The popular story of how low-carb diets work goes something like this: Reducing your carbohydrate...
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
Every day we’re barraged by “good ideas”—all the things we should be doing with our lives and could start doing today if we really cared enough. Too much advice can overwhelm us, and, more importantly, it can inflate the power of “should.” It can cement an insidious (and, in my experience, ineffective) framework in our minds. We risk framing every choice—from work to pleasure—as an obligation. Doing so burdens life with a constant sense of onus, constraint and deprivation—not exactly the stuff of grand motivation. In my experience, we aren’t in for much fun or long-term success with that brand of approach. Luckily, there’s a better way to talk to ourselves.
If you follow health news, you might be thinking exercise doesn’t matter when you’re trying to lose weight. Vox just published a big piece showing how useless exercise alone is for weight loss. The NY Times says “eating less” is way more effective than “exercising more.” Obesity researchers like Gary Taubes and Yoni Freedhoff—who don’t agree on much else—both think using exercise to fix obesity is futile. I’ve always said that 80% of your body composition is determined by your diet, not how you exercise. And everyone knows it’s really hard, bordering on impossible, to out exercise a bad diet. You might be able to out exercise a bad diet if all you care about is abs and race times and make it your job, but eventually your poor health will catch up with you.
That doesn’t mean exercise doesn’t matter for weight loss, though. It does.
We’ve heard it a million times: “Eat a well-balanced diet with everything in moderation.” After all these decades of clear failure, it’s a hazy cliché still delivered by physicians, dietitians and nutritional “experts” with earnest assurance. The same goes for exercise and stress. Moderate amounts of stress are okay, moderate cardiovascular work is good, etc. We accept the concept of moderation so readily, I think, because it sounds so rational and simple. If we follow common sense, moderation suggests, we’ll be fine. But if it were that easy, most people would be healthy—and statistics on the rising rates of obesity and chronic illness tell us otherwise. So what’s the problem?
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answer two questions from readers. First, does Bikram yoga qualify as sprinting or high intensity training? It’s certainly intense, and it’ll make you sweat bullets and work hard to the point of nausea, but does it actually accomplish the same training effects as sprinting or intervals? Find out down below. Next, you often hear that body fat is the main repository for environmental toxins. This is true, but does that mean the body “holds on” to body fat to prevent systemic dispersal of the toxins it contains? Can stored toxins make losing body fat harder that it already is?
All fats are not created equal. We know this because we’re constantly correcting people who get it wrong. There are good fats and bad fats and really really bad fats and fats that are conditionally good or bad. Butter isn’t corn oil isn’t fish oil isn’t monounsaturated fat isn’t palmitoleic fat isn’t linoleic acid. Sometimes trans fat isn’t even trans fat. The same thing applies to the fat on your body. Depending on its location and composition, healthfulness isn’t distributed equally among adipose tissue. Some types of body fat are worse than others.
Fat is an endocrine organ. Like any other organ, it secretes hormones and other bioactive compounds that affect our physiology and determine our health.
Men I know. I am one, after all. Have been for many years. For the most part, I enjoy it. It’s worked out really well for me. I don’t find it particularly difficult to be a man. Once I dialed in the basics of this Primal stuff, my health improved and my fitness became more well-rounded and applicable to the things I enjoyed doing. I haven’t struggled much. But many people do. And while the majority of Primal advice is geared toward humans in general, I’ll just get this out of the way early: These “men’s tips” all apply to many women, too. And many of the “women’s tips” from last week’s post also apply to men. But ignoring the gender-specificity of general trends serves no one. Everyone has the capacity for competitiveness; men tend to have more. Both genders can benefit from fasting, but women are more likely to have negative responses. Men and women both need sleep; lack of it hits women harder. That’s all. As always, if you recognize yourself in these tips, go for it!