Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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Category: Fats

Dear Mark: Your Challenge Questions Answered

Last week, you guys asked me a ton of questions as part of a contest. Today, I’m going to answer an initial batch. (If you don’t see yours, check back on Mondays to come when I’ll take up others.) First, can excess fat be stored as body fat? If so, how? Second, can this way of eating help with seasonal allergies? Third, what’s the proper pushup progression for someone who can’t do a full one? Fourth, when should I take my probiotics, vitamin D3, and fish oil? Fifth, is canned fish a viable way of obtaining omega-3s, or does the canning process damage the fats? Sixth, is there a trick to beating a weight loss plateau? Seventh, is there a way to make sardines palatable? And eighth, if you can’t walk one day, can you make it up the next?

Let’s go:

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The Benefits of Caloric Efficiency (and 10 Ways to Achieve It)

We really like to eat. We choose restaurants based on portion size. We work out just to increase our capacity for guilt-free gluttony. And even when we don’t actually like it, we still want it because the food industry employs experts in brain hedonic processing to engineer food products your brain literally cannot stop craving. As Louis CK put it, we don’t stop eating when we’re full, we stop eating when we hate ourselves.

I’m not immune. In college, they called me Arnold, after the pig from Green Acres, because I could (and did) out-eat anyone. Linebackers 1.5x my size were no match. I love food, but I’m not interested in cramming as much food as I can get away with. Not anymore.

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Updating the Primal Stance on Vegetable Oils: High-Oleic Varieties

Many years ago (I initially wrote that in jest, but it has been almost seven years), I wrote a definitive guide to oils, covering the benefits and drawbacks of over a dozen of the most common edible oils. Seven years is plenty of time for new data to come out, new perspectives to develop, and even new oils to hit the market. How would I go back and update my previous recommendations?

Most of it stands. The fatty acid breakdown and overall assessment of each oil remain valid and sound. Olive oil is still olive oil (unless it’s not). 2016 peanut oil is identical to 2010 peanut oil. If you’re interested in the basics or want to see my 2010 take on edible oils, go ahead and read through the Definitive Guide to Oils.

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Dear Mark: High-Fat Diet, Gall Stones, and NAFLD

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering two questions. Both concern the gallbladder. First, how does a high-fat ketogenic diet relate to the presence of gall stones? Can the former cause the latter? Or is the story a bit more complicated than that? Then, I discuss which fats are most amenable to the gall bladder-less. Also, where does non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, come in?

Let’s go:

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How Should You Balance Your Fat Intake?

We’ve put to bed the misguided notion that saturated fat is out to kill you, clog your arteries, make you fat, and disfigure your unborn children. We’ve scrutinized the widely-held assumption that processed seed oils rich in omega-6 linoleic acid are the healthiest fats available, made a strong case for a fat-based metabolism, and sung the praises of monounsaturated fat. Fat is back. Fat’s been back for a long time now. But is that all there is to it? Should we eat all the saturated fat we can get? Should we avoid linoleic acid at all costs? Where does MUFA come in? Fish oil?

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10 Ways to Optimize Your Meat Consumption

In many ways, the Primal Blueprint developed and grew as a response to the ridiculous overreach of conventional wisdom. I only started looking for new ways to eat and train after doing everything “right” ruined me. All that nonsense about saturated fat and cholesterol clogging your arteries, carbohydrates being required for “energy,” healthywholegrains offering nutrients you couldn’t get anywhere else and lifelong protection from disease was so odious and obviously incorrect that it drove tens of thousands of people into the waiting maw of MDA. Perhaps the biggest piece of faulty conventional wisdom is the supposed lethal danger of meat. When you feel great eating meat every day, when a rare steak seems to improve your performance in the gym, when you tried going vegetarian for that hot vegan girl one time and ended up gaining ten pounds of belly fat, it’s hard to believe the experts.

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How Using Fat for Fuel Can Boost Athletic Performance

A few weeks back, I explored the potential benefits using fat as your primary fuel can have on cognitive function. While the strongest research centers on people dealing with age-related cognitive decline and other neurodegenerative diseases, and whether burning fat and ketones can boost cognitive function in healthy adults remains unconfirmed, the totality of the evidence suggests it can provide a benefit. Today, I’ll be discussing a related topic with more solid scientific footing: the effects of fat-adaptation on athletic performance.

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Dear Mark: Did Three New Studies Debunk the Primal Blueprint?

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions that at first glance appear to cast doubt on some of the founding tenets of the Primal Blueprint. First, did a recent study show that low-carb dieting is no better—and perhaps worse—than low-fat dieting at helping you lose body fat? The second is a two-parter: are we hypocrites for “ignoring” the insulinogenic effects of protein, and does a paleo diet actually abolish the beneficial effects of CrossFit?  And third, a new study found evidence of cereal grain consumption in a group of European hunter-gatherers. What gives?

Let’s go:

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The Fat Burning Brain: What Are the Cognitive Effects of Ketosis?

Although mainstream sources still mistake “the brain needs glucose” for “the brain can only run on glucose,” regular MDA readers know the truth: given sufficient adaptation, the brain can derive up to 75% of its fuel from ketone bodies, which the liver constructs using fatty acids. If we could only use glucose, we wouldn’t make it longer than a few days without food. If our brains couldn’t utilize fat-derived ketones, we’d drop dead as soon as our liver had exhausted its capacity to churn out glucose. We’d waste away, our lean tissue dissolving into amino acids for hepatic conversion into glucose to feed our rapacious brains. You’d end up a skeletal wraith with little else but your brain and a hypertrophied liver remaining until, eventually, the latter cannibalized itself in a last ditch search for glucose precursors for the tyrant upstairs. It would get ugly.

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10 Reasons You Should Be Eating More Monounsaturated Fat

Amidst all the debate over how saturated fat and PUFAs differentially affect our health, we often forget about monounsaturated fats, or MUFAs. These are almost universally tolerated, if not loved. No one really maligns them. Vegans and carnivores alike consume them on a regular basis. You find ’em in nuts and seeds alongside PUFAs. You find them in animal fats alongside saturated fats. In most healthy diets, whether alternative (Primal, keto)  or conventional (Mediterranean, AHA), monounsaturated fats feature prominently. They can’t really be avoided. But they’re an afterthought in hard core nutrition geek circles. Probably because no one really attacks them. Probably because they’re uncontroversial.

Let’s change that. Today, I’m going to explain why, in explicit detail, you should be eating more monounsaturated fat—if you aren’t already.

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