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

Grok Didn’t Take Supplements So Why Should I?

Grok with Fast Food

The Definitive Guide to Primal Supplementation

Disclaimer: I derive most of my income from selling supplements. We don’t talk too much about it here on MDA, but I get enough questions on this topic, that I felt it was time to explain exactly why I choose to manufacture and take certain supplements.

The main objective of following the Primal Blueprint is to extract the healthiest, happiest, longest and most productive life possible from our bodies – and to look and feel good in the process. Our 10,000-year-old Primal genes expect us to emulate the way our ancestors ate and moved; and the Primal Blueprint says we should do exactly as they expect. While there are many things we can do (or eat) today that very closely approximate what Grok did to trigger positive gene expression, there are also a number of obstacles that can thwart our attempts to be as Primal as possible. Artificial light prompts us to stay up too late and sleep too little. Electronic entertainment competes for our time when we should be out walking and basking in sunlight. We don’t always have access to ideal foods. We shower too much in water that’s too hot. We use medicines to mask our symptoms instead of allowing our bodies to deal directly with the problem. You get my point. It’s tough going full Primal today.

One of my tasks is to find the shortcuts – the easy ways to get the same genetic expression benefits Grok got – but by using 21st century technology or just plain old common sense. Working out in Vibram Fivefingers to simulate going barefoot is an example. Or learning how to spend time in the sun without sunscreen AND without burning. Getting more from a 20-minute full-body exercise routine than from a 3-hour cardio workout is yet another example. And given the lack of certain critical nutrients in even the healthiest diets, finding the best supplements is another.

I agree that the supplement industry does have its share of shady characters. Many – if not most – of the products you see on store shelves are probably harmless, and also probably useless. Thousands of these products have more smoke, mirrors and hype behind them than research to back them up. But there are a few categories of supplements (and manufacturers) that have shown great promise and that I wouldn’t be without in my own regimen. Here are a few of the best categories of supplements I can recommend to just about everyone:

1. Antioxidant Booster

I’ve done posts on free radicals and oxidative damage here before, so I don’t need to go into detail when I suggest that we want to do everything we can to reduce oxidative damage to our cells (and particularly inside our mitochondria). Eating right, avoiding stress and exercising appropriately (i.e. not too much high-end cardio) are always the first lines of defense. Of course, we also have our three main internal “onboard” antioxidant systems that take care of most of the normal oxidative damage when we are healthy, unstressed and eating well (catalase, superoxide dismutase and glutathione). But these systems can come up short when we are under stress (who isn’t), eating too many sugars and other carbs, trans and hydrogenated fats, or drinking alcohol, or when we are exercising inappropriately. Theoretically, that still ought to be no problem, because our bodies were designed to get additional antioxidant support from the foods we eat.

Grok handled this easily by avoiding the kinds of chronic “made-up” stress we have today and by consuming foods rich in antioxidants like carotenoids, catechins, flavones, and anthocyanidins. Our problem in the 21st century is two-fold. First, we layer far too much stress on ourselves with our workloads, our worrying, our medicines, our lack of sunshine, and our less-than-optimum diets.  This means that our stress “load” is far greater and puts a greater burden on all these natural systems. When these antioxidant systems fail us, we can get sick and even age faster. Secondly, many of our historically healthy sources of dietary antioxidants have all but disappeared or have been rendered impotent by today’s aggressive factory farming techniques. In the fruit industry, for example, obtaining the highest possible sugar content has replaced antioxidants as the focus.

The most popular measure of a food’s – or supplement’s – antioxidant power is the ORAC score (for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity). The USDA recommends we get between 3,000 and 5,000 ORAC units per day, but I believe that number is way too low and that we should look to get at least double that. That’s one of the reasons that high ORAC fruits and vegetables are at the base of the Primal Pyramid even though it’s a low-carb program (that fact distinguishes it from Atkins perhaps more than anything else). But I believe that we also need a broad mix of different antioxidants on a daily basis, since different antioxidants work in different ways and in different parts of the cell. That means taking a supplement to obtain hard-to-get nutrients like full spectrum vitamin E (not just alpha tocopherol), mixed carotenoids (not just beta carotene), tocotrienols, NAC, alpha lipoic acid, curcumin, resveratrol, milk thistle, CoQ10 and quercetin to name a few.  In fact, too much of any one single antioxidant (in the absence of others) has been shown to have potentially negative effects, as a few recent “vitamin E-only” studies have demonstrated. Conversely, when you take a good broad-spectrum antioxidant formula, all these antioxidants can work synergistically to mitigate oxidative damage and then help each other recycle back to their potent antioxidant form after donating an electron to the antioxidant effort. For that reason, I take a high-potency multi-vitamin loaded with extra antioxidants every day.

2. Probiotics

Grok ate dirt. All day, every day. Hey, when you never wash your hands or your food (or anything for that matter) you pretty much can’t avoid it. But with all that soil came billions of soil-based organisms (mostly bacteria and yeast) that entered his mouth daily and populated his gut. Most were “friendly” bacteria that actually helped him better digest food and ward off infections. In fact, much of Grok’s (and our) immune system evolved to depend on these healthy “flora” living in us symbiotically. Grok also ate the occasional “unfriendly” organisms that had the potential to cause illness, but as long as the healthy flora well-outnumbered the bad guys, all was well. Several trillion bacteria live symbiotically in our gut today – some good and some bad. Much of your health depends on which of the two is winning the flora war.

The problem today is that we don’t eat dirt; we wash everything. Of course, given the crap that’s in and on the dirt around us, it’s probably best that we do wash it all. But in the process we never get a chance to ingest the healthy bacteria that our genes expect us to. In most healthy people this doesn’t usually present a problem. As long as there are some healthy gut bacteria present, as long as we don’t get too stressed out (stress hormones can kill off healthy flora), too sick (diarrhea and vomiting are ways the body purges bad bacteria – but it purges good bacteria with them), or take antibiotics (antibiotics tend to kill most bacteria – that’s their job), and as long as we are eating well, those healthy bacteria can flourish and keep us well. Unfortunately, we live in a time when stress is everywhere, where we do tend to get sick or take antibiotics, where certain processed foods support the growth of unhealthy bacteria and yeast forms while choking out the healthy flora. Many people whose diets include daily doses of yogurt or acidophilus are able to maintain healthy gut flora, but these sources aren’t always reliable (pasteurizing and added sugars can reduce their effectiveness), and not everyone can tolerate dairy that well. For that reason, I think it’s wise to take probiotic supplements on occasion. Not necessarily every day, since once these “seeds” have been planted in a healthy gut, they tend to multiply and flourish easily on their own. I’d certainly take extra probiotics under times of great stress or when you’ve been sick or are taking (or have just taken) a course of antibiotics. The reversal of fortune from a few days of taking probiotics can be dramatic. Better than eating dirt, I always say.

3. Fish Oil

In Grok’s day, virtually every animal he consumed was a decent source of vital Omega 3 fatty acids. The fish he caught had eaten algae to produce Omega 3 fatty acids rich in EPA and DHA (which helped build the larger human brain over a few hundred thousand years). The animals he hunted grazed on plants that generated high levels of Omega 3 in these meats. Even the vegetation Grok consumed provided higher levels Omega 3s than today’s vegetables. In Grok’s diet, the ratio of pro-inflammatory (bad) Omega 6 to anti-inflammatory (good and healthful) Omega 3 was close to 1:1. Unfortunately, most of us with a typical American diet today get way too much Omega 6 and way too little Omega 3, and that unhealthy ratio tends to keep many of us in a constant state of systemic inflammation. Since Omega 3 oils are found in fewer and fewer modern foods (fish being one of the few, but fresh fish also being impractical to eat regularly due to heavy-metal content) the single easiest way to overcome this serious deficit and rebalance your Omegas is to take highly purified Omega 3 fish oil supplements. The research on fish oils is extraordinary, showing benefits across the board from decreased risk for heart disease and cancer to lowering triglycerides, improving joint mobility, decreasing insulin resistance and improving brain function and mood. The drug companies are even starting to recognize the power of this “natural” medicine and have begun promoting prescription fish oil (at four times the normal price, of course!). As healthy as my own diet is, I never go a day without taking a few grams of an Omega 3 Fish Oil supplement.

4. Protein Powders

Eating low carb often means being at a loss as to what to have for a snack or a small meal. We are so used to reaching for the bagel, a few pieces of fruit or something sweet as a snack. On the other hand, there are also times when we just don’t feel like fixing a full meal or we are strapped for time. In those instances, I like to look to protein powders to take up the slack. Today’s protein powder/meal replacements can combine the best of 21st century technology with a true Primal intent: get me a fast, good-tasting source of protein without too many carbs or unhealthy fats. I generally look for products that have whey protein as the major source of protein, and that taste great when mixed only with water (so I don’t have to add sugary juices of milk just to choke them down). That way I can always throw in a piece of fruit (or not) for added calories or flavor. If I’m in a hurry and want a quick, high-protein start to my day, my morning protein shake takes less than a minute to make and covers the bases I need covered.

There are other supplements I might use if I had particular health “issues,” (e.g. phosphatidyl serine for memory loss) and I might go into those in detail sometime in the future.

I hope this post opens up the conversation to a topic I feel quite strongly about. If you have any questions or comments please drop me a line in the comment boards.

Further Reading:

Definitive Guides to:

The Primal Eating Plan

The Primal Blueprint




Insulin, Blood Sugar and Type 2 Diabetes

Stress, Cortisol and the Adrenals

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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. There are definitely a couple supplements I still take. Fish oils for one, calcium for another and a multivitamin (Cuurent is Damage Control Master Formula) to cover anything I might miss and boost antioxidants. Gone however are the days of taking 8 bajillion different pills of macro and micronutrients and bodybuilding supplements and fat burning pills and all that garbage. I generally try to do wihout protien supplements these days too, but I still have myself some whey isolate sometimes when I need to add protien to something or need a high protien snack.

    The SoG

    Son of Grok wrote on November 25th, 2008
    • Fat-burning pills are nonsense. When people take them and they don’t work, they believe that nothing works – it gives nutrition for fat loss a bad name. Supplementation, on the other hand, is beneficial but ONLY if the supplements are high-quality and preferably derived from food sources (like fish oil, as you say). Otherwise you’re just getting expensive urine.

      Abel James wrote on October 20th, 2011
      • you dont have a clue about what your talking about.

        jadez wrote on February 1st, 2012
      • You don’t have to bash on the fat burning pills because they work as advertised most of the time if you use them correctly. Well the good ones at least. The problem comes from the high demand of the pills which results in a wide variety from good to useless ones. There are many people and articles online which tell you how the pills work so you know what to expect (like this one: ).

        Perhaps you’ve had some bad experience with the fat-burning pills/supplements in the past but me and thousands of other people online aren’t just feeling the placebo effects so give them another try.

        Nikki wrote on January 16th, 2014
      • Abel,

        My husband and I are reading your book “The Wild Diet.” We’ve been using Isagenix for a year now and are content with our results, but aren’t interested in using it exclusively. (Many of the things you talk about in your book are also used in the Isagenix mindset– i.e. adaptagenic herbs, high protein, and no refined, GMO crap foods). I’d love to get your thoughts on Isagenix products to see if the two could be paired in a way that would promote health. Side notes: My husband is also a musician raised in the 80s (although, he plays classical piano), and I love butter in my Isagenix coffee. :)



        Katie Wimer wrote on February 9th, 2016
    • Gone are the days when a one-size-fits-all approach is acceptable. Obviously food is the best source, followed by targeted and invidualized supplementation, followed by general recommendations with trial/error, followed by shotgun approach.

      We’ve put together an assessment that will let anyone start getting that targeted and individualized supplementation. Still a work in progress.

      Jason M wrote on December 26th, 2013
  2. Man, this one is like a best of rather than a why we should supplement! Great post Mark. You bring up some great points here like why we need probiotics (I still eat dirt, so I’m all good there) in our supplementing routine.

    Also, just because we’ve established that Grok had the best overall natural approach towards a healthy and fit life, that doesn’t mean that we can’t expand on it with great supplements like The Damage Control Formula!!

    Thanks for the post!

    All the Best,

    Andrew R

    Andrew R wrote on November 25th, 2008
  3. I think that’s one of the great things about the Primal Blueprint – it capitalizes on how our bodies were made and how our genes function. However, that doesn’t mean we CAN’T or SHOULDN’T also capitalize on present day technology/medicine or the fact that we do live in the 21st Century. If we can eat the way Grok did, exercise the way Grok did (and thereby follow how our genes were made), while supplementing our diet with things that naturally make us even healthier, then we get to take full advantage of the evolution of the human. I’m there!

    Holly wrote on November 25th, 2008
  4. What is your opinion on creatine?

    Phil wrote on November 25th, 2008
  5. Good stuff. The antioxidant booster is almost a no-brainer. For instance, why spend $5 on a fancy “Pom/Blu/Acai” juice loaded with sugar when you could get twice the amount of antioxidants in a simple supplement?

    Ralph wrote on November 25th, 2008
    • Why spend money on something created in a lab when you can eat something created by nature? Just wondering… do foods get better as you remove things from them? Do they get better as you refine things out of them? Cook them? No.

      Just two cents of common sense for everyone.

      Peej wrote on November 7th, 2011
      • Of course eating the foods containing theses supplements in their “natural state” is the best way to get the nutrients… But to get the amount of nutrients you need to be optimally nourished, you would have to eat a hell of a lot of fruit and veggies nowadays, as the nutrient content has dramatically decreased compared to the time of Grok! And you are not refining a food to get a supplement, it’s not a valid point. In example on a pack of, for instance, vitamin C, it doesn’t say “pure refined oranges” Ha ha!

        Rachel wrote on July 12th, 2012
  6. Great post I never knew about probiotics. I take glucosamine I can feel a difference if I don’t take it for a couple of days. I also take a little creatine looking forward to others opinions on that. And of course antioxidants, protein, and fish oil. With our lives today I feel supplements are somewhat necessary.

    Coed Fitness Tips wrote on November 25th, 2008
  7. Phil, creatine is interesting. It’s a naturally occurring substance involved in ATP energy production. We do get some in our diet, especially in a diet that includes red meat. Creatine supplementation has been shown to increase the supply of ATP for short anaerobic bursts, which basically means that it doesn’t directly make you stronger, but you can do 12 reps of a weight you maybe used to do 10 of. This might translate into muscle gains insofaras the extra “work” performed may be sufficent to prompt genes to increase strength and possibly size. Also, creatine is a cell volumizer, which means it draws fluid from outside the muscle cell spaces into the cell, making it appear larger. Great for body builders, but not of any consequence to a PBer. This osmostic difference may also explain why some athletes get cramps easily when on creatine. They can basically become dehydrated.

    I have used creatine in the past for six weeks on and 8 weeks off (the cycling is so you don’t get “acclimated” to the effects). Ultimately, at 55 I’m probably not going to keep getting stronger as I get older, so I stopped using creatine years ago (and even then I only used it for about a year). It is probably quite safe when used in doses less than 5 grams a day.

    Mark Sisson wrote on November 25th, 2008
  8. Great post Mark, thank you!

    Is there a reason why you like whey protein over old fashioned egg protein powder (besides the taste)? Just curious.


    Marc Feel Good Eating wrote on November 25th, 2008
  9. Supplementation in this day and age is a total no-brainer. You can be the type that wants to live totally naturally – organic, local, CSA foods; 8 hours of sleep every night; perfect workouts that you never skip; daily sunlight; minimal stress etc. etc. – and STILL know that you can benefit from high potency antioxidants. The fact is that even if you are living a perfectly healthy life (and I don’t think anyone can say that) you can still benefit from fish oils and other supplements. I haven’t tried your vitamins, Mark. I may go ahead and give your cheaper version a shot. (I’m sure Damage Control Master Formula is worth every penny, but I’m poor these days!!!)

    Jerry the Frog (of the Bull Variety) wrote on November 25th, 2008
    • My solution to the cost is that I take 1/2 the recommended dosage. That way I am still getting some of the unique vitamins in the Damage Control mix. There is a lower cost version but it is missing some of the vitamins I still wanted to take. But, in the beginning, I took the full dose for about 6 months.

      Suzanne wrote on January 2nd, 2013
  10. Mark,

    I too would be interested in a more in-depth look at creatine supplementation. I can totally see how it would not really fit in with the primal blueprint. However, if there is an added benefit to taking it then could a PBer consider supplementing with it? Would Primal Nutrition ever consider carying a creatine suplement and why or why not? I know that Mark McManus swears by it. Future post perhaps?

    The SoG

    Son of Grok wrote on November 25th, 2008
  11. oh, I don’t see magnesium on the list.
    I drink a lot of coffee and I thought it’d be a good idea to add Mg, do you think it’s needed or I just got persuaded by marketers to buy something unnecessary?

    zbiggy wrote on November 25th, 2008
  12. SoG, I try to manufacture unique products that I believe everyone can benefit from. Creatine is a “commodity” product, available anywhere and you can usually fnd several brands competing on price alone. No company makes a product like Master Formula or Proloftin (mostly because the ingredients are so wickedly expensive).

    zbiggy, ironically if you remove grains and legumes from your diet, your requirement for calcium and magnesium go way down. The higher RDAs of these minerals reflect the little-known fact that phytates in grains and legumes bind with minerals and prevent their uptake. Get rid of the phytates and your absorb far more minerals from veggies and fruits.

    Mark Sisson wrote on November 25th, 2008
    • I read in a MONSTER cookbook ‘Nourishing Traditions’ that with the traditional thorough preparation of legumes, phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors are neutralized. I’m writing this 1 1/2 years on from your comment so maybe you already know this. That would bring beans, lentils and chickpeas back on the menu. The author also speaks of soaking oats overnight; in fact of reverting to the _traditional_ practice of soaking/fermenting all grains. I have no idea about this stuff so would welcome your comments. (I’ve bought three copies of ‘primal’ — two for friends on the basis of reading the first few chapters!, plus one cookbook for me!)

      John Collins wrote on April 23rd, 2011
  13. Hi Mark,

    Thanks for this article. I have been taking your Basic Assurance and Vital Omega supplements daily for nearly the last 3 months or so, and I have noticed that small signs of inflammation –like the occasional boil on my face– have totally disappeared. This was inspite of the fact that my food pyramid closely resembled the PB recommendation, and my produce and meat was primarily organic and fresh from my local farmers market.

    The fact that I used to observe small signs of inflammation even though I was on a PB plan (both diet and exercise), and that these signs have since disappeared since I started with an anti-oxidant and omega-3 supplement, certainly suggests that they make a difference. I think that this article is great in explaining why they make a difference.

    Thanks once more!

    Apurva Mehta wrote on November 25th, 2008
  14. That makes sense. Thank you for the honest response Mark!


    Son of Grok wrote on November 25th, 2008
  15. I might buy your arguments if you can reconcile the need for supplements with the diets of the inland Inuit who never ate fish but lived on Caribou and didn’t have a whole lot of sunshine for 6 months of the year, the plains Indians who as I understand it pretty much ate buffalo meat and nothing else, the fur traders who lived for long stretches on nothing but pemmican (dried muscle meat and rendered fat), and Stefannson who ate nothing but meat and fat during his year long Bellevue experiment and survived quite nicely when all the doctors gave him three weeks before he would croak. Taubes in Good Calories Bad Calories points out that meat alone is sufficient.

    MAC wrote on November 25th, 2008
    • Actually, Mr. Taubes poses this example of Vilhjalmur Stefansson as one of many examples of the phenomenon of meat-only/high fat diets being perfectly salubrious to some people.

      He nowhere says that “meat alone is sufficient,” for everyone, everywhere, at all times. It is irresponsible of you to assert this. The oversimplification damages Mr. Taubes’s efforts to question the Empire of Carbs and spur new and better dietary research.

      For starters, don’t you think that Mr. Stefansson’s robust physique and Icelandic genome might have had SOMETHING to do with the foods on which he might thrive, and your Aunt Emma might not?

      Farmer Pat wrote on March 20th, 2012
      • Original articles written by Vilhjalmur Stefansson are available on the Web and describe in details that is must be not just a muscle meat, how he went through it and returned to it in his late years, and the long medical study of influence of meat-only diet on a health, with two subjects: V. Stefansson himself and another, common man.

        Ans remember that it was before the age of pollution, toxic fish, depleted soils and industrial agriculture. Now eating something free run or grass fed (not in Los Angeles with Whole Foods :) ) and nuts is unaffordable luxury for most. Well, cheer up! Do what still is possible.

        Helen wrote on May 17th, 2013
    • Plains Indians and Inuit had a steady diet of organ meat, especially liver, which provides the nutrients we need to take supplements for. Same with Stefansson.

      Brad wrote on April 30th, 2012
    • The Innuit,deprived of carbs,had to eat
      raw animal organs to get their Vitamin C
      & devoured plant foods when found due to a hunger for carbs.Try living a whole month on meat then come back & report your findings.Just meat alone for a month,see what happens

      kim wrote on July 9th, 2012
  16. MAC, agree that under certain circumstances no one “needs” supplements. I’m a good driver and I don’t need to wear my seatbelt. I might never need it, but I choose to have it as an added layer of protection.

    Meat alone might be sufficient to survive, but not to thrive. All the references you make are legit. I would argue that 1) almost all ate every part of the animal (fat, organs, even bone) and derived vits/mins/antiox/O3s – we don’t 2) All those people ate of animals that were NOT grain fed, but grassfed. 3) We have multiples of the “made-up” stressors they had, and stress is a major depleter. 4) Sure, I could live without supplements, but I prefer to use this technology to enhance my already-pretty-good-but-not-quite-perfect diet. The fish oil, for example, makes it so much easier for me to spend a little less time and money sourcing grassfed meat for every meal.

    Mark Sisson wrote on November 25th, 2008
  17. Thanks for the detailed response regarding creatine Mark.

    One other dilemma I’ve been having lately is whey vs hemp protein. Recently I’ve become very “holistic/naturopathic”, and I’m curious about your opinion on hemp protein. I normally take whey but I’m thinking about switching after I finish my one month juice fast.

    Phil (ly Cheesesteak) wrote on November 25th, 2008
  18. I agree with all your rec’s…from low stress/cortisol exercise to probiotics and everything in between. Good post!

    Jolene wrote on November 25th, 2008
  19. Phil, nothing wrong with hemp. I just prefer whey for its higher biological value and the fact that it mixes easily and absorbs quickly. Go for it on the hemp deal.

    Mark Sisson wrote on November 25th, 2008
  20. Thanks for the great post. I have recently been following the ways of Grok. For some reason I have been cramping up. Different places different times. My side, feet, hands, upper arm and upper thigh. Any tips for getting ride of them?

    Tee wrote on November 25th, 2008
    • ribose gets rid of cramps. It is part of all DNA, of your protein making machinery and your cellular energy molecule ATP.

      Muscles need ATP to relax, and this sugar is the rate-limiting molecule in making ATP. (It is not used as sugar, but as a building block).

      Ribose is available as a pure substance from several manufacturers at any health food store. I am never without it.

      Esther C wrote on January 9th, 2013
  21. Grok didn’t take supplements, live in a house with a programed heating system & water on demand, wear clothes made from spun cotton, nylon, and polyester, eat food flown in from all parts of the world year-round, be custom fitted with plastic and/or glass lens to help him see better, fill his teeth with hi-tech material to prevent further rotting, rebuild damaged knees, read books, or spend time in cyberspace, etc. See where this is going?

    Yes, you can argue that supplements are as un-primal as any of the above; however, just because these weren’t available for Grok, doesn’t mean that we should avoid things that enhance and optimize our lives–as in health, fitness, and spirituality. Most grocery store food, including most produce, is lacking in nutrients, either b/c of how it was grown, picked unripe for transportation, or picked so long ago that many of the nutrients have already oxidized (e.g. next time you cut an apple in half, notice that there is a relationship between how soon it turns brown and already oxidized vitamin C levels.)

    Let’s face it: we’re all most likely visiting Mark’s great blog because of an interest in health and fitness. The key question to ask is not if something was an absolute in Grok’s life, (i.e., supplements), but whether something can enhance your Primal Blueprint (read: genes) and then consider how it fits into the Primal Lifestyle. In other words: optimize & maximize your Primal Blueprint so that you can live to you maximum given health & fitness potential.

    As for myself, I try to be orgainic and local when possible, but living in Alaska this is difficult, especially in the winter with most of my food shipped here from all all areas of the globe. This is exactly why I believe that supplementation is a must. As just one example, because I can’t make any vitamin D from solar energy from October through April I need to supplement with that life-giving nutrient–I would be crazy not too considering all it’s implications with health.

    Your’s optimizing health & fitness,


    Calvin wrote on November 25th, 2008
    • Having said all that, supplanting real world engagement with online activity, flying food in from all over the world and wearing nylon are expensive consumerist desires/whims, not necessities for thriving.

      Your observation in no way speaks to whether supplements are NECESSARY. All you say is that within your realm of consumer choices, you find them desirable.

      Farmer Pat wrote on March 20th, 2012
    • You bring up a good point Calvin. Just because a caveman didn’t do it doesn’t mean that we need to adhere to that lifestyle. Especially when there are things we can do that can benefit our bodies via supplements.

      I think the whole dirt thing is a little off too. I will concede and say that our gut flora is no where near where it should be but I would say it’s a great thing we don’t eat dirt and in fact DO wash our hands. Despite all that is out there medically, it’s still the number one way to avoid infection. Having our hands free of dirt is also a good way to avoid botulism and tetanus as well as any other parasites as well.

      I’ll take my chances with a probiotic supplement or yogurt any day.

      Matt wrote on September 22nd, 2013
  22. Very well put Calvin! The fact is that Mark provides his knowledge and creative point of view on health and fitness EVERYDAY… for free for God’s sake!! Whether or not it all makes sense 100% of the time is in my mind irrelevant. You’d be hard press to prove (with scientific, meaningful studies to back it up) that his advice does anything but help people lead a healthier life.

    Mark, thanks for educating us every day!

    All the Best,

    Andrew R

    Andrew R wrote on November 25th, 2008
  23. Hi Mark.
    Love this site. I’ve been living PB for a couple months now and feel great! My husband is to, and so is he. Have you come across any research in regards to CLA and if it is effective or just hype? Thanks for all the great work!

    Alecia wrote on November 25th, 2008
  24. MAC–You bring up some good points; I think you would enjoy reading Weston Price’s “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration”. The results of his landmark studies show that people eating a traditional diet, regardless of latitude, or proximity to the ocean all exhibit excellent health. His research found that the common denominator in all these diets, besides healthy food the way nature intended (read: not devitalized processed foods) was abundant vitamin and mineral content. Moreover, he found that the fat soluble vitamins A, D, and K,(he called it activator X), are especially important for robust health. Just like Mark’s reply, Price’s research found that eating meat (muscle tissue) without healthy doses of fat, organ meat, and marrow is not enough to thrive–it’s the whole enchilada. You might toss in some bugs and grubs too–but I think I’d rather take a few supplements.

    Also, I too would argue that you might be able to get the all the nutrition that you need from diet alone, but in this day-and-age, that is getting to be exceedingly difficult (grain-feed/finished versus grass-fed, distance transported, organic versus non-organic, anyhow, modern food in most forms is not Primal–read: breeding, genetically modified, etc.).

    Furthermore, I would argue that it is almost impossible to have optimal health and genetic expression without supplementation in post-modernity–read: current lifestyles/living conditions. For example, chemical pollution (not even counting modern stressors) are ubiquitous. From this perspective alone, we all need more antioxidants and detoxifiers to achieve optimal health.

    Is supplementation necessary to just get by, absolutely not, but for the optimum expression of our genes, so that we can live the fullest, healthiest lives that we can—absolutely.

    Andrew–Greetings from Alaska (I eat lots of traditional foods from the land & sea, but I still supplement) and thanks for you complement. BTW, I like your blog . . .

    In health & fitness to all,


    Calvin wrote on November 26th, 2008
    • The problem with all that biodynamic-cult stuff is that what the Westonites call “traditional” diet is in fact a very recent high-tech food system.

      That is when you consider that the agronomic breeding of crops is an extremely recent phenomenon in human evolution, and involves tinkering with plants and animals to meet our desires, rather than our needs.

      If people were robust prior to the SAD, it was no doubt due to the fact that disease culled those with any flaws in their genome. To put it another way, natural selection is a far harsher eugenicist than anything humans ever came up with.

      What you and Mark call “optimum expression of your genes” and “living full healthy lives” is on YOUR terms, not nature’s. Nature doesn’t care one way or another whether we live full healthy lives. In fact, population ecology seems to indicate that the best thing that sick organisms can do is sigh back into the soil to provide raw materials for other organisms. This conflicts profoundly with The Human Drama as we construct and reify it.

      Life is simply an encoded tendency for the material to recycle itself autonomously in certain patterns. Anything else is culture. I’m all over trying to live smarter, but let’s not corrupt science into some anthropocentric Promethean pursuit of ubermenschly consumerism.

      Farmer Pat wrote on March 20th, 2012
  25. Hi All,

    I also take L-Glutamine which seems to give me more energy (and I’ve heard it’s good for weightlifting).
    As well as fish oils with high EPA and DHA.

    Anyone have opinions of L-Glutamine? I am also trying to stop binge drinking, and this seems to help with this too. Binge drinking – not very primeval!



    T-Rex wrote on November 26th, 2008
    • On the contrary, the seasonal consumption of alcohol is likely one of the most primeval behaviors of mammals. Cervids and birds in all biomes have been observed pursuing rotted tree fruit in order to get drunk off their asses, and caribou in northern Finland are regularly observed pawing at the snow to unearth Amanita muscaria, which they ingest, then lie under trees, staring. I personally am not big on the recreational consumption of intoxicants…but I would never claim that these behaviors are “not very primeval.”

      Farmer Pat wrote on March 20th, 2012
  26. I too use the Lglutamine, espec after an intense lifting session or workout! Helps with recovery I find.

    sarena wrote on November 26th, 2008
  27. Hi Mark,
    What are your thoughts on glutathione supplemenation?

    I feel like I’ve got the bases covered with a good diet, Damage Control MF, Omega 3 (Krill or Fish) and D3 boosters in the winter. I may start some K2 as well.

    Paul S wrote on November 26th, 2008
  28. CLA does have some good research, but not enough to convince me to spend money on it when other supplements are cheaper and better. l-glutamine is a common amino acid that might have “recovery” benefits (but in the PB, we don’t work out that hard to require extra)and a therapeuitc dose is like 7-15 GRAMS. Glutathione supplementing is a good idea, but no company has yet proved that glutathione makes it intact past the gut and into the bloodstream. I didn’t even mention my single favorite nutrient Phosphatidyl Serine, one we all need, we all lose as we age and which we don’t get much of in our diet.

    Lots of great questions. Guess I may have to do another supplement piece some day! In the meantime, my intent was simply to suggest that SOME amount of supplementation makes sense in the context of the Primal Blueprint.

    Mark Sisson wrote on November 26th, 2008
    • Mark

      You lost crdibility with me when you included a brochure for supplements with my copt of the Primal Blueprintand now I am receiving emails pushing pills and supplements. I am not impressed and your whole approach to primal nutrition is undone to me due to your interest in supplements.

      I almost sent the book back but the psotage from Australia makes that impractical so I think that it will gather dust in my bookshelf.

      Of course if you were to reverse the credit card payment I wouldn’t complain.

      comley wrote on June 11th, 2009
      • Comley, presumable you bought the book because you wanted the information in it. Thousands of people have read it already and many have said it exceeded their expectations. I think you’ll find the same.

        The fact that you got a brochure for supplements with your book doesn’t alter the contents of the book. The emails you are receiving happen to cover an aspect of health regarding nutrients. Some will cover exercise, etc. I would hardly say anyone is “pushing pills and supplements” on you. You can always ignore that. But many PB’ers do supplement (which was the reason for the above post)

        The MDA site is fully subsidized by my supplement company at great expense. The information on it is free to all. I would hope you didn’t hold against me the fact that I advertise one of my products instead of another company’s or Google’s adwords.

        Mark Sisson wrote on June 11th, 2009
        • I think you’re doing a great job. You do offer your products, but I have never felt like you’ve included them as a requirement in your prescription for health – something you could easily do. You’ve always said that following the basic principles of not eating crap and having sensible life practices will lead to a much better and happier life and it’s still true. I think you’re deserving of your success! Thanks for all that you’ve shared so openly.

          Randy wrote on June 16th, 2016
  29. Mark, what is your opinion of Soy protein? The more I read, then more I hear about Soy being the death of all of us because of the phytoestrogens and processing to make it palatable, with the exception of fermented soy products. As a result, I avoid like the plague anything with the word “soy” in it. Comments?

    Dave Bryant wrote on November 26th, 2008
  30. I have a question about commercial multivitamen supplements. Is there anything in them that might cause a Celiac discomfort that you are aware of? I ask because I have troubles with some brands but I can’t identify any ingredient that should be a problem.

    Robert M. wrote on November 26th, 2008
  31. I teach my client to look at supplementation as just that – supplementary to real food. In a perfect world we’d all eat seasonal organic produce of the highest quality and finest macro/micro-nutrient balance. But it’s not a perfect world!

    While it’s important not to get caught up in the fear of ‘missing out’ and thus popping ridiculous amounts of pills n potions, good quality supplements are an important part of each of our diet’s.

    Personally I believe that if you had to choose just one or two then a great mercury free fish oil is crucial, and some sort of super-food such as spirulina. I’ve been using the Isagenix system with great success – it’s the first grass-fed organic protein I’ve come across in Aus, and is perfect for those in-between meals as well as a breaky on the run. Sure beats a coffee and a croissant!

    Keep up the great writing Mark – don’t know how you manage to produce so much content each week!

    Kat wrote on November 26th, 2008
  32. Mark – thanks for this post – this really helps me answer the question I put to you a while back about whether our increased access to fruit and veg offsets the more stressful life and toxin exposure. It seems like the point about modern plants being robbed of their former nutritional glory would justify the need for supplementation.

    So on balance I am convinced. One thing that does worry me, though, is the idea of taking what you describe as a ‘high-potency multi-vitamin’ – with so many different vitamins in some of these supplments and so much also coming from food sources, and so many complex interactions at play, I worry whether somewhere along the road there will be one vitamin or mineral whose balance I get wrong (i.e. too much) by taking such supplements – do you consider this when selecting your multi-vit supplements?

    Methuselah - Pay Now Live Later wrote on November 30th, 2008
  33. Methuselah, as you know, I take the vitamins I designed. (I made them for me and a few thousand friends) I choose the various ingredients and I account for differences in requirements, how rapidly they are depleted and how well or not they absorb. B12, for instance, absorbs so poorly, that we give you 10,000 % the DV, knowing you’ll only really get 3-4% of it (and pee out the rest). There are complex interactions as you say, but many of these are positive synergistic interactions as when C and E recycle each other or when different antioxidants work in different parts of the cell metabolism.

    Mark Sisson wrote on December 1st, 2008
  34. Thanks Mark – you may be surprised to know that in spite of being a regular visitor and contributor to the comments of this blog, I had never actually been to your Primal Nutrition site (until today). So although, as you mentioned at the start of this post, I knew you sold supplements, I guess I never really put 2 and 2 together and realised you made the supplements yourself. Since until now I have been of the opinion that I could get everything from food, I have never taken much interest – I suspect I will now be paying more attention to that side of things…!

    Methuselah - Pay Now Live Later wrote on December 1st, 2008
  35. Grok also probably had an average life span of less than 30 years.

    Dave wrote on February 4th, 2009

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