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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Dear Mark: Transdermal Magnesium and Vitamin D/B12 Products for a Vegetarian

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering two questions. The first one concerns transdermal magnesium. Does it work? Can magnesium actually permeate the skin and enter circulation? Probably. And for the last question, I provide a bunch of examples of natural products—foods and behaviors—that can increase vitamin D and B12 levels for an ailing vegetarian.

Let’s go:

Mark, what’s your two cents on transdermal magnesium? I take between 200-600 mg mag glyconate daily. I then add mag chloride via ‘magnesium oil’ to my shoulders and anywhere my muscles are tighter than usual. Anyone else use the mag oil or gel?

I like it.

If you rely solely on the scientific literature, there isn’t a ton of strong evidence. But there is evidence.

In one study (PDF), subjects took daily 12-minute epsom salt (containing magnesium sulfate) baths for a week straight. After a week, magnesium levels had risen significantly in most subjects. Those who’d already had replete magnesium levels saw their urinary excretion increase, suggesting that excess magnesium does get absorbed but not retained. Epsom salt baths also provide bioavailable sulfate, a hugely important but underappreciated mineral in our physiology.

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Dear Mark: Meditation for Neuroplasticity, Astragalus, and Red Light Therapy

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions from readers. First, did I mess up by not mentioning meditation in the neuroplasticity post? Yes, and you’ll find out more below. Next, what are my thoughts on taking astragalus for fighting off colds and flus? Does it work? And finally, does red light therapy have the potential to reduce chronic pain? Does it do anything else?

Let’s go:

I’m sorry that meditation is not mentioned, but magic mushrooms are. Meditation increases white matter in the brain (which influences efficiency of electrical signals in brain), and lessens shrinkage due to age. Meditation also has a positive influence on the preservation of telomere length and telomerase activity (when these shorten, we experience adverse aging effects). I would much rather do it the natural way (via meditation) than taking a chance with hallucinogens.

Susan Grace

Thanks for your comment, Susan. This is why I love my readers. They call me out.

Everything you say is true. Meditation is a powerful trigger for neuroplasticity.

Mindfulness meditation can undo stress-induced changes to connectivity in the amygdala (the “fear” center).

Experienced meditators show enhanced neural plasticity and even structural changes to the brain (both gray and white matter).

Like seemingly everything else out there, the relationship between meditation history and neuroplasticity follows a U-shaped curve. Beginners show less neuroplasticity activation than more experienced meditators, who show more activation than advanced meditators. How can this be?

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Dear Mark: Social Contact and Neuroplasticity; Extra Protein and Muscle Gain

As you all know, one of my favorite parts of doing this blog is the constant, unyielding, uncompromising feedback I get from readers. When I make a mistake, or overlook a crucial piece of a puzzle, someone tells me where I went wrong or provides that missing piece. For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’ll be addressing two emails from readers who took me to task for things I missed on this week’s posts.

The first comes from Simon, who had a great suggestion for increasing neuroplasticity. The second comes from Jen, who highlighted a new study shedding light on the effect of extra protein on muscle gains.

Let’s go:

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Dear Mark: How Often Should I Supplement with Turmeric?

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m talking about turmeric. Last week, I made an off-handed recommendation that people not eat high doses of turmeric, prompting a great question in the comments. Are there actual dangers to turmeric consumption? Is there something you folks should know? Does something perilous lurk within that yellow powder in your cupboard?

Not exactly, but I did make that recommendation for a reason. Let’s find out why:

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Dear Mark: Is a High-Carb, Low-Protein Diet Best for Longevity?

For today’s Dear Mark, I’m answering a question about the optimal diet for longevity. An article sent in by a reader claims that a recent mouse study has identified the perfect diet for everyone, but especially for older people: a high-carb, low-protein one. They even manage to throw in some stuff maligning the paleo diet (they just can’t resist).

Find out below if the claim holds water. Let’s go:

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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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Dear Mark: Salt Room Therapy; Can’t Sleep After Training

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering two questions. First, what’s the deal with salt room therapy? Are there actual benefits, particularly for dermatological and respiratory conditions, to sitting inside a room as aerosolized salt wafts over you? Second, what can a reader do who absolutely can’t get to sleep after training at night? Postworkout insomnia is a real drag, and it will impede your gains, so this is an important topic. Luckily, there are a few things to try.

Let’s go:

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Dear Mark: Does Cupping Work?; Do I Need More Protein?

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering a couple questions from readers. The first one concerns cupping, the controversial therapy used by dozens of Olympians, including most notably Michael Phelps. What does it do, if anything? How does it work, if it even works? And then I discuss the need for increased protein intake in the context of losing lean mass. We want to lose fat, not lean, remember, and there’s evidence that increasing your protein intake can preserve lean muscle. Especially when you’re exercising a ton and eating low-carb.

Let’s go:

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Dear Mark: Swimming Tips; High Weight, Low Reps vs High Reps, Low Weight

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering two questions. First up are some swimming tips for a novice swimmer who read last week’s post and wants to incorporate swimming into the schedule. What strokes to learn? What workouts to try? I also discuss the downsides of chlorinated pools. Next, a new study claims that whether you lift heavy weight for low reps or lift light for high reps has no effect on strength or size, so long as you go to failure. Is this true?

Let’s go:

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Dear Mark: Dairy Inhibiting Magnesium Absorption, Trampoline Training, and Max Aerobic Heart Rate

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions. First, does dairy inhibit magnesium absorption, thus negating the utility of adding blackstrap molasses to milk? There’s a good deal of evidence that points to a probable answer. Next, is mini trampoline training actually good for you, or is it just a silly way to pass the time and look ridiculous (or all of the above)? And finally, how should someone calculate (and train under) their max aerobic heart rate?

Let’s go:

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