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

How Much is Too Much? – Round 2

Last week’s post covering upper recommendations garnered so much interest – and additional questions – that I thought we’d give it another go around. While last week’s list took on basics like protein and fat as well as worthy indulgences like chocolate and – drum roll, please –BACON (break for rampant applause), this week I’ll take on a mix of specific foods and activity. Thanks for everyone’s great comments and questions last week, and be sure to weigh in on this week’s round.

Coffee

Why not start off today with the typical morning ritual? Our society, many say, is fueled by coffee, and a number of us might think we’d barely be standing some days without it. For coffee lovers, a good cup of joe is a work of art. From a health standpoint, it’s not a bad deal at all. Ample antioxidants, potent anti-inflammatory powerhouse, protective factors against conditions like diabetes, certain cancers, Parkinson’s, yada, yada, yada.

Coffee’s controversy, of course, is rooted in the caffeine. Personally, I happen to like the taste, and I have one big cup every morning with a healthy splash of heavy whipping cream. But leaning on it a little bit isn’t the same as letting it become a regular crutch. Caffeine’s effect on people spans a wide spectrum. A half cup of decaf leaves some of us bouncing off the walls, animated with a manic fervor that scares small children. Others of us keep our local brew house in business with nary a hint of spastic energy. In the short term, unmistakable symptoms tell you when to put the coffee cup down: insomnia, jitteriness, anxiety, stomach issues. As far as the long term, I think the tipping point is relying on it for sustained energy levels. Caffeine can give us the occasional leg up, but if it’s keeping us upright day after day, it’s covering a larger problem. In both cases, the amount is unique to each person, although it’s known that we grow more sensitive to caffeine the older we get. For most folks, 200-300 mg of caffeine a day (100 mg being the typical content in a 6 oz. serving) – imbibed at least eight hours before bed – probably won’t cause significant problems. Once you’re downing a whole pot (500+ mg), however, you put yourself at risk for everything from heart palpitations to muscle tremors. My suggestion for upper limit: gauge your individual tolerance, but drink only what you need and keep it below 3 cups/300 mg of caffeine daily (generally when health benefits level out and negative symptoms increase). If you’re pregnant, I think there’s enough ample reason to avoid it period.

Sodium

This one got people talking last week. I still stand by the Primal bacon, but there’s a good point to be made about sodium intake. Although I don’t consider myself part of the alarmist camp on sodium, I do think there’s reason to exercise moderation. Yes, salt is crucial for muscular and neurological function as well as the maintenance of extracellular volume. Salt intake around the world varies considerably, ranging from the .2 grams/day to more than 10.3 grams/day.

There is definitely a connection between higher sodium intake and higher blood pressure levels, but the impact is highly individualized. A portion of the population is genuinely salt sensitive, and they’re considerably more affected by their sodium intake than non-sensitive individuals.

Upper recommendations, as offered by medical organizations, vary between 1.5 grams and 2.3 grams per day. Sure, certain populations (like those of Northern Japan) seem to be fine with higher levels, and I don’t think it’s necessary to omit healthy sea vegetables (or to give up true delicacies such as bacon). Nonetheless, I’d suggest going with conventional current in this instance and limiting sodium to the recommended range. By the way, a good Primal diet devoid of processed foods slashes sodium automatically, given that more than 70% of the average American’s sodium intake comes from processed food. Furthermore, most Primal people find that their taste for salt tends to “self-regulate” (meaning they add salt when they sense they need it and avoid salty foods when they don’t). I don’t think it’s worth stressing over every grain of Na, but use it as a general benchmark, and keep up your potassium levels to keep the full picture in balance.

Nuts

As regular readers know, I love my macadamias, and I do a small handful of nuts or nut butter equivalent a few times a week. They’re powerhouses of protein, fat and minerals, B-vitamins and the like. As I discussed in a post some weeks ago, some nuts do contain a fair amount of omega-6. Although I don’t think it’s reason to avoid nuts, it’s enough to suggest the concept of moderation and a mind to overall omega-6/omega-3 ratio. If you have no sensitivities to nuts and avoid chemically treated/high heat roasted or oiled nuts, I think you can generally base your intake on the omega-6 content of the specific nut variety you enjoy. For most nuts, a small handful a day is fine. However, if you have a penchant for pine nuts or walnuts – or if you’re eating more than a couple large fistfuls of most other nuts each day – you might want to scale back. Macadamias are by far the best because they have the highest saturated and mono-unsaturated fat content with relatively low O-6.

Eggs

Yesterday’s seasonality post discussed angles of “excess” and moderation. Yolks: we love you. Egg whites? They’re the rationale for taking a break once in a while. As I mentioned yesterday, Grok likely gorged when he got the chance, but it wasn’t an everyday opportunity. My suggested “ceiling” on eggs has less to do with amount and more to do with frequency. (Although I don’t think anyone should go so overboard that eggs becomes their sole protein source or edge out variety in their overall diet.) Since some folks develop sensitivities to eggs (again, the whites and their natural antimicrobial powers specifically) over time, I recommend taking regular breaks (and cutting back if sensitivities begin to appear). Skip certain days each week or take a longer “vacation” now and then – especially if you notice yourself not feeling quite the same after those crustless Primal quiches.

Fiber

Another common question. If you eat a well-balanced Primal diet, you should be getting more than enough fiber to leave you in good shape. Ample and various veggies and a reasonable intake of fruits will offer your body plenty of natural and healthful sources of fiber, and I don’t see any reason to restrict these. You certainly don’t need the fiber in grains, however, and I think commercial fiber supplementation is totally unnecessary and likely detrimental in the long run. Visit GutSense.org for more info.

Cardio

As with a lot of things, upper limits on cardio vary from person to person. Obviously, there are a number of factors in play here, including regularity (how many days/week), duration (how long per session) and intensity (% of maximum heart rate). It also depends on your current fitness and whether your goals include competing. As my book suggests, low/moderate level cardio is great for anyone. Although I think 3-5 hours a week can work for most folks, I don’t think there’s much need to hold back here. (More IS better to a point, but that doesn’t mean you have to be moving every second of the day either.) As for intense cardio, I have said it’s unnecessary on a regular basis, although it’s OK to do once in a while. As I discuss in the book, even a single 30-minute session of intense cardio was enough to throw off subjects’ immune function as well as raise whole body inflammation levels for three full days. While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing a rigorous mountain trek every now and then (or a 10k race or whatever intense activity floats your boat), it’s not necessary to work this hard with any frequency to achieve all-around peak fitness. Do it as it serves your sense of fulfillment and adventure, but don’t force it just because CW tells you to run yourself ragged on the treadmill. Once every couple weeks is fine for longer (an hour+) intense sessions. For shorter bouts, I wouldn’t suggest more than twice a week. You’re better off working in an interval session, which leads me to…

Sprinting

I get the sprinting question now and then. How much is necessary? How much is too much? First off, I often do it once a week. If I’m really in the mood, I’ll do it twice (my Ultimate Frisbee game on Sunday involves a ton of sprinting, so I count that). Honestly I don’t think it’s necessary to do it more than that, and I wouldn’t recommend doing it more than twice a week. Primarily, your body wants to do its thing to recover sufficiently from the exertion. Just as significant, I think, is the unnecessary use of time. I’m all for shortcuts and efficiency. If sprinting more than twice a week doesn’t add much benefit beyond what 1-2 a week does, why waste the effort? Use the time for resistance training, some fun low level cardio/play or trying out new Primal recipes. Part of the PB’s beauty is its efficiency – using our time and efforts to give us the best return with less investment. Who’s really interested in high maintenance when there’s so much to do and so much fun to be had? Instead of “over-sweating” it, get out there and enjoy.

Have a great week everybody. Thanks for reading and for all the fantastic comments last time. I’ll look forward to reading your thoughts on this round.

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. @ Magouch:

    Funnily enough, Socrates, Plato and the ancient Greeks shaped thousands of years of Western thought with alcohol rather than coffee.

    To be more serious I’ve heard the enlightenment was the result of the rediscovery of the ancient Greek philosophers in Europe.

    Bushrat wrote on April 8th, 2010
  2. My Mom & Grandma always put a few grains of rice inthe salt shaker to keep it from clumping.

    When I switched to sea, black & Himalayan salts I just put a few grains of uncooked rice in my salt shaker with them & they never clump. I haven’t been able to find a salt grinder yet that works well – I have 3 broken ones in the cupboard (full of salt rocks).

    BTW – I have three salts because I couldnt’ decide which salt was better & they were almost the same cost per pound so I bought one lb of each & mixed them together in my salt jar.

    Sam wrote on April 8th, 2010
  3. For the past 30 years, I used to run and sometimes every day of the week. But then I developed knee problems. Then I started to walk and my knees are OK now. Then I learned how to race walk. I can go faster then when I used to jog. I only race walk about once or twice a week, but I really enjoy being able to walk faster than I can run.

    Werner Kujnisch wrote on April 9th, 2010
  4. my parents eat wayy too much salt!

    Usman wrote on April 29th, 2010
  5. If I didn’t eat nuts I couldn’t eat Primally. Honestly, if we do so much other good stuff in our diets, eating nuts is fine.

    Meagan wrote on April 10th, 2011
    • Me too. I don’t know how I’d manage to get enough fat if it wasn’t for nuts and nut butter, since I don’t want to live off cheese, my parents get mad when I eat “way too many” eggs, and due to financial reasons I haven’t been able to eat a whole lot of high quality fatty meat, mostly just lean canned tuna and salmon, but as of yesterday I’ll be eating tons of liver since I found out it sells cheap. About $2.50 – $3.00 for a big hearty meal!
      I think I’ve been eating a bit too much fat lately though since I’ve been eating primal a little over two months and after an initial decline in body fat and muscle in the first few weeks I started eating more protein and along with it a lot more fat to regain and maintain muscle mass and now I’m pretty sure I have a higher body fat percentage than before starting to eat primal.
      My foot is currently too injured to do any running and I’m too broke to afford a bike.. can’t wait until my parents buy me one or get new tires for one they’ve had just sitting in the garage. I need to do cardio, soon!

      Tim wrote on April 10th, 2011
  6. I have been keeping a small bag of mixed nuts and dried fruit in my purse. When I run errands, I tend to skip lunch have some nuts and drink from the water bottle I always keep in my car. But, I have been eating 2-3 handfuls..with my intent to lose weight I will need to cut down. I will skip a meal if needed and keep the nuts as a treat for the weekends.

    As for eggs, since I volunteer at a CSA, I am getting farm fresh eggs, getting lots of sun and excercising Primal. I have been attending Zumba classes for 3 years, the dancing makes me feel sexy, but after all that chronic cardio, the weight was not coming off. So I am changing to strength/resistance and flexibility training.

    I am doing an IF, even thought I have a strange rash on my neck I have lost 5 lbs and feel detoxified. I look forward to reading many more posts. Oh yes, the coffee, only heavy cream and honey, use to add Coffee Mate creamer AND Splenda. My goal is to be strict paleo by next year.

    Katia Saenz wrote on May 6th, 2011
  7. Dear Krishnaji,Thank you very much for sending brief news about Ghandruk, it cntariely has given us pleasure to know what is going on in Ghandruk.I was born and bred in Ghandruk but due to global migration, currently living in the global village in the UK. As such I am always endeavoring to keep myself up to date with the news and views about Ghandruk. The step you have taken is good for those people living abroad. If you would kindly send us such brief notes at least every six months would be great?Thank you so much.Warmest regards

    Yusuf wrote on March 15th, 2012

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