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 story. I have also struggled with congestion, even after avoiding allergic foods.

    I will look closer at nuts and other O6 oils.

    Question regarding Omega 6 oils. I usually read about them being inflammatory, but if you look up olive oil, avocado oil in a nutrition data base that scores inflammation, both of these have very high anti-inflammatory scores. Yet coconut oil shows to be pro-inflammatory.

    I am looking to reduce joint and muscle pain along with loose weight, so I am trying to figure out which oils to avoid, and which to include. Thanks for any responses on this.

    Again, great inspiring story, it helps to see that pro-athletes also struggle with health sometimes like the rest of us, good job in being persistant to figure it out!

    nopavement wrote on December 31st, 2011
  2. You look awesome. As a competitive martial artist, this story was great to read. I’m told even by my instructors that I’m not eating the right things to be strong and energetic, as they espouse a traditional Chinese diet. People tell me that I don’t need to lose weight and ask why I’m on a diet – they don’t understand that it’s not a diet but a lifestyle and we eat this way to live well and fight hard. I’d rather have the steak and veggies than the white rice filler!

    Grok on brother!

    Pen wrote on January 13th, 2012
  3. I immediately recognized you from The Ultimate Fighter tv show. Way to go and glad you got your health in order.

    Trav wrote on February 25th, 2012
  4. What’s up every one, here every one is sharing these know-how, therefore it’s fastidious to read this web site, and I used to visit this blog all the time.

    losing a double chin wrote on June 18th, 2012
  5. Nice article ! I would like to see more of them about the relation between Paleo & martial arts.

    The Fighters Diet wrote on September 17th, 2012
  6. The fact that your eczema got better is amazing. I actually went through the same thing on my hands. If I eat anything fried in vegetable oil, pasteurized milk (I haven’t tried raw milk actually), or grains, my hands disintegrate into a flakey blistered mess. This is the only website that I have come across that told the stories of people who have gotten rid of their eczema.

    Corey wrote on March 20th, 2013

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