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...Tell Me More
I love Mondays. Maybe it’s because I actually like what I do and Dear Mark posts are the easiest and most enjoyable to write, but I get a good feeling whenever a new week rolls around. A new batch of questions, a new series of posts, tons of new content all over the web. It’s like the Primal world gets a reset. Yeah, Monday gets too bad a rap, in my opinion. We should take it back. Own it. Reclaim it! What say you, readers?
Okay, enough of that. On to the questions. This week, I try to help a reader with food choices during his Ramadan fast, discuss excessive amounts of omega-3 supplements, address the Warrior Diet, and attempt to find a replacement for bread dipped in oil and vinegar.
I followed the primal lifestyle for 6 weeks and broke through my plateau barrier weight of 82kg which have been struggling to do for 10 years.
Ramadan is com in up in August where Muslims worldwide abstain from food and water before sunrise until sunset. Could you please advise of foods you would recommend to remain primal during Ramadan?
A typical Ramadan would involve me eating oat porridge and bread for my early breakfast but that was last year.
Your advice would be much appreciated.
Ps. I bought the primal quick and easy meals cookbook from Amazon and thought it was great.
A big fan.
I’m glad to hear you broke your plateau and enjoyed the cookbook. Plateaus are tough to deal with, and knowing the PB helped beat another one gives me inspiration. So thanks! As to your question, I would focus on several criteria when choosing your food: micronutrient density and potential for satiety.
One of the big draws of fasting is that it forces a shortened eating window, which can be extremely helpful for people who need that kind of structure. Couple the eating window with the positive hormonal effects induced by fasting and you’ve got yourself a potent weight loss tool. If you’re not careful with your food intake, however, the shortened eating window associated with fasting of any kind can lead to nutrient deficiencies. Some people simply don’t eat enough food, which makes it more difficult to get the vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients our bodies require to work the way we expect them to work. And then, with a serious, long term, highly regimented fasting protocol like Ramadan, the danger for malnutrition is that much greater. The eating window in Ramadan isn’t a spurious thing to be cast aside just because “you got hungry,” like you can do with a regular fast. You “have” to follow it, if you wanna do it right – and it lasts for an entire month.
Essentially, you want extremely nutrient-dense foods that will keep you fuller for longer. You’re not going to be able to cram as much volume in, nor will you be able to spread it out, so you’re going to have to make each food choice count. I’d get a nice whack of protein at each meal, especially in the morning, alongside some fat. There’s nothing like fat and protein together for keeping you sated. Some sort of roast would work well; slow cook a big hunk of animal every few days and have it ready to go when you’re able to eat. Keep a diverse collection of quick cooking, nutrient-dense, calorie-scant green vegetables on hand – spinach, chard, kale, broccoli – that can be easily cooked in olive oil, butter, or some other fat and be ready (and totally digestible and bioavailable) in five minutes. Don’t get too elaborate. Instead, keep your meals extremely simple, tasty, and consistent. Nail down a menu that hits all your nutrient requirements and stick to it.
Thanks for your website and efforts. It really is excellent and I really appreciate all the work you must put in.
Is it possible to take too many omega three supplements?
Thanks for the kind words! It’s a lot of work, true, but well worth the effort.
It is possible to take too many omega-3 supplements. First of all, it’s a polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) and, like all PUFAs, extremely prone to oxidation. Leave a bottle of fish oil open on the counter, exposed to air, light, and ambient temperature, and it will rapidly oxidize. Once it’s oxidized, fish oil becomes pro-inflammatory (rather than anti-inflammatory) in the body. It also tastes really, really bad, so you know not to eat it. Problem solved? Usually. Avoiding already-oxidized omega-3s is paramount, but that same thing can happen to the omega-3s inside your body if you eat an excessive amount, even if they were untouched and pristine going in. One study found that supplementing with omega-3 fats provided little to no benefit in patients with mildly elevated cholesterol, but it did make their LDL cholesterol more susceptible to oxidative damage. Oxidized LDL, as you probably already know, are strongly associated with heart disease. The fragile omega-3s, having been incorporated into the LDL, were putting the entire operation at risk.
Too much fish oil also thins the blood. This can be of benefit to heart disease patients with the opposite problem, but a large daily dose of omega-3s might be problematic and increase your chances of excessive bleeding. The risk is mostly theoretical and reports thus far remain anecdotal, since the most recent comprehensive review of the literature (PDF) found that doses up to 21 grams per day of EPA/DHA in the short term were safe and resulted in zero bleeding complications, but I’d still be wary of doses anywhere near that high – especially long term.
I wouldn’t worry too much about taking too much omega-3. Instead, just keep total PUFAs relatively low and focus on getting that omega-6 content as low as you can, so you don’t have to supplement a huge amount of omega-3 to balance out your ratios. If you find yourself popping tons of fish oil capsules, there’s probably something seriously wrong with the rest of your diet – so get that taken care of first, and the omega-3 issue will sort itself out.
Have you ever heard of the warrior diet/anti-oestrogenic diet?
The simalilarities between these and the paleo approach are incredible: intermitent fasting, cutting carbs and eating more veggies to name only a few. These guys have basically discovered how to get amazing results using a very similar diet.
Could we have found a new group of friends in the diet comunity? What are your views on this?
Hamish Warren, UK
I’m somewhat familiar with the Warrior Diet, and I mostly like what I’ve heard. Ori Hofmekler, the author, recommends a pretty Primal list of foods. He’s against modern, processed stuff, and lists wheat as the “worst grain.” Like the PB, the Warrior Diet takes a soft stance on carbohydrate intake, recommending lower-glycemic fruits and vegetables in general but leaving the door open for higher intakes if you need them. You’ll often hear it reported as a daily fast with a single large meal at night, but that isn’t entirely accurate. You snack lightly throughout the day on things like fruit, vegetables, and the occasional nut, keeping your hunger at bay while never reaching the fed state. This could be a good way for people interested in IF to get their feet wet without committing to a full fast. Overall, it seems pretty congruent with the Primal lifestyle.
Did you have any questions about a specific aspect of the diet?
I really miss dipping chunks of bread into olive oil and balsamic vinegar! Any suggestions? What else could I dip that would be as satisfying?
Good question. I, too, was a big fan of dipping bread into oil and vinegar (still am and I’ll enjoy a bite or two if I’m at a nice Italian restaurant with good bread. Any more than that and I pay the price). Unfortunately, nothing can quite recreate the experience. Still, here are some options I enjoy:
Readers, have you given up on bread/olive oil/vinegar altogether, or have you found a satisfying Primal substitute?
That’s it for today. Thanks for reading, I hope my words were worth your time, and keep the questions coming!