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

Mixed Martial Arts Fighter Goes Primal

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

My name is Abe Wagner. I’m 31, 6’4” and 250 lbs. I pay my bills by fighting other large men in a cage in front of a crowd. My journey to the Primal Blueprint way of life was somewhat long and round about. I was originally introduced to the paleo diet concept through Crossfit. To say my understanding of the key concepts was flawed and incomplete would be an understatement. In retrospect, I was on what is commonly called the “fail-eo diet”. I was still trying to “stay low fat”…you know, for the health of my heart. Wow, I couldn’t have been more off! I was also getting the majority of the fat I was eating from nuts (read Omega-6). Needless to say it didn’t work out too well, and while my body composition had improved, I felt like crap all the time and had no energy, which eventually led me to declaring that the way of eating didn’t work.

A few months later, in December of 2010, I happened upon Mark’s Daily Apple and began reading. I decided to try that way of eating out again, but this time with a better understanding of how the Primal way of eating works and the roles and effects that different foods have. I have been eating this way since then, so I guess about 10 months. The results have been incredible!

From a health standpoint, for years I struggled with respiratory issues. I would literally spend the first half hour of every day producing mucus from my chest and have to stop between rounds of MMA training to spit crap out. I had tried everything: allergy medication, allergy shots, heart burn medication, acupuncture and homeopathic treatments. I had been to pulmonary specialists that could slightly improve the symptoms, but never give me 100% relief. I would be on antibiotics to clear up whatever infection there was in my chest and I would improve, but not get all the way better. And so I was literally on antibiotics every other month for 7-8 years. That’s no way to live. Now, knowing the role Omega-6 plays in inflammation on a cellular level, and given that I haven’t had any chest/mucus issues since switching to the Primal way of eating, it’s not surprising that my chest was chronically inflamed and always making mucus. I notice on days that I make exceptions to my diet (like maybe eating something fried in vegetable oil), the issues start to return and that’s all it takes to remind me that this is how I need to eat for the rest of my life. So Primal eating has literally kept me from having these chest issues for almost a year now. Mark’s analogy of “digging a hole so you can put a ladder in it to climb up to wash the basement window” really hits home for me when I think about all the medical treatment I received for the problem when all I had to do was stop eating processed vegetable oil.

Also, I had a case of eczema on my face that I had to use a prescription cream on twice a day to prevent it from getting all red and flaky. The active ingredient in said cream is an anti-inflammatory steroid. Again not surprisingly, this problem has cleared up now that I’m managing my inflammation on a cellular level by improving my O3/O6 ratio.

All that being said, where the rubber meets the road for me is athletic performance, after all its how I pay my bills. The better breathing from not being congested all the time went a long way to start with, but it’s my energy levels and recovery that have really benefited from a Primal Blueprint diet. My endurance and explosiveness are measurably improved. After a two hour training session, my first thought used to be “if I don’t eat in the next 10 minutes, I might die.” Now I feel pretty much like I did at the start of the work out except sweaty. My body has been converted to powering itself off of fat (and I always have access to the fat on my body) instead of having to carb-up every 3 hours. Unexpected bonus: when being powered on carbohydrate, your body only has energy while you’ve eaten carbohydrate. This means that while you sleep, your recovery is slowed due to lack of energy intake. Now while I sleep, my metabolic processes are still humming along on body fat and I’ve noticed my muscle recovery has shortened by about 50%. Not surprising when you consider I’ve now effectively went from recovering 16 hours a day to 24. Also, my body feels less sore and achy after a day of being banged around by other fighters. I attribute this also to management of inflammation.

My overall body composition has changed only slightly since I was in fairly good shape prior to making the change. I only lost 5 lbs of body weight, going from to 255 to 250, but I lost 4” off of my waist. Originally I didn’t know how that could even be possible, but now taking into account the inflammatory effects of grains on your stomach and intestines, it makes sense. My waist shrunk not because of fat loss, but because the chronic inflammation in my intestines was relieved and finally went down.

(After Abraham KO’d Tim Sylvia)

Something that didn’t work for me was trying to stay at a 30/30/40 ratio of macro nutrients. Getting 40% of your calories from carbohydrate is A LOT of broccoli and cauliflower when you are as big as I am and eat as much as I do. I was much more successful once I shifted more to about 65/30/15 and started consuming much more fat.

I know a lot of people try this diet out for weight loss purposes and that’s fine and good, but I eat this way because it makes me feel better. It lets me perform better. I hate that it’s a given in our society that to eat “healthy” your food has to taste bad and that to lose weight, you had to be hungry all the time. I eat nothing but delicious real food, lots of it, 6000 calories a day (give or take, since I don’t really count all that much anymore). I never really feel that super-hungry feeling that I used to. I don’t fade at the end of workouts the way I used to. And I can breathe normally for the first time in years. The Primal Blueprint has been a big part of all of that.

Thank you,

Abraham Wagner

(Full disclosure: Abraham’s story goes to show that anyone, including elite athletes, can benefit from going Primal. After Abraham sent in his success story I offered to sponsor him with the Primal Blueprint Platinum Package. In exchange he’s going to help me spread the word to the MMA community.)

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. Great read Abe and I am completely amazed that you can take in that much food. Do you take in those 6000 calories in just three meals? Can you give us just one of your typical meals so we can get an idea of how you eat and more importantly balance your omega ratios?

    Drifter wrote on October 7th, 2011
    • I made a thread:

      I do suppliment fish oil, but most of the meat I eat is grass-fed and most of the fat I get is saturated. In my fridge, I have a selection of lard, tallow, and bacon grease all from naturally raised sources. I also buy tons of grass-fed butter.

      Abe Wagner wrote on October 7th, 2011
  2. Are you single?

    Ginger wrote on October 7th, 2011
  3. Great story. I’m sending this to my MMA-fighter wife for her to share with everyone at her studio.

    I’ve been eating Primally for about 3-4 months now, and I’m still dealing with a lot of congestion, especially in the mornings and at night. What’s the biggest cause of this typically? O3/O6 ratio? Too much dairy? Poor quality of otherwise okay Primal fare?

    I’d love to lick this head and chest congestion once and for all! Thanks for any feedback anyone has.

    Jeff Herron wrote on October 7th, 2011
    • Make sure you’re not getting trans fats in your 20%. I backslid a bit and was eating a lot of fries because I found a place that didn’t drop breaded things in the fry-o-lator. (I am gluten intolerant.) Big mistake. I started getting wicked congestion and migraines.

      A friend who used to work food service revealed to me that many places use “Lo-Melt” which is partially hydrogenated corn oil. I.e. inflammatory trans fats.

      If your 20% includes any kind of pastry, I also happen to know from bakery insiders that unless you made it yourself it most likely contains trans fats for greater shelf life. STAY AWAY.

      correcty fairy wrote on October 7th, 2011
      • One more horror story–a friend of mine who is a vet had some peanut butter and it made her feel funny, so she put it aside and asked me what I thought when I came over to visit. Her first theory was maybe it was the sugar or omega 6? Well, we went over the ingredient list a couple of times and I finally caught in very small print that it contained hydrogenated vegetable oil. IN PEANUT BUTTER. The label said “0 Trans fat” because it was under the 1 gram per serving USDA limit. It was not trans-fat free.

        Be careful out there, guys.

        correcty fairy wrote on October 7th, 2011
        • Keep in mind that the kind of natural trans fat in meat is not the enemy; it seems to have no negative health effects…
          (If I remember correctly the only natural trans fat is conjugated linoleic acid or its precursors… even beef brains have trans fat in them, in addition to having a whole bunch of brain-healthy cholesterol)

          mm wrote on October 11th, 2011
  4. Its been asked several times what a day might look like for me, so I made a thread in the Paleo for Athletes section of the forum.

    Abe Wagner wrote on October 7th, 2011
  5. Last comment from me on the hottness factor: I just hit “like” on his Facebook fan page! Now I can see those photos whenever I want!
    Now, back to the thread and ‘normal’ folks commenting on the success story…. 😉

    Kathy wrote on October 7th, 2011
  6. GREAT STORY! Wonderful to see the different reasons this lifestyle attracts and pays off for different folk.

    Hey Mark… I offered my story too. If you sponsor ME with the Primal Blueprint Platinum Package, I’ll spread your word into every nook and cranny I can find! DEAL? ;-p

    Wendy Behrend wrote on October 7th, 2011
  7. I would have waited until retirement to post this. You don’t want your opponents to know what’s giving you the edge.

    IvyBlue wrote on October 7th, 2011
  8. this might get my hubby on board… he has a lot of the chest congestion in the AM too.

    trista wrote on October 7th, 2011
  9. Loved seeing the Primal Blueprint logo on your shorts last weekend in the Bellator Fighting Championships. Thought you had Prindle on the ropes! Good luck in your future fight Abe.

    Slowcooker wrote on October 7th, 2011
  10. Thanks Abe for sharing your story. I came to the primal via my hubby who was just insistent that we try something to improve the way we were living. I knew we both had weight to lose, but I never wanted the weight loss to be the main part of the story. I think that you show exactly how and why the Primal lifestyle is just that – a lifestyle and not a diet. Congrats on feeling better and we will definitely keep an eye out for you in the octagon.

    Mrs. Griffin wrote on October 7th, 2011
  11. Wow that’s a great story and the pictures are totally hot! As an out of shape overweight beginner to this way of living I am blown away.

    Susan M. wrote on October 7th, 2011
  12. I’ve only been eating Primal for 7 weeks & the results have been amazing. Less weight, more energy & lower blood pressure. I love reading these success stories!

    aed00056 wrote on October 7th, 2011
  13. Great to read how this way of eating cleared up many of your health problems. And very nice pics! Good to see professional shots rather than shots people take of themselves in the bathroom! :)
    This way of eating and living helps in weight loss and/or maintenance and so much more. This is why I try to get my family and friends to follow this and give up grains, but of course they do not trying to hear that! :(

    Gayle wrote on October 7th, 2011
  14. Holy crap! I thought the “before” picture looked hot. Abe, you are an inspiration. This is absolutely awesome. 😀

    Diane the Purple wrote on October 7th, 2011
  15. Great story. I was glad to see an example of 65% calories from fat…yet being so lean. Like Abe, I sometimes come close to wavering and getting the fat down to 30% to get lean quicker…but find that it’s impossible to get the calories that way.

    “Fail-eo” diet…great term.

    peter wrote on October 7th, 2011
  16. That’s great to hear he’ll be spreading the word to the mma community. I’ve seen on countdown shows countless times fighters carb loading for their fights.

    packattack22 wrote on October 7th, 2011
  17. I didn’t think I was at all interested in MMA…but, Rowr! Great story and pics.

    Shebeeste wrote on October 7th, 2011
  18. Do you have any carb up day or cheat meal?

    anze wrote on October 7th, 2011
  19. Thanks for sharing your story Abe. It’s great that following the Primal thing has made such a big difference to your health.
    I just showed your photos to my husband, with a couple of complimentary comments naturally – he’s off to cook an omelette for breakfast & is digging out the weights from the garage!!! Inspired!

    Lolalola wrote on October 7th, 2011
  20. Now the Primal Community has an official bodyguard!!!!!!!

    Blair Taylor wrote on October 8th, 2011
  21. Awesome story! I have a sudden interest in MMA… lol =) when’s your next fight?

    Siren wrote on October 8th, 2011
  22. I used to take Kempo and clearly remember afterwards coming home and eating dinner(Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans, 2 servings of course) and then right before bed eating a salad bowl (not the servings bowls but the big giant bowl you make the salad in to server to other people) sized serving of Frosted Flakes and then would go to bed. Ahh being a teenager.

    I think why maybe eating Primal may be a hard sell to people that are relatively healthy and already in shape (I swear a lot of people on this site have some weird chronic problems and reactions to food) is because your saying people NEED to eat this way but they are like “why do I need to eat this way, I’m fine.” Plus what purpose does it serve their life at the moment? I mean I have any weird mucous or have panic attacks and pass out if I eat cupcake at a office baby shower or any pains that weren’t cause by some sort of blunt force trauma like crushing my skull on the roof of the entrance to the big slide at the playground because my adult body doesn’t need to be on it. I don’t run long distances and do crazy functional exercises only because I’m lazy and don’t want to but I’ve always been able to carry 10 bags of groceries filled with cans, jugs, bottled waters and heads of cabbage up a 3 floor walk-up up whilst carrying child, that was BEFORE I ever started BBing.

    I can still do my job without being Primal. I can still mother my children and run my household without being primal. I almost never go to the dentist and when I do and expect then to find 10,000 cavities they just say, you have nice teeth, and scold me about getting cleanings.

    And then of those people there are the ones that don’t necessarily want to be “ripped and lean” or even thin. In my circles people like booty and hips and boobies(childbirth took everything I had and deflated it so I personally said what the hell, I might as well get rid of it entirely) In a lot of the cultures that are lauded on this site by folks that still eat primal and live primal, you’ll notice a lot of the women(and some of the men) aren’t really super thin or lean. Some of them got lots and lots of junk in the trunk and jiggle going on in the front.

    It easier to attract already overweight or people riddled with health problems. I guess my biliary issues could have caused by my SA(black)D and the massive amounts of food I liked to consume but to be honest most of that seems to stem from the fact I wasn’t put together quite right in the womb (bicornuate uterus, dual urinary tract, and a gallbladder that was dead on arrival).

    And then to deny these people things like banana splits, waffles with syrup, cookies, cakes, oatmeal with sugar, cinnamon and raisins drowning in butter, rice, beans, corn??? Corn?? They are going to say, why the hell would I torture myself? I’m not fat, overweight and sick!

    But who knows, as I type this I could be developing breast cancer.

    Kia wrote on October 8th, 2011
    • “In my circles people like booty and hips and boobies”

      Real women have curves. Excess adipose tissue is quite a different matter.

      cave horse wrote on October 8th, 2011
  23. Great story – thanks for sharing (and posting Mark)! I’m still fighting off the phlegm too, but it’s getting better.
    My biggest problem is recovery – eating enough and well and still getting to sleep after. Thanks for sharing all the info & best of success in the ring!

    edward wrote on October 8th, 2011
  24. A bit of a stretch to attribute your waist shrinkage to o-6 inflammation. Maybe just too much roughage(gas/bulk) and irritation but inflammation from O-6?? Are you suggesting you had enteritis???

    Sounds too much like bro-science.

    Regardless, great story and congrats!

    Mason McClellan, LAc wrote on October 8th, 2011
    • I guess maybe I wasn’t clear in that I was attributing the waist line shrink to a combination of O6 issues (cellular level) and grain intake (direct irritation). Grains and other legumes that are forbidden when eating primally are known intestinal irritants. Swelling and inflamation is a common response to irritation. Removing the irritant should theoretically relieve the inflamation.
      Thanks bro.

      Abe Wagner wrote on October 8th, 2011
  25. Congrats Abe! I may start watching MMA purely due to a fellow primal, just sayin’!

    taratootie wrote on October 8th, 2011
  26. It’s funny, I literally have EXACTLY the same issues, as far as Exzcema on the face and upper respiratory infections.
    I also see a marked improvement when my paleo is on point.
    He doesnt mention any sleep issues, but as Mark emphasizes, I also see that when my sleep is good, alot of the respiratory stuff goes away.

    Great success story. This kind of performance enhancement from a top level athlete (along with Novak Jokavic, check it out if you don’t know) is very powerful stuff to convince people to get on an evolutionarily sound lifestyle.

    Ali wrote on October 8th, 2011
  27. Great story, Abe. Looks like I need to tweak my macros as well. I am pooped most of the day and not sleeping well. I’m not getting the recovery I need after my workouts all the time either. Thanks for re-igniting my hope in fats. I likely was relying too much on meat and nuts and not enough on other fat sources and vegetables. All the best.

    Myra Marshall wrote on October 8th, 2011
  28. WOW 😀

    Meagan wrote on October 8th, 2011
  29. Like Abe I went primal about 10 months ago. One thing that really struck me like it did Abe was that my muscles didn’t feel sore for days anymore after a hard workout. I feel less sore now after a hard workout than I did in my early 20’s when I trained football (soccer for you americans ) 4-5 times a week loaded with carbs from pasta and whatnot.

    Think I’ll have to follow some MMA now and check out Abe’s progress.

    Grok on from Sweden!

    Peter wrote on October 9th, 2011
    • I am speechless…So good-looking man- before and after paleo! There is a tennis player- Jokovich who also felt great after moving to paleo!

      Vessela wrote on October 9th, 2011
      • I know he went gluten free but I’m not sure if he went Paleo. Those are not exactly the same…

        Magda wrote on October 10th, 2011
  30. I am 21 years old, an MMA fighter and an Oyama Karate us open Kumite champion. that is me in my avatar. I have been put on anti biotics mostly z pack and biaxin for respiratory infections every other month for as long as I can remember now, never fully getting rid of whatever I have had. i have been completely OCD about eating pro biotic and anti oxidant as to combat these terrible anti biotics i HAVE to take to function. It has been incredibly discouraging not to be able to fully commit to my martial arts the way I have wanted to because of getting sick all the time. it is also emberassing and debilitating, i am also a male model and just recently shot for a very big campaign.. once again starting to get sick in my lungs right before it, went to the doc at this point i just say gimme a z pack… so this time around though my body i think really had enough of it. my glands and lymph nodes had become swollen and it was scary, but i tried to ignore it and shot for the campaign.. i had also just found out about paleo and primal blueprint and commited to it in hopes it might help my lungs then when i got home, the swelling of the lymph nodes and glands got worse (i do not blame paleo in any way for this. in all honestly i naturally ate paleo pretty much just cut out any dairy and grains).. the doctors thought i may have lung cancer or hodgkins lymphoma it was very scary. thank god no cancers, it is a suspected allergy triggered asthma i have had my whole life (or something, i have to go to the allergy doctor now) i am eating 100% paleo now and after such a scare there is no question of self control etc that is easy for me, i am taking EPA-DHA=2:1 ratio 400 mg epa 200 mg DHA morning and night, a multi vitamin in the morning and 1000 mg flax seed oil 3x a day. ZMA before bed. Also for right now the doctor has me taking allegra and drinking as much water as possible till we figure out exactly what is wrong with me. the swelling has started going down in my glands and lymph nodes finally. My question if anyone can help is basically, WHAT ELSE CAN I BE DOING?? AM I TAKING THE CORRECT FISH OILS? SHOULD I STOP FLAX SEED OILS?. my dream my whole life has been to train in a mountain in solitude for months like masutatsu oyama had done and musashi miyamoto, i am a very spiritual person and accept mother nature as my god and do the best i can to not take these anti biotics but i get so sick it is unavoidable? up till now i have not been able to go train in the mountains in the winter because i always get too sick, i would definitely die of pneumonia. so if anyone has any tips, please. let me know.

    Caveronin wrote on October 9th, 2011
    • flaxseed has a low conversion rate to usable Omega-3, so I hope you’re not spending too much money on that.

      inflammation from food intolerances, if that is what you have, are a bit annoying; you could have an autoimmune reaction to just about anything so you need to get medically tested for allergies, even the unusual ones just in case…

      But it looks like you’re on the right track already…

      anti-oxidant supplements are a bit overrated and are either not able to function properly in your body or can cause slowed muscle growth and advanced aging by protecting damaged mitochondria that should have been autophaged… but that’s another story….

      mm wrote on October 11th, 2011
  31. my email is if anyone can personally help me, im really starting to go crazy now have been stuck in my house for weeks now and need to get healthy again.

    Caveronin wrote on October 9th, 2011
  32. just something to keep in mind

    carbohydrates = 4 calories per gram

    fats = 9 calories per gram

    Not only is it a long lasting fuel source, but it provides you with over twice the amount of energy per gram.

    michael wrote on October 9th, 2011
  33. Great post Abe, apart from the obvious great physic I great to hear the going all out primal has improved your health so much.

    It’s so easy to think you are eating primal when the odd nasty foods start to creep in.

    Best wishes


    kim wrote on October 10th, 2011
  34. I love this!! While seeing fat loss results is sensational, hearing about health improvements is seriously awesome! Thanks for sharing!! 😀

    gilliebean wrote on October 13th, 2011
  35. I?ll right away seize your rss as I can’t to find your e-mail subscription link or newsletter service. Do you have any? Please let me recognise so that I could subscribe. Thanks.

    Example Father of the Bride Speeches wrote on December 26th, 2011

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