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

The Definitive Guide to the Primal Eating Plan

Food Scale

Do the Math

In my recent Context of Calories post, I explained how the different macronutrients we eat at each meal (fats, proteins, and carbohydrates) have different effects in the body. I suggested that, despite their raw calorie values, it’s far more important to get a lasting intuitive sense of how much of each macronutrient you need and when you need it (or not).

But how do you do that? How do you figure out the proper number of calories – and breakdown of fats, protein and carbs – to accomplish your fitness and health goals? To lose weight? Lose fat? Gain muscle? Maintain status quo? Run marathons?

In fact, most popular daily diets look at overall calories as the main factor in weight loss and weight gain. The age-old conservation of energy Conventional Wisdom says that “a calorie is a calorie.” From there most diet gurus generally prescribe some formulaic one-size-fits-all breakdown of fats, protein and carbs. A classically trained Registered Dietician will tell you that protein should be around 10-15% of calories, carbs should be 60% (and mostly from whole grains) and fat under 30%. This macronutrient breakdown stays the same regardless of how much weight you need to lose or what other goals you might have. Barry Sears has his 40/30/30 “Zone” diet. The USDA bases everything on a choice of between 2,000 and 2,500 calories a day. But, as I said earlier, it’s not that simple. Calories do have context.

The human body uses these macronutrients for a variety of different functions, some of which are structural and some of which are simply to provide energy – immediately or well into the future. Moreover, with regards to energy conservation or expenditure, the body acts as both an efficient fuel storage depot (and as a toxic “waist” site) as well as a potent generator of energy, depending largely on the hormonal signals it gets. It will store glycogen and/or fat and it will build muscle – or it will just as easily tear them all down and use them for fuel – based on input from you: what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, what you’re doing before or after you eat – even what you’re thinking when you eat. Yet because your body always seeks to achieve homeostasis over time, the notion of you trying to zero in on a precise day-to-day or meal-to-meal eating plan is generally fruitless (yes, Charlotte, some fruit is allowed). The good news in all this is that falling off the wagon once or twice this week won’t have the immediate disastrous effect that you might imagine – as long as you can keep your average intake under control and understand how the various macronutrients function over time.

Which brings me to the crux of today’s discussion. Not only is it nearly impossible to accurately gauge your exact meal-to-meal calorie and macronutrient requirements, doing so will drive you crazy. In fact, to accurately figure your true structural and functional fuel needs (and hence to achieve your goals) it’s far more effective to look at a much larger span of time, like a few weeks, and aim for an “average” consumption. Then you can review that average daily intake over weeks or months and adjust accordingly. Below, I’ll give you a way to figure a “jumping off” point to start with, but remember, our genes are accustomed to the way our ancestors ate: intermittently, sporadically, sometimes in large quantities, and sometimes not at all for days. Their bodies figured out a way to maintain homeostasis and preserve lean tissue and good health through all this and so can we. Our genes want us to be lean and fit. It’s actually quite easy as long as we eat from the long list of Primal Blueprint healthy foods and try to avoid that other list of grain-laden, sugary, processed and otherwise unhealthy foods. Realistically, we also want to allow for the occasional party-splurge, a pre-planned (or accidental) intermittent fast, an over-the-top workout or even a week of laziness. Where most people get into trouble is in miscalculating their energy needs over extended periods of time – not day-to-day. They don’t see the average amount of carbs creeping upwards, or they figure they need x amount of calories, but don’t have a clue as to what kind of food those should be coming from.

I start with these four basic principles to guide my Primal Blueprint eating style:

1) 80% of your body composition will be determined by your diet. Yes, exercise is also important to health and to speed up fat-burning and muscle-building, but most of your results will come from how you eat. I’ll write more on this later, so just trust me on this one for now. Suffice to say, people who weigh a ton and exercise a ton, but eat a ton, still tend to weigh a ton. I think I’ll have that made into a t-shirt…

2) Lean Body Mass (LBM) is the key to life. I’ve said it many times on this site: lean mass (muscle and all the rest of you that is not fat) is directly correlated with longevity and excellent health. Rather than strive to “lose weight”, most people would be better off striving to lose only fat and to build or maintain muscle. Since other organs tend to function at a level that correlates to muscle mass, the more muscle you maintain throughout life, the more “organ reserve” you’ll have (i.e. the better the rest of you will work). Refer back to rule #1 and eat to build or maintain muscle.

3) Excess body fat is bad. Most human studies show that being significantly overweight increases your risk of nearly every disease (except osteoporosis – because ironically it responds to weight-bearing activities). Fat just doesn’t look that great either. See rule #1 and eat to keep body fat relatively low.

4) Excess insulin is bad. We’ve written about it here a lot. Chronic excess insulin may be even worse than excess sugar (and we know how bad that is). All animals produce insulin, but within any species, those that produce less insulin live longer than those who produce a lot. Eat to keep insulin low.

Here is how I use these principles to guide my individual macronutrient intake:

Protein

Raw Steak

Protein takes priority. If there is ample glycogen (stored glucose) and the body is getting the rest of its energy efficiently from fats, protein will always go first towards repair or building cells or enzymes. In that context, it hardly seems fair to assign it a “burn rate” of 4 calories per gram. It’s like saying the 2×4 studs that support the walls of your house can burn nicely if you run out of firewood. They will, but I prefer to burn other fuel first. At a minimum you need .5 grams of protein per pound of lean mass/per day on average to maintain your “structure”. If you are moderately active you need .7 or .8, and if you are an active athlete you need as much as 1 gram of protein per pound of lean mass. That’s at a minimum, but it’s on a daily average. So a 155 lb moderately active woman who has 25% body fat (and thus) has 116 lb of lean body mass needs 93 grams of protein on average per day (116 x .8). If she gets 60 or 80 some days and 110 on others, she’ll still be in a healthy average range. And even if she exceeds the 110, it’s no problem if she’s eating low carb because the excess protein will convert to glucose, which will reduce her effective carbohydrate needs (see below). At 4 calories per gram, that’s between 320 and 440 calories per day in protein. It’s not that much.

Carbs

Vegetables

If you’ve forgotten everything you ever learned in biology, just remember this and “own” it: Carbohydrate drives insulin drives fat (Cahill 1965, and Taubes 2007). The idea in the PB is to limit your carbs to only those you need to provide glucose for the brain and for some reasonable amount (certainly less than an hour) of occasional anaerobic exercise. And the truth is, you don’t even need glucose to fuel the brain. Ketones from a very-low carb diet work extremely efficiently at that task. Either way, ideally, we would like most of our daily energy to come from dietary or stored fats. Typically, (if you are at an ideal body composition now) I use a rule of thumb that 100-150 grams of carbohydrate per day is plenty to keep you out of ketosis (and ketosis is NOT a bad thing) but away from storing the excess as fat if you are the least bit active. Don’t forget that your body can make up to 200 grams of glycogen from fats and protein every day, too. On the other hand, if you are looking to lose body fat, keeping carbs to under 80 grams per day will help immensely in lowering insulin and taking fat out of storage. On the other other hand, if you are insistent on training hard for long periods of time, you would add more carbs (say, 100 per day extra for every extra hour you train hard). It becomes a matter of doing the math and experimenting with the results.

Ironically, it’s tough to exceed 100 grams of carbs even if you eat tons of colorful vegetables – as long as you eat like our ancestors and consume no grains, no sugars and few starchy vegetables (potatoes, yams, beets, legumes, etc). Even if you eat a ton of vegetables AND a fair amount of fruit, you’ll be hard pressed to exceed 150 grams of carbs on average per day. Our remote ancestors couldn’t average 150 grams of carbs a day if they tried, yet they had plenty of energy and maintained their lean mass. At 4 calories per gram that’s only between 400 and 600 calories per day. Add that in to the protein above and our sample girl is barely at 1,000 calories on the high end. So where does the rest of the fuel come from?

Fats

Olive Oil

Learn to love them. They are the fuel of choice and should become the balance of your Primal Blueprint diet. Fats have little or no impact on insulin and, as a result, promote the burning of both dietary and stored (adipose) fat as fuel. Think about this: if protein and carbs stay fairly constant (and carbs stay under 150), you can use fat as the major energy variable in your diet. Feeling like you need more fuel (and you’ve already covered your bases with protein and carbs)? Reach for something with fat. Nuts, avocados, coconut, eggs, butter, olive oil, fish, chicken, lamb, beef, the list is a long one. 100 grams of fats per day would only add 900 calories to our girl’s daily average, putting her at between 1620 and 1940 calories a day. Even if she averages somewhere between 1400 and 2200 calories per day over a few weeks, as long as she pays attention to protein and carbs, her body composition will shift to lower body fat and more desirable lean mass. If she decides to do some walking, a few brief intense weight sessions and a sprint day here and there, that process would accelerate greatly. If she gets to a point where she’s content with her body fat, she can even add in a little more fat to provide energy that she previously got from her stored fat.

The main thing I’ve figured out from eating this way for years is that I don’t need nearly as many calories to maintain health, mass, and body fat as I once thought I did – or as the Conventional Wisdom says I do. I eat 600-1000 calories per day less than when I ate a carbohydrate-based diet, yet I maintain slightly lower body fat and slightly higher muscle mass on even less training. Remember: 80% of body composition is determined by diet. The best part is that I don’t ever feel hungry because I base my eating on exactly what my 10,000-year-old genes want me to eat.

For a look at my upcoming book, The Primal Blueprint, click here. I’ve included a sneak peek at the jacket artwork, a PDF of the table of contents and full chapter summaries.

Further Reading:

Definitive Guides to:

The Primal Blueprint

Grains

Fats

Cholesterol

Insulin, Blood Sugar and Type 2 Diabetes

Stress, Cortisol and the Adrenals

Prefer listening to reading? Get an audio recording of this blog post, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast on iTunes for instant access to all past, present and future episodes here.

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. Good piece Mark. Question for you:

    What about the insulogenic effects of protein? Peter at Hyperlipid* favors fats over proteins, if I am not mistaken, for this (among other) reasons.

    http://high-fat-nutrition.blogspot.com/2008/01/what-do-i-eat-fitday-analysis.html

    Hyperlipid is a great blog BTW.

    Varangy wrote on July 30th, 2008
    • Don’t forget that protein’s insulinogenic effects are largely counterbalanced by the release of glucagon, a hormone that helps us burn previously stored fat, after protein consumption.

      This is in contrast to carbs, which unapologetically raise insulin, and fat which is essentially biologically inert.

      Abel James wrote on October 19th, 2011
      • There’s also the fact that even though primal/paleo diets contain more protein, the amount doesn’t come close to the amount of carbs that were removed.

        For example, you might remove 200 grams of carbs but add 50 grams of protein. The total amount of foods that stimulate insulin goes way down.

        You’re mostly replacing carbs with fat. Carbs raise insulin, fat does not.

        Kris Gunnars wrote on January 5th, 2013
        • What about the fact that animal protein is very acidic, and cancer thrives in an acidic environment, and that we should keep our bodies alkaline. I’m referring to Dr. Robert Young, THE PH MIRACLE.

          dianespeaks wrote on July 3rd, 2013
        • dianespeaks, that is not a fact.

          See “Acid/Alkaline Theory of Disease Is Nonsense”
          http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/DSH/coral2.html

          quackwatch wrote on August 18th, 2013
    • Best Guide to Eating Ever. Highly Recomended

      Richy wrote on January 5th, 2012
      • I have to ask do we really need that much protein? I use to follow this .5 for every pound of lean muscle and when doing that I barely have room for any other food. That’s a lot of protein. Most of the centurions say they have eaten modest amounts of meat is any. Watch Forks over Knives. I definitely looked fitter and was lean but my immune system was under-active. I believe we need some protein but not this much to be healthy, maybe only to look a certain way.

        Saying all that I have your approach to eating for structural building, energy creating and tearing down is very interesting. I think I need it in greater detail. This level isn’t making me a believe and I do really long to find that correct balance.

        Thank you for posting.

        TFM wrote on September 3rd, 2012
    • I have just started this program and have a question about the blood type diet. My fiance picked up the blook type book from the organic food store where he picked up some things for us to begin the primal blueprint and it said in the blood diet for my type A, I should not eat meats and only vegetables, some fruit and some seafood. It said meat was bad for my digestion system. I would just like some feedback on this so I can be sure the primal blueprint program will work for me. Thanks,

      Tammy wrote on February 22nd, 2012
      • To be frank, the blood type diet is complete junk. It is not based on scientific fact and only a ploy to make money.Sure you may lose weight but the weight loss would be the same regardless of what your blood type is and what path of the diet you follow. Not only does d’Adamo have a poor grasp of genetics but also a poor grasp of nutrition. The blood type diet is based on a single gene that is irrelevant, while the paleo/primal diet is based on the other 23,000 genes that have shaped the human body and its nutritional needs for the past ~200,000 years.

        Eric wrote on March 3rd, 2012
    • I don’t understand, how Mark keeps saying it is tough to eat 100 carbs of veggies, etc.
      here is a day that is NOT finished of eating vegetables and some fruit:

      1 cup kale = 7 carbs
      20 brussel sprouts = 20 carbs
      2 cups of carrots – 24 carbs
      1 med. banana = 51 carb
      pineapple cup = 20 carb
      raisins 1 ounce = 22 g
      20 + 51 + 24 + 20 + 7 + 22= 144
      So far up to 144 carbs…. and that was NOT very difficult, nor a ton of food…. so what am i doing wrong… should just avoid any fruit????

      Mary wrote on March 12th, 2013
      • Please someone…. answer… this is very frustrating!

        Mary wrote on March 12th, 2013
      • it is tough to eat 100g of carbohydrates from just veggies. it isn’t, however, tough to do so from fruit. Do not avoid fruit, Just dont over do it.

        Jay wrote on March 13th, 2013
        • Thanks Jay, I think i need to not eat fruit, because if throughout the day i ate:
          kale 3 cups = 21 carbs
          brussel sprounts, 20 = 20
          2 cups eggplant = 10
          1 cup diced tomatoes = 7
          med. onion = 10
          zucchini = 7
          1 sm. head pureed cauliflower = 14

          then the total carbs = 89… i think lack of fruit needs to be emphasized for persons close to their ideal weight, but still wanting to lose fat.
          thank you for your comment. :)

          Mary wrote on March 13th, 2013
      • Mary,

        There are a few issues, for one you banana measurement is twice the carbs. One medium banana equals about 27 grams of carbs. If you eat fruit you need to stick to the berries, most of them are low carbs with maybe the exception of blueberries. Over all in the primal diet, fruit should be more like a treat/desert, not part of your everyday diet with maybe the exception of one being really active.

        Ken wrote on March 31st, 2013
        • Ken, thanks for noticing the banana calculation… I got that from “My Fitness pal” where i track my food, and for some reason they have 2 listings for a medium banana, and one is 200 calories and 51 carbs, the other is 105 calories and 27 carbs.
          weird…

          Mary wrote on June 19th, 2013
      • pineapple bananas carrots n dried fruit are too high in sugar and carbs… he says non starchy fruit and veggies. trade those for berries and celery… low sugar.

        j wrote on May 22nd, 2013
        • You might also need to limit portion sizes of “sweet” vegetables, such as carrots, onions, and tomatoes, and even of a benign veg such as cauliflower.

          Ava wrote on June 26th, 2013
      • Also, in addition to reducing fruit consumption, perhaps you’ve consumed less carb than you think. Perhaps you also should not be counting the dietary fibre content of these veggies you’re eating. In the UK we don’t count the fibre as a carbohydrate on nutrition labels (the fibre is listed separately). My understanding is that americans (and so, many websites also) include fibre in the carb listing. So you say that a small head of cauliflower contains 14g carb, but when I check it on the nutritiondata website I see that 7g of this is fibre, which wouldn’t be digested by the body, and so shouldn’t be included in your calculations. That said, I’m no expert on the primal diet (I’m not following it, but have tried Atkins in the past, where I learnt this info about fibre and carbs on American nutrition labels).

        Adam wrote on June 18th, 2013
      • First, let me say that I am by no means an expert. I only started eating Paleo 3 weeks ago, but here is my take on it & if there is an expert out there that disagrees with me please post.
        1) Most low carb diets count net carbs. What the definition of that is depends on who you ask, but most people agree that it is the carb content – the fiber, So if you have a veggie that is 7 carbs a serving, but 5 grams of fiber, the net carbs would only be 2, not the full 7 total carbs.
        2) If you are going to eat a low carb diet you need to avoid high carb fruits like bananas and dried fruits. They are just too concentrated in their sugar content. If you eat berries you’ll have an easier time keeping your carbs down. You also may want to limit yourself to one fruit a day (maybe two if your other carbs are really low).
        1 cup kale = 7 carbs – 2 grams fiber = 5 carbs
        20 brussel sprouts = 20 carbs – 9 grams fiber = 11
        2 cups of carrots – 24 carbs – 8 grams fiber = 16
        1 med. banana = 51 carb – (my guide says a med banana is 28 carbs) – 3 grams fiber = 25
        pineapple cup = 20 carb – 2 grams of fiber = 18
        raisins 1 ounce = 22 g – 2 grams of fiber = 20
        20 + 51 + 24 + 20 + 7 + 22= 144
        5 + 11 + 16 + 25 + 18 + 20= 95 carbs
        Get rid of the high sugar fruits and substitute 1 cup of raspberries and you have
        5 + 11 + 16 + 10 = 42

        I don’t usually have any trouble keeping my net carbs under 50.

        My last comment is about the carrots. I love them and they are a part of my diet, but since they are a higher carb veggie I limit myself to about a half a cup a day. Try a wilted spinach salad or celery in place of part of the carrots. This should get you down far enough in your carb count to add more if you are hungry. Also, are eating enough protein and fat? The fat and protein really will keep your hunger at bay.

        Read more: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/definitive-guide-to-the-primal-eating-plan/#ixzz2gQJm5ogs

        Laura wrote on September 30th, 2013
      • You’re eating the wrong fruits. Avoid dried fruits, bananas and citrus.

        josh wrote on September 11th, 2014
    • I’m a huge carb lover, grew up eating cereal and noodles every meal. Parents never bought veggies or fruit beyond bananas and grapes. I’m really interested in trying this diet, just unsure of where to begin or where to get protein. I’m not a big meat eater and am unsure of how to be creative. I can’t even look at myself in the mirror anymore. Please help

      Elizabeth wrote on April 2nd, 2013
      • For starters, cut out all processed foods. Eat whole foods. Concerning meat, just try it out, Have some cuts of beef, chicken or pork. I’m personally more into fish – salmon, sardines, tuna, trout. You’ll find out what you like best, don’t worry,, just give it a try. Add in some leafy greens (spinach, lettuce, …), some nuts and berries once or twice a week, and you’re fine. If you still feel hungry though, drink half a cup of olive oil / macadamia nut oil to very meal (feels gross, I know, but it’s healthy and you’ll get used to it). Also, you can have fattier cuts (spare ribs, bacon, chicken wings/legs instead of breasts etc.). Before, I hated fat. Now I love it.

        Art wrote on July 30th, 2013
        • Oh My God. Drink a 1/2 olive oil if you have low energy? Eat bacon because it’s healthy? Have you had any blood work done? If you have been consuming that much fat, you should really see a doctor and make sure you are not on an even earlier track to heart disease.

          Cory Marsh wrote on August 1st, 2013
        • Yes, Cory Marsh, both my husband and I visited the doctor and found that all our too-high bad numbers WENT DOWN. Many, many primal eaters have had this same experience, and the same of experience of having their doctors say, “what the heck? What’s the name of that book again?” Just search this site. It’s not anecdotal – it happens over and over.
          Even a little research shows that we are meant to be fat-burning animals, not carb-burning, and that REAL fats are infinitely better for you than industrial fats. So much of the conventional-wisdom scholarly “research”(often paid for by Big Food) has been answered by equally scholarly, peer-reviewed research (but independent), but it’s hard to get it because the Industrial Food complex has a vested interest in selling carbs, processed oils, etc.

          S. Quinn wrote on August 6th, 2013
        • I think Cory Marsh is trying to troll.

          Richie wrote on August 6th, 2013
      • Not an expert, but I recommend making eggs a staple in your diet. They are easy to make and can be made many different ways. If I have time, I will make a scramble or omelette with whatever I like to add to it (sausage, bacon, spinach, mushrooms, etc). I also keep hard-boiled eggs on hand for snacking or on-the-go. When I want something warm and soothing, I make a basic egg-drop soup (chicken stock, green onion, a little soy sauce, couple drops of sesame oil and egg). Poached or fried eggs also work for a quick meal. I buy rotisserie chickens from the grocery store as they are tasty and do not require any cooking by me. When I want a nice dinner, I put something in the slow-cooker with garlic, onions and chicken or beef stock such as beef short ribs or a pot roast. Slow-cooked meats ALWAYS taste good! Good luck and don’t give up! The weight will come off if you limit your carbs! Mark says under 80 grams per day but less is even better at removing fat! Shoot for 60 grams or less (and don’t count fiber towards your carbs!). Example someone gave earlier: 1 cup kale = 7 g carbs (but 2 g of this are fiber). THEREFORE only 5 grams are counted towards your carb intake. I call these the “active carbs” (carbs your body actually absorbs).

        Mallory wrote on March 7th, 2014
        • oh yea! I also love to make tuna salad with whatever additions I like…I do mayo, celery, onion, scallions, cilantro and cracked pepper. I also buy smoked salmon or lox to snack on. Just wanted to give you some specific ideas to get started!

          Mallory wrote on March 7th, 2014
  2. So some one wonting to lose a lot of fat say 120 lbs can do it on 80 gram’s of carbs a day?that’s way to high to calm the insulin down because the truth be told carb’s are non essential to the human diet.All carb’s do even veggies is flood the blood strem with insulin to make you fat and store it as fat.Is this true i dunno can someone explain to a guy who get’s easly confussed.Because the body only has so much room to store carbs in the liver and muscles.

    Bill wrote on July 30th, 2008
    • i think the veggies and fruit come into play more for their roll in nutrients!

      lisa wrote on March 17th, 2011
      • oops I meant role not roll ,no grains here lol

        lisa wrote on March 17th, 2011
    • You are absolutely right! I am prediabetic and my doctor has me on a 60 carb a day diet…She gave me books to read and studies show that you can literally live without carbs, not recommended but you can. Carbs do raise the insullin level…they need to be limited, especially the complex carbs and the ones that are white! I am on a 60 carb a day diet and I have lost 20 pounds in less than a month. I have more energy and am healthier now than I have every been and my lab results prove it!! Read the book “Living Low Carb” by Johnny Bowden. I would never try a diet like the one on this web page unless it was prescribed by a doctor.

      marlene wrote on January 28th, 2013
  3. Bill,

    Depends on your goals and how agreesive you want to be. I said “under 80″ grams, meaning that is a high-end number. If you shoot for 20-50 grams a day, I guarantee you’ll lose the fat. But even if you were at 120 grams a day, you’d lose fat (provided you keep calories under control) just at a slower pace.

    Mark Sisson wrote on July 30th, 2008
    • you said “provided you keep calories under control” – so does that mean you have to count calories even if you’re controlling the number of carbs?

      lee wrote on July 20th, 2011
      • So basically you say that if you eat less calories you will lose weight? mmm, I heard that before….

        cat wrote on September 2nd, 2011
        • If you control your carbs to a lower number, then calories don’t matter so much because your body is then a “fat burning” system…as you increase your carbs (such as the 120 carbs in question) it stands to reason that calories would then come into play because you’re transitioning your fuel system from a fat burner back over to a calorie burning system. At least that’s my understanding of how it works.

          Sarah wrote on September 15th, 2011
        • Forget about calorie counting. That’s an archaic system that is a pain in the patoot and doesn’t work in the long run, probably because it displays zero understanding of how the human body actually works.

          If you stick with a primal system that is very low in carbs (as stated in the article), you will lose weight like crazy without counting anything–guaranteed. Anybody who tries to tell you they couldn’t lose weight on a primal, Atkins-type diet was absolutely, unquestionably cheating!

          My son was on a ketogenic diet for seizure control a number of years ago. This is a very severe, medically-monitored version of the Atkins (or primal) diet. In order to keep him from losing too much weight, which he did not need to do, we had to add loads of fat into his diet.

          I should mention that I don’t think an ultra-low carb diet is the healthiest way to eat. It’s the most effective thing there is for weight loss, bar none, but it should not be adhered to permanently because the body does need the nutrients found in fruit and veggies.

          Shary wrote on June 29th, 2012
        • And lots of gym and cardio!

          Valentina wrote on March 3rd, 2014
  4. Varangy,

    I really like what Peter does at hyperlipid in terms of self-experimentation and research. He is definitely on the leading edge of the “truly high fat” diet.

    I agree that protein can have insulinegenic properties and that excess protein can be converted to glucose, but I still feel that it’s better to err on the side of a little too much protein (especially if you train intensely on occasion. Don’t recall that Peter trains intensely ever, but I could be wrong. And the micronutrient benefits of fruits and vegetables can’t be overstated either.

    Mark Sisson wrote on July 30th, 2008
    • I love peppers and usually eat them raw daily. Do you think organic peppers are healthy and contain nutrients?

      nina wrote on June 7th, 2012
      • Absolutely! Red bell peppers are especially loaded with nutrients! The colors of fruits and veggies usually represent some part of their nutrient breakdown…for example, orange-colored fruits/veggies (pumpkin, cantaloupe, carrots, mango, etc) contain the antioxidant nutrient Beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is converted in the body to the ever-important Vitamin A, used for eye health among other things. Most fruits/veggies contain multiple nutrients, but it is still important to vary what you eat. Superstars are broccoli and leafy greens (such as spinach and kale)…they seem to contain nearly every vitamin and many minerals!

        Mallory wrote on March 7th, 2014
  5. Thanks Mark.

    I know this site has discussed nightshades occasionally but what are your thoughts on plant poisons/toxins?

    http://www.plantpoisonsandrottenstuff.info/content/toxins.aspx

    Varangy wrote on July 30th, 2008
  6. Excellent post as always Mark.

    I’ve been gradually lowering my carbs a little more each week.

    I’m going to reanalyze everything this week via FitDay, but I’d estimate I’m down to about 100-150, with ALL of them coming from whole, natural foods.

    Geek2Freak Brandon wrote on July 30th, 2008
  7. Varangy,

    Most plants have some type of toxin that acts as a defense mechanism. Some are worse than others, but if we avoided all plants for that reason, we would perish.

    As for nightshades. some are worse than others and some people are more susceptible that others. I would suspect that many of today’s bell peppers, for instance, are bred for color and sweetness and retain very little of the potentially offending alkyloids found in wilder versions. Same for tomatoes. And, having said that, I would still probably moderate my consumption of these, since they are but a small portion of the overall menu in the vegetable world.

    Mark Sisson wrote on July 30th, 2008
    • Don’t forget also that nightshades are NOT vegetables. They are fruit. More veg, controlled amounts of fruit. Peppers, tomatos and other things that have the seeds INSIDE the item are fruit. Vegetables do not contain seeds. That is why things that contains seeds are GENERALLY higher in calories. Even cucumbers are much higher in calories (and carbs) than say radishes or lettuce and they are one of the less caloric options.

      Darla wrote on April 24th, 2012
  8. Love what you said about tracking your macronutrient ratios and calories over the course of several weeks and adjusting them based on your goals. very sensible advice that gets lost amidst all the calorie screaming in the media. Also loved your emphasis (again) that calories DO have a context.

    One question tho (and I’m sure I’m reading you wrong) but when you said that you now eat 600-1000 less calories per day than when you were higher carb but still maintain a healthy physique it sounds to me like most people would say “so I can eat 600-1000 MORE cals per day if I incorporate carbs? And still maintain a healthy phsyique?” Is that just because you were training harder and burning more cals then?

    charlotte wrote on July 30th, 2008
    • No, I think he meant that he wasn’t hungry for more than the calories he consumed, due to the satiation from a greater percentage of protein and fat in his diet.

      (At least that is the way it works for me)

      BillP wrote on October 23rd, 2012
  9. The main problem I have with continuing to increase my protein and fat consumption is that commonly available meat is of such low quality. The feedlot and industrial produced meat we buy at our supermarkets is from animals that have been abused, pumped full of chemicals and fed any number of really nasty Things.

    How many of us have the resources to seek out top quality grass-fed and naturally raised meat?

    The other reason is that I decided to embrace the Primal or Paleolithic eating system because I’m very leery of theory spinning regarding what is best for our bodies. Instead I’d like to emulate the diet that my distant ancestors ate since, by definition, that is the diet my body evolved on.

    It’s very hard to determine exactly what Paleolithic man ate and in what proportions. But every single hunter-gatherer society that we have encountered has eaten a wide variety of plant foods unless plant foods simply weren’t available. Most hunter-gatherer societies that have been studied, people who live in a way very similar to the way our Paleolithic ancestors are thought to have lived, gather and eat a great variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and tubers.

    The Inuit lived entirely off animal products because that’s all that was available. The Masai eat mostly dairy but this is a post-paleolithic adaptation to an extremely arid environment. These are the exceptions. In general, we have no reason at all to think that ancient man limited his diet to meat by choice. In fact when hunting was scarce, as it probably often was, he is likely to have lived almost entirely off of nuts and tubers.

    So, in my view at least, when we try to cut carbs down to almost nothing we are not necessarily trying to emulate the primal diet. Instead we are experimenting, much like the guy at Hyper-Lipid admits he is doing. But, personally, at this point I’d rather try to actually emulate the typical Paleolithic diet rather than embark on an experimental super-low carb regime.

    Binko wrote on July 30th, 2008
    • Oh Boy! Somebody seems to have issues with eating meat; just doesn’t want to admit it.

      The Inuit, the Masai as well as the Polynesians ate a diet that was both high in animal/fish or animal/fish derived products. Their diet was also very very high in Saturated Fat; especially Saturated Animal Fat as in the case of the Inuit and Masai. In the case of the Polynesians it was very high in Saturated Fat from vegetative sources – Coconut – yet it still is Saturated Fat.

      In all cases there was an abundant intake of Animal Protein as well as Saturated Fat (predominantly Saturated Animal Fat). Yet these people have one of the lowest cases of Heart Disease or Type 2 Diabetes in the world.

      In fact when some of the Masai people moved to cites and adapted a more modern diet higher in Carbs but also lower in Protein (that is Animal Protein not Vegan Soy Protein by the way) there was a dramatic increase in both Heart Disease as well as Type 2 Diabetes.

      Till that point of time many had assumed that the Masai(as well as the others) had developed some kind of resistance to such “High” Levels of “Dangerous” Animal Protein and Saturated Fat. I guess they got it wrong!

      No offense Binko but your comment seems Sophist!

      Just My Thoughts wrote on July 15th, 2009
      • I don’t understand, are you saying that it’s pointless to be concerned about quality of meat then? Or was it just a desire to insult rather than inform that prompted you to reply?

        Joe wrote on November 14th, 2010
    • Hi ..my take is also is to not concentrate wholely on the diet, while not paying attention to the “move slowly and often” piece…if you are moving your body the natural appetite and feeling of wellbeing at the end of the day is almost as important. If you can keep to the low carb guidelines don’t sweat it out counting calories unless it is wildly obvious that you have a problem in that area…eating 5 steaks is problem in that area…when a single one would do. Good luck and hope it all goes well ( or went well )

      BT wrote on October 19th, 2011
      • I am almost certain that much like animals the world over that primal men would also eat absolutely as much of their kill as they could. Five stakes should not be out of the question.

        Anon wrote on August 25th, 2012
    • Paleolithic man had a life expectancy of 18 years.

      anon wrote on December 23rd, 2011
      • Life expectancy can be misleading. If you looked at the age that adults lived to you’d probably find that they were comparable to our own. High infant mortality drives down life expectancy. You have 10 kids, 3 survive. Do the math.

        Also, hunter gatherers were on the move most of the time, and children needed to be able to track along behind migrating groups from a fairly young age. Those that couldn’t keep up didn’t survive.

        Diet has no relation to this. The idea is not to abandon modernity, it is to combine the benefits of modernity with the benefits of the diet we evolved to eat.

        Bob wrote on January 19th, 2012
    • Supermarket meat is better than organic wheat any day and stressing on the right or wrong of it is just as bad…..buy the best when you can. Relax a bit…..the portions of guilt, judgement, anger, resentment we take in as we eat does more damage than the toxin….I read somewhere that if you give thanks [or bless or pray or be grateful for or white light your food….or whatever your belief system calls it] as your prepare and before you eat it raises the energy of the food…..works for me.

      Jo-Anne wrote on March 1st, 2012
    • Commonly available meat is low quality, but its still better for you than a carb diet. There is tones of local farms, if you do research that sell beef jerky, steaks, meats and even the dairy farms aswell you can buy cheese at half the price of the local grocery. If you read more into History no its not hard to determine exactly what Paleolithic man ate, because depending on climate and location it differs. And especially in Canada the majority survived on deer, moose, elk many others that are hugely available. Hunting was never scarce until the white man wiped out all of the buffalo. Animal fat was their number once source of protein over the winter and yes they did mix it with berries and other plants, but nuts do not grow as naturally here as in other countries. If you take a trip to Canada, you will know that hunting/fishing has never been scarce. When I take a drive through the mountains and mountain lakes, I encounter hundreds of deer and fish over the years. and thats not something that just happened. Carbs are nothing. and have no health benefits. for such a lengthy paragraph, there is no helpful information and biased opinion only. If you have such problems finding good meat, maybe you should educate yourself better.

      justadream wrote on June 11th, 2012
    • It’s not that hard, at least where I live, to obtain good grass fed, antibiotic and hormone free, free range meat… I did some googling, checked out some Slow Food websites, and asked around. I met some farmers in the nearby area, and visited the farms. These producers have become good friends, I buy directly from them, (often 1/3 to 1/2 of retail prices) and I can visit the farms any time I like (well, I call ahead to make sure they’re not busy) to see how the animals are, sometimes even help out with chores. I know everyone doesn’t have this kind of time, but once you take time to establish the initial relationship, you can just order your meat without worrying about things. Other friends didn’t have this time, but were interested in the product, so I’ve managed e-mail intros to the farmers, and numerous folks have been able to access the same good product…so many people in my local area are now on board, my lovely 74 year old farmer friend now does deliveries a few times a year, win for everyone I would say!

      It’s my opinion that we spend a lot of time these days on entertainments etc, many of which might not enrich our lives to any great extent (though some enrich our lives immeasurably!). Makes sense to me to take a wee bit of time out of that other stuff, and direct it towards taking care of health, and relationships, so making these connections with people is one of the ways I’ve found to do that!

      Good luck with it all

      Paula wrote on October 9th, 2012
  10. I’ve been reading MDA for a while now, I’ve never really taken the PB to be ‘low carb’ in the stereotypical ‘low carb’ way. In fact, I’ve read several times that Mark puts vegatables at the base of the PB food pyramid. Take my Fitday for today (crustless spinach quiche, monster kitchen sink salad, and I’m planning to have a handful of almonds if I have time and then salmon and asparagus for dinner). Comes out to only 63 grams carbs, 114 grams protein, 86 grams fat (hello homemand olive oil dressing!) I don’t often track on Fitday, but this post made me curious. Believe me, I’ve eaten a ton of veggies today (even had a co-worker ask ‘Are you really going to eat all that?’ when I got ready to eat my lunch salad), but total carbs still come out pretty low. To my mind, the PB is NOT low carb, it is eating whole, unprocessed foods; simple, sane concept.

    Jennifer wrote on July 30th, 2008
  11. But every single hunter-gatherer society that we have encountered has eaten a wide variety of plant foods unless plant foods simply weren’t available. Most hunter-gatherer societies that have been studied, people who live in a way very similar to the way our Paleolithic ancestors are thought to have lived, gather and eat a great variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and tubers.

    1) As one of my anthro professors noted, it is common mistake to equate contemporary or near-contemporary hunter-gatherers with our paleolithic ancestors.

    They are not one and the same — and these hunter-gatherers most likely do not make good proxies for paleolithic humans. For example, I do not think that Paleolithic humans had much access to fruits, vegetables and nuts (some tubers excepted) — most if not all of what we know as contemporary fruits and vegetables are distant modern and most importantly, considerably domesticated (read: sweeter), cousins of wild plants – same goes for animals as well.

    Therefore, one must be careful in drawing conclusions based on hunter-gatherer behavior.

    2) One issue I have not seen discussed on this site with regard to low carb/paleo eating is sleep.

    I, sample size (n = 1), have radically improved my sleep. I used to suffer from racing thoughts and restlessness many a night — now I can actually lay down and get a restful night’s sleep.

    This newfound return to normalcy correlates directly with my hybrid hyperlipid/low carb/paleo style eating — is it responsible for it? Maybe.

    Anyone have any thoughts on this?

    Varangy wrote on July 30th, 2008
    • My Sleep has improved so much I find it hard to believe that it can’t be the way I’m eating. Having been an insomniac for 20 years, I now sleep like a babe, and wake refreshed after 6-8 hoours.

      Jane wrote on February 17th, 2012
      • My Sig-o used to snore all night and feel miserable in the morning; his dad has sleep apnea and he was worried about the same. We started eating based on Fallon’s “Nourishing Traditions” which is a low carb, whole-food, high fat, good healthy meats kinda diet (which eventually lead me here)and he immediately noticed how much better he slept; shoot, I sleep better too, without all his snoring! ;-) He wakes feeling refreshed, alert, and eager to start his day (also a refreshing change from Mr. Grumpy-pants). I can’t speak for sleep schedules because I work a split-shift that has me up some nights and asleep others…I hate it; it will be the next thing to go, if I have my way! :-)

        Tam wrote on May 21st, 2012
  12. Varangy-

    n=2

    I used to think I was doomed to a lifetime of restless nights. I’ve been Primal for 4 months now and have seen vast improvements. I still have trouble getting to sleep every once in awhile (which seems to correlate with straying from Primal eating) but most nights I sleep like a baby. Everything is connected. Get the big things right and it is sort of like a domino effect. Everything begins to fall into place.

    Berinja wrote on July 30th, 2008
  13. “Fats have little or no impact on insulin and, as a result, promote the burning of both dietary and stored (adipose) fat as fuel”.
    Mark, I am sorry to have to ask you this (I am knew here) but I have been told all my life that fat is exactly what is sounds like, fat! Now you are espousing the belief, and I can see that you have done your homework, that I can have 120 grams of fat and still lose weight??? I just don’t see how that is possible? Can you put into simple terms how this works?
    Jen

    Jen C. wrote on July 30th, 2008
  14. @Jen C.

    Not to answer on behalf of Mark, but we have all suffered under the massive mis-information cascade of ‘low-fat’ diets. Read Gary Taubes’s book for a fantastic review.

    8. We get fat because of an imbalance—a disequilibrium—in the hormonal regulation of fat tissue and fat metabolism. More fat is stored in the fat tissue than is mobilized and used for fuel. We become leaner when the hormonal regulation of the fat tissue reverses this imbalance.

    9. Insulin is the primary regulator of fat storage. When insulin levels are elevated, we stockpile calories as fat. When insulin levels fall, we release fat from our fat tissue and burn it for fuel.

    10. By stimulating insulin secretion, carbohydrates make us fat and ultimately cause obesity. By driving fat accumulation, carbohydrates also increase hunger and decrease the amount of energy we expend in metabolism and physical activity.

    11. The fewer carbohydrates we eat, the leaner we will be.

    http://www.randomhouse.com/knopf/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781400040780

    Varangy wrote on July 30th, 2008
  15. The old fashioned notion was that the your body simply burned calories as they were consumed and stored the excess as fat. But the body is actually a much more complex machine than that.

    In simple terms the body will store fat when it is in fat storage mode. When it is not in fat storage mode excess calories simply pass through or burn off. It seems that anything that spikes your insulin, mainly simple carbs and sugars, will tend to move the body into fat storage mode.

    In Dr. Steven Gundry’s new book “The Diet Evolution” he goes into this in detail. He says that when we eat a great mass of sugars or carbs the body’s hormonal system concludes that it must be autumn when the fruit is ripe and plants are richest and starts to move into what he calls “store fat for winter” mode.

    But with modern processed food people are always eating tons of simple carbs and thus they are always in “store fat for winter” mode. This is the great fallacy of the low-fat diet theory. It tells you to avoid fat, which helps stabalize blood sugar and insulin levels, and eat more carbs which spike blood sugar and insulin. But low-fat and high carb will kick you into fat storage mode while high-fat and low-carb will tend to put you into “get lean for summer hunting” mode.

    Binko wrote on July 30th, 2008
    • Never thought of it that way, brilliant.
      I have to order the book!

      Katzenberg wrote on May 24th, 2011
  16. Charlotte, good question. When I ate carbs I did have to work out longer and harder…and then I had to eat more to replace the lost glycogen. A viscious cycle of working out more than I needed to and then eating more than I needed to. Life is much easier this way. I CAN get by on less, but as long as I keep carbs low, I can also eat more fat and not have it affect me. For a guy whose college buddies still call him “Arnold Ziffle” (after the pig on Green Acres, because I could eat so much) I marvel at how often I can cruise through a day without getting that hungry. Can’t do that on a high carb plan.

    Varangy, when I was a carb eater, I would often not be able to sleep (among other reasons) because the accelerated beating of my endurance-trained heart would keep me awake as the blood pumped through my eardrums…seriously. That is no longer a problem, so I also sleep better. n=3

    Mark Sisson wrote on July 30th, 2008
    • Hi Mark,

      Thank you so much for the information that you’ve put out here. I’m new to Primal eating and have just started your book. You may have answered this question elsewhere, so please forgive me if you have. In eating 50-100g or 100-150g of carbs a day, how do grams of sugar fit/add in? Are the numbers for carbohydrates and sugars you’d find on a nutritional label simply additive? Would the molar difference be only slight because of a loss of water in the polysaccharides?

      Thanks so much for your help with all this!

      Carls wrote on July 5th, 2011
  17. Mark,
    there is a guy on jimmy moore’s forum named charles he eats 0 carb’s and is a marathon runner,i listened to his interview by jimmy it was interesting.Can someone survive on 0 carbs 0 fiber and 0 veggies.

    Bill wrote on July 31st, 2008
    • Chances are that “Charles” wasn’t making a distinction between sugar/grain/starch carbs and healthful fruits and vegetables, which are also classified as carbohydrates.

      Fact is, a longterm zero-carb diet will eventually lead to emaciation, chronic exhaustion, and various serious health issues, not the least of which would be constipation like you wouldn’t believe.

      Shary wrote on June 29th, 2012
  18. Bill, I’ll check it out. YOu can live on zero carbs, but you’d have to be very careful what you ate (grassfed, organic, etc) and you’d definitely have to take a high-potency multi-vitamin. I think the fiber thing has been way over-done, so I wouldn’t be so concerned with taking a fiber supplement. 0 carbs is just a tough way to live…he also can’t be very fast as a marathoner.

    Mark Sisson wrote on July 31st, 2008
  19. Dear Mark,

    I have embarked on my no grain “way of life”. I am keeping it low carb and adding in the fats to keep the ball rolling. I am scared to even take a bit of fruit however because I am not sure how the insulin thingy works. I want my body to burn fat efficiently and get off the carb burning roller coaster. Can you give me an idea of how I am able to add any carbs (that are not grains) but fruit ect. to my meal w/out raising my insulin and storing the fat I am eating in my meal on my hips.

    I have read that if I eat fat in my meals (which is great to do on low carb) then I eat carbs too my insulin can rise and cause fat storage. Is there a number of carbs to stay below in each meal? Is it possible to have say half and apple at my breakfast of 2 whole eggs, natural bacon and avacado.

    Also, do you have a take on cheese on salads, whole cream in coffee, and yogurt plain with no sweetener…. Is dairy to be avoided at all costs like grains?

    xoxo Autumn
    125lb 5 foot 2 23%bf and currently living in brain fog (first 2 days of low carb so far)

    Autumn Auston wrote on August 7th, 2008
  20. Autumn, dairy is one of our “sensible vices”. Grok didn’t consume dairy, but many of us who don’t have lactose intolerance (or casein issues) can have a little refined or fermented dairy now and then. For that reason, a little feta on a salad, whole cream in coffee and the occasional Greek-style yogurt will be fine.

    Mark Sisson wrote on August 8th, 2008
  21. So what happens if I drink lots of 1% or skim milk? I’m lactose and casein tolerant, and put down between 1 and 2 quarts per day as a teenager. At 35, I still LOVE milk. What’s the effect of 16 or so ounces per day on top of low fat cheese, hormonally/biochemically speaking?

    Susanne wrote on August 13th, 2008
    • Many of the nutrients in milk are found in the fat! You should be drinking at least 2% fat milk, or even whole milk…skim and 1% do not contain as many nutrients (gram for gram…or quart for quart). Remember: FAT IS NOT THE ENEMY HERE! That is conventional wisdom telling you to drink skim milk to avoid “excess calories”. Among its many beneficial functions, fat also has a very high satiety factor (i.e. fat keeps you full longer because it takes longer to move from your stomach to your intestines…in other words, takes longer to digest).

      Mallory wrote on March 7th, 2014
  22. Susanne, maybe you are one of the few who can truly tolerate a ton of dairy. I’d be concerned if you are consuming that much factory-farmed, hormone-and-antibiotic-laden product, though.

    Mark Sisson wrote on August 14th, 2008
    • Susanne, I hope you’re drinking raw milk, at that rate!
      Check out http://www.notmilk.com if you’re drinking commercial milk.

      Marna Ehrech wrote on August 16th, 2011
  23. Mark,
    I like the information here.. This is very similar to a “Paleolithic Diet” or Caveman Style Diet, which I endorse & write often about on JohnFit.COM Fitness Blog.. Fats have such high anti-inflammatory effects on the body that they make for “calming” features on your internal tissues.. Also, switching to this style of eating is great for a less bloated look and lean appearance.. My body fat stays around 8%, but I’ve noticed that I often look 10%+ from the bloating features of wheat and grain products.. This may also be linked to a “Wheat Allergy” that I have, but I think its a very common allergy & grade A red Flag for, “YOUR FEEDING SOMETHING TO YOUR BODY THATS ITS NOT MENT TO PROCESS”! So, I cut out the wheat products, and leave the breads on the shelf.. Not to mention, Gluten is a growing concern in our “Get Lean & Fit, while supporting immune system” eating lifestyle.. Bump up the fats, consolidate the carbs, and focus on becoming more organic.. I like to say, “If it doesn’t run, grow, &/or respond to sunlight” then don’t eat it.. Everything from improved skin conditions, shinier hair & healthier teeth, to shaving body fat & improving immune system fuctions will occur when you supplement this eating style into your new positive habit patterns.. Great article Bud.. I’m a fan!

    John Fit..

    John Fit wrote on August 23rd, 2008
    • great info!!!

      larry wrote on February 9th, 2012
  24. Hi Mark. Very interesting take on nutrition, and one I will be trying this year. In the past, I have been guilty for over-emphasizing carbs and taking in too little fat, mostly because I have been concerned with lacking the fuel needed for long workouts. Which brings me to my question: what exactly do you mean by training hard for long periods of time? For example, is it training more than 1 hour per day? 2 hours per day? I am an Ironman Triathlete so typically training is from 2 hours to 6 hours per day. Also, am I right in assuming that the extra 100g of carbs includes those taken in during exercising?
    Thanks for all the information on your site!
    Tammy
    ps I feed my dog raw and she a thriving athletic machine!

    Tammy wrote on August 31st, 2008
  25. Tammy, I have done a few posts on this, but basically, my theory is that unless you are training to compete, anything over an hour is counter-productive. In your case, you will need the carbs. Generally, I say 100 grams for every training hour over the first hour.

    Mark Sisson wrote on September 8th, 2008
  26. @Mark

    What carbs do you suggest for a 100 gram post work-out snack?

    A sweet potato?

    Your input is much appreciated. TIA.

    Patrik wrote on September 8th, 2008
  27. Yes, Patrik, a sweet potato is a good choice.

    Mark Sisson wrote on September 9th, 2008
  28. Any guidelines for a vegetarian/vegan diet? Same idea? Or are you wholly against that?

    Gina wrote on October 12th, 2008
    • I’m a vegan also but Mark’s advice is still excellent imo. For protein I’m drinking Spirulina. I know, it tastes horrendous but right now I just can’t eat animals. I take flaxseed oil which single handedly eliminated my fatigue and muscle soreness. Avacados also are wonderful fat source.

      MR! Stoner2udude wrote on September 27th, 2011
  29. all i need is your help to loose about 50 pounds please i am counting on you

    niique quarcoopome wrote on October 20th, 2008
  30. Hi there, just going through your archives over the last bit and have a question for you.

    I have PCOS (Insulin resistance as a result/cause?) and am quite over weight. I am trying to add muscle mass, exercise etc to get down to a normal weight. I’ve done the atkins thing in the past and it made me feel sick. As a female, with about 48% BF, what would you suggest carb intake to be at to burn fat? Still the same 100-150/day? I’ve got the protein needs figured out (same as your example woman) but I just need to get this right. The ability to loose this weight seems to be just out of reach. With PCOS, I can literally work my butt off in the gym, eat within my caloric range and not loose a lb. I can also sit on my ass on the couch and read this (while eating very little/or whatever the hell I want – doesn’t seem to make a difference) and not gain/loose a lb.

    HELP!

    Jennifer wrote on January 15th, 2009
    • Jennifer, I know exactly what you are talking about! It is frustrating and seems impossible at times. I found just cutting out almost all sugar and grain, even cutting back some on fruit, but eating plenty of raw veggies, protein and some fat is what’s finally working for me. I also had to get a glucometer. I started testing my blood sugars and the numbers on the meter made me realize I was indeed insulin resistant (I didn’t think I was because I was so active). It also helped me determined what foods I could handle well and what foods I couldn’t. Many dinners were a steak and a sweet potato with butter. Many lunches were tuna, mayo, fermented pickles, mustard. Often just by itself or with a salad. All the raw veggies I wanted, like celery, carrots (kind of sugary but so hard to eat it’s hard to OD, radishes, turnips, broccoli etc). I really like raw pecans for snacks. If I had some grain it was usually ezekiel bread, which is sprouted. I did actually eat pizza once per week, thin crust from Dominoes. But at first I had to be very careful and not eat too much because my blood sugar would get too high (over 140- it should NEVER get above 140, you are in active damage in that range- should also come down below 120 within two hours) I started that last November, so about 10 months ago. The first couple of weeks I was starving. But that was nothing too new, I was always hungry anyway, even right after eating. And I was not one to eat a lot of sweets or crap either. I ate decent food. The hunger was because my body was perceiving a normal blood sugar as low. But eventually I got to where I was not so hungry anymore! Since the change I’ve lost 27 lbs, and gained muscle mass from exersize. Not only that, but my back pain is gone, I had constant back pain, my hands would be numb etc. Like I say, I was very active and all the hard work I was doing was just tearing my inflamed body down, I was not able to cope with it. Now I work harder than ever and feel better than ever. I’m trying to really tighten down some more to get the last 20 lbs off that I need to lose. But at least I feel great.

      Ashley wrote on August 30th, 2012
  31. Jennifer – I wrote about this just yesterday:

    http://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-primal-carbohydrate-continuum/

    Cheers!

    Mark Sisson wrote on January 15th, 2009
  32. Hi Mark: I just have to say what an incredible site you have really outdone yourself. I have started on this about 4 days in now and I can just say WOW!. The first couple of day’s you have cravings but after that you just start feeling so great you just do not want to eat that stuff anymore. Keep it coming and the recipes sound awesome can’t wait to try a few.
    Thanks Owen.

    May God Bless you and you family.

    Owen wrote on January 18th, 2009
  33. counting calories and following the usda food pyramid is HOPELESS. It’s too bad so many people have been nothing short of brainwashed and don’t realize there is a better way!

    Fixed Gear wrote on May 27th, 2009
  34. Fixed Gear~
    I think that alot of that will come to change in future generations. I find the whole “Well if the doctor says I should tie these cinder blocks to my feet and jump into a canal, I guess its what’s best for my health.” mentality more common among my parents/similarly aged people. Unfortunately with the recent economic collapse I am sure there are people forgetting everything about anything diet related and are sticking with the bare minimum “I need to put food in my/my kid’s mouth.” and what is most easily availiable is highly processed grain.

    Love the article, It backs my general thoughts on eating with empirical data, the most important of which is that fat dosen’t go sideways out of your stomach and into your belly. I’ve always believed that when you digest food you turn it into other things (hence we dont flush pork chops and beer) so you would be pretty hard pressed to get fat from fat, since it will turn into something *not* fat.

    I was wondering if you could help me try to *gain* weight. I seem to have hit a wall at 140. I’m lean so I did my fat% at 16%. Im an intense exerciser so I do 1g/lb protien which is ~120g with about 95g carbs and 80g fat. Not sure if I need to up the protien or maybe the carbs (I run 6x a week mon/wed/fri 1 mile sprint slow to jog if I can’t make the full dist. usually get 3/4, tue/thur 3 mile interval, sat 5 mile brisk jog along with the anaerobics I do to gain muscle mass) so maybe I need more carbs to keep the running from eating my muscles for energy?

    Only thing with that is like you say in your article its way hard to get many more carbs without picking up some wonderbread…

    Gearford wrote on July 22nd, 2009
  35. im not sure how the whole insulin hormone whatever thing works. i just eat wen im hungry. i have fruits, tree nuts, veggies and meat, and the occasional baked sweet potato. i eat generally watever is in season, and i buy most of my weekly requirements from the farmers markets on saturdays and thursdays.

    shastagirl wrote on July 24th, 2009
  36. I’ve been doing lower carb for years, but having Type 1 Diabetes, the insulin I have to take, puts on weight… 14kg since 2006, and 4kg since June when I went on an insulin pump. However, my blood glucose levels have drastically improved. I need to lose about 20kg. The dietician said I wasn’t eating enough carbs so I’m not losing weight. Wrong! I also rarely eat fruit.

    Great discussion about fructose here: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/healthreport/stories/2007/1969924.htm and it emphasizes the importance of fibre and exercise and talks about fructose metabolism.

    As a result of the way I eat (under 120 carbs a day, but do better under 80), I’m on much less insulin than most for my weight. I do have one weakness – good quality dark chocolate. Still grappling with that one, and I certainly don’t have it every day. But… my issue is that I have other autoimmune diseases (arthritic) as well, and exercise is a form of torture. Somehow it must be added, and not for burning calories. I try, then I’m down for days. No swimming pool anywhere close. Pity. Any suggestions of what I can do for very low impact exercise? Walking is out – too painful (needing a knee replacement, and have arthritis in my spine). Would Yoga be good?

    I’m also one of those with super-high cholesterol – have had as long as it’s been measured. I refuse to take statins. Fish oil isn’t making much difference. Not sure what will – even a vegan diet years ago didn’t make much difference.

    My liver seems to really good at dumping glucose when it’s not required, which of course, raises my insulin needs. So really my overzealous liver is likely the problem.

    Would really appreciate some advice.

    sooz wrote on August 29th, 2009
    • Dark chocolate is my crutch also. Good luck and don’t give up!

      MR! Stoner2udude wrote on September 27th, 2011
  37. Hey Mark,

    I have a question about lowish carbs and sleep. I noticed you mentioned that 80g is still on the high end and that if you lower them between 20-50 you’ll lose fat quicker..well I know this personally to be true! The thing I find when I cut my carbs is that I cannot sleep at night for the life of me. Even at around 50-100 my sleep isn’t as great as if I were eating more. Yet, the more carbs I eat the harder it is for me to lose fat, the lower my calories must be, and the IBS symptoms become unbearable. Lowish carb makes my tummy happy.
    Do you know any correlation between carbs and sleep?
    Thanks!

    Heather wrote on December 16th, 2009
  38. Oops let me re-phrase my question above so I don’t sound like an idiot. I know there is a strong correlation between carbs and sleep. I’ve researched this like crazy. BUT, how can you manage it and still eat low carb? I’ve heard of taking melatonin but this does not work for me.
    Thanks again!

    Heather wrote on December 16th, 2009
    • Heather, the correlation between sleep and carbs is, in my estimation, a loose one based on carbs’ relationship to serotonin. After a time on a low carb plan, theoretically, your sleep adjusts. There may be other factors involved, though, like stress, ambient light, time-of-life hormone balance, etc. I say that if you are allowing yourself enough time for sleep, your body should do fine. There’s no law that says we have to sleep straight through the night, either. Some people lose sleep worrying over how much sleep they are losing!! Finally, I’m not a huge fan of taking melatonin regularly (I do, however, use it to reset my internal clock when I cross more than three time zones traveling).

      Mark Sisson wrote on December 16th, 2009
  39. Awesome article. I too have encountered the ridiculousness of a registered dietician. He was on about 65% of the diet being comprised of carbs. I wanted to stab my eyes out.

    FitJerks Fitness Blog wrote on January 4th, 2010
  40. Hi Mark and all other posters!.Im struggling to understand the amount of carbs per day…it says 100g-150g/per day, but I had a small salad (lettuce/spinach, cherry toms, shredded carrot) and it came to nearly 100g, just in 1 small salad! I am misunderstanding something?? Any help would be much appreciated

    Phil wrote on January 20th, 2010

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