jaybird wrote on June 20th, 2011
  22. As a professional winemaker, I’d just like to chime in and say you nailed the sulfite question. There is so much misinformation out there, so bravo for getting it right.

    Regarding the mackerel question, my local supermarket carries a Cole’s wild mackerel from Portugal(in a tin), which I’ve enjoyed immensely and haven’t found to be overpowering at all.


    Alex wrote on June 20th, 2011
  23. Re scrotal hyperthermia.

    Once, decades ago I got out of a hot whirlpool bath for a knee injury. The Doctor said “Hey, you’re sterile”. He went on to say that sperm, at elevated temperatures swims much harder, (like inside a woman), and that at very high levels for an extended period of time (like 104/105 they swim themselves to death. The scrotum regulates the testicular temperature by stretching to get them away from the body when hot, and shrinking when they get cold. (Cold ocean dip!)

    Lane Poor wrote on June 20th, 2011
    • Can anyone attest to feeling any warmth at all with a laptop computer sitting on their laps for hours?
      Probably not….
      Even a 1-2 degree warmer than body temp object will produce a warming sensation sensed.
      I smell “urban-lengend” forming….

      Dr. John wrote on June 22nd, 2011
  24. My boyfriend has a sulfite allergy so we have to be careful with wines. We usually buy Frey, an organic wine company that states “No added sulfites”. He has a noticeably lesser reaction to the natural sulfites in their wines over sulfite added wines.

    Bonnie wrote on June 20th, 2011
  25. For better hair, just stop using shampoo. Will shine, flow and be manageable within 2-3 weeks

    Sagar wrote on June 20th, 2011
  26. What about smoked mackerel?
    Delicious and quite easy to get here in europe.

    If you want thick shiny but dark hair, follow the general schemes outlined but attach the weights to the ears!
    (that’s the secret of all that bollywood movie dancers – ever see what huge earings they wear?)

    Franco wrote on June 20th, 2011
  27. Really like this article and the daily apple! Check out my website about the simple things in life that can change your life and follow me on Twitter @thischngdurlife and please let me know what you think!

    Alex wrote on June 20th, 2011
  28. Yeah I definitely worry about the laptop heating up things down there issue. My girlfriend’s old MacbookPro would get scorching hot and I always wondered how it could affect your man parts. Either way, always kept a pillow or something there as a barrier for protection…hopefully it worked :)

    Nick wrote on June 21st, 2011
  29. I like both formats…keep mixing them up!

    Carrie wrote on June 21st, 2011
  30. I completely agree with Mark that using a standing workstation for a laptop is the most comfortable and productive set-up.

    Since I began using a standing workstation, my back pain and overall comfort at the desk has increased dramatically.

    Jeremy | Art of Lifting wrote on June 21st, 2011
  31. For those of you interested in making your own wine, check out “cyser” and the SCA site (Society for Creative Anachronism). Cyser is a fruit based mead type wine (pears are fabulous) and were staples of the medieval era (what the SCA is all about!).

    Tiki Jane wrote on June 21st, 2011
  32. For laptops… I personally just place my laptop on a pillow. Most of the time I am at my standup workstation though :)

    Primal Toad wrote on June 21st, 2011
  33. Living in Norway I’ve never thought of mackerel as something that was hard to track down. The most common way people eat mackerel here is as “Makrell i tomat” – a small container with a piece of mackerel sautéed in tomato purée. Yummy.

    Olav wrote on June 21st, 2011
    • I can say that it’s exactly the same here in Sweden. Mackerel in tomato sauce is actually quite common here, and basically every store has it.

      Filip wrote on June 21st, 2011
  34. Mackeral may be hard to come by fresh but there’s a great canned smoked mackeral that makes for a great quick meal or snack–The brand is Bar Harbor Only two ingredients–naturally wood smoked mackeral and salt.

    Julie wrote on June 22nd, 2011
  35. What about Mackerel in a can?

    Mark wrote on June 22nd, 2011
  36. I was slowly getting bald, but have the feeling that since going primal (in my 6th month) my hair is coming back, but it is still hard to judge. I wondered if anyone else had any experience with this.

    Victor wrote on June 22nd, 2011
  37. Sulfite sensitivity isn’t that rare — the FDA estimates it affects 1% of the general population, and I’ve seen studies giving ranges of 4 to 11% among asthmatics. (Yes, I have both asthma and sulfite sensitivity.)

    And it’s not “dried fruit” in general that sets most of us off, it’s the stuff treated with sulfites! Fortunately, places like Trader Joe’s often carry unadulterated stuff — and I recently bought my own dehydrator.

    Also, I switched from whites to reds as my asthma got worse in my twenties, and find I can usually drink a whole glass of commercial non-organic red wine without symptoms. (Different people’s sensitivities vary, of course.)

    Ellen wrote on June 23rd, 2011
  38. If I live in a warm climate will I have a lower sperm count than those in cooler climates?

    Paleo Josh wrote on June 23rd, 2011

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