Dear Mark: Alcohol and Training; Sitting and Standing; A Useful Workout

SnatchFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, we’ve got a three-parter. First up, I explain how alcohol consumption can affect muscle protein synthesis in a competitive weightlifter. Even what seems like a moderate dose can still affect how we recover from our workouts. Second, what should a person do if they really can’t stand standing at work? If the chair is looking really attractive after a morning workout, should we give in to our desire to sit or try to tough it out? The answer may surprise you. And finally, a friend of the blog writes in with a perfect example of a meaningful workout session that I just had to share with you guys.

Let’s go:

Hi Mark,

I’m a long time PB’er (almost 5 years) and do Olympic Weightlifting. I’ve read your various posts on alcohol and where it fits in for the average person.

Would an active athlete (who trains for competition) need to worry about consuming 2-3 drinks a week on rest days and could it affect protein synthesis?



Alcohol can negatively impact protein synthesis in a few ways. First, by disrupting your sleep. Alcohol increases deep sleep and decreases REM; REM sleep is where testosterone peaks, so it’s pretty darn important for optimal muscle protein synthesis. A lot of people self-medicate with alcohol to go to sleep because it makes falling asleep easier. And that’s the thing with alcohol and sleep: even if it feels like you’re sleeping okay after a few, because, hey, you fell asleep in like five minutes, you’re probably still not sleeping as well as you could. It’s sneaky.

Second, alcohol is potentially really bad for the gut. Ethanol directly increases permeability in epithelial cells, for one. And you know how our livers metabolize alcohol into the far more toxic acetaldehyde before breaking down and excreting it completely? Gut bacteria themselves metabolize alcohol into acetaldehyde, which can also cause tight junctions to grow more leaky. If your gut’s leaky, you’re not absorbing all the nutrients you eat – nutrients you need to turn into muscle and support your training and recovery.

Third, alcohol is incredibly dehydrating. Some researchers even attribute the lion’s share of the hangover to extreme dehydration. The worst part of alcohol-induced dehydration is that you’re not just robbing yourself of water. You’re also peeing out tons of electrolytes and other minerals like magnesium, sodium, and potassium that play huge roles in maintaining the hormonal environment necessary for muscle protein synthesis.

Fourth, alcohol taken post workout can directly impair muscle protein synthesis, reducing the rate by almost 40%. That was binge drinking, or a stiff drink taken every thirty minutes. Drinking on a rest day could be less inhibitory than drinking immediately after a workout, but the recovery period continues on throughout the rest day and the potential for impairment exists.

All that said, two to three total drinks spread out through the week on rest days is probably fine. Two to three drinks every rest day might not be a good idea.

Still, you’re a competitive athlete. You might try a month of no alcohol whatsoever – not even on rest days – to see if your performance improves. I suspect it might offer a leg up on the competition. It’s certainly worth a shot. Consider it a personal challenge from me to you, Rocky. Let me know how it goes if you decide to do it.

Hi Mark,

I managed to convince my work to give me a stand up desk – one of the desks that you can raise and lower throughout the day. I was enjoying working up to spending at least half of the day standing up and enjoying all of the benefits of standing. Then I joined a CrossFit style gym and started doing some heavy training including leg weights, often in the early morning before work. Now after about half an hour of standing at work I start to eye my chair enviously and once I give myself an opportunity to sink down, I find that there is no more getting up – my legs just want to rest! Even on the days that I don’t specifically work my legs I find it harder to stand for long periods after a gym session.

So my question is – do you think that I am doing myself a disservice by thrashing myself at gym and then sitting the rest of the day? Or would I be better off with a lighter workout and then standing for at least half the day?

Really appreciate it


I used to come down really hard on sitting. It was hard not to with all the evidence coming out against it, especially the research showing that not even exercise can counteract all of the negative effects. But as of late, Vicki, my thinking has evolved on the issue. It’s not that we should avoid sitting altogether. It’s not that we should stand all the time. We should avoid sitting or standing for extended, unbroken lengths of time. Stasis is the problem. Our bodies are not designed to remain immobile through space-time. We need to move.

And I’m not necessarily talking about walking and jumping and lifting things, although that’s important, too. It can be little movements that add up to make the biggest difference.

Fidget. Shift stances. Move. Shuffle your feet. Stand up and stretch, reaching to the sky (or the overhead fluorescent lighting, as the case may be). Squat down to pick up a dropped pen, even if it’s imaginary. Walk to the cooler. Walk to a colleague’s office. Swivel in your chair. If you’re lucky enough to have one of those spinning office chairs, take advantage of it and spin; try both directions.

Here’s a day that’s better than just standing in one place: Stand for twenty, sit for thirty, go walk to get a sip of water, sit some more, stand for awhile, walk to a nearby park to eat lunch, take the stairs on the way back (and a few times more; run a few, too), come back and sit, fidget, stand up a few times, take the stairs to the 7th floor bathroom that no one ever seems to use, and sit/stand/sit for the last few hours. Then you’re done, you’re home, and you don’t feel like a slob because you sat all day or tried to stand before collapsing into a puddle of regret and shame.

And yeah, on a heavy leg day, you might end up sitting more than standing. You might spend way more time sitting than standing or walking. That’s just your body telling you it’s tired and needs to take a load off, and you should probably listen. But you can still do the little stuff I mentioned above.

Whatever you do, just don’t stand still for too long, too often. Don’t stop moving. When we stop moving, we start dying.

This question comes at the perfect time because we’ve got a great new ebook and digital program on the way from Katy Bowman called Don’t Just Sit There that’s going to revolutionize the way you move, sit, stand, and work all day long. It’s changed the way our office works, for the better – and we were already way ahead of the curve with our standing/mobile workstations. I can’t wait to release it. You’re going to love it.

Okay, last one is a quick one.

The other day, my good friend Grant Petersen at Rivendell Bicycle Works emailed me with a great account from a day at the beach:

Hey Mark,

Yesterday I was at the beach, the most beautiful beach I know (McClure’s, in Point Reyes) and as my friend and I were about to hike up the hill out of it (dirt path, loose, narrow, what you get from footpaths to beaches in these parts), he saw a wheel with a truck tire on it. Rim and all, rusty and heavy, and he said, “I wonder how that got here.” It weighed about — well, I have no idea, but it was a grunt to get it vertical and I couldn’t have benched it or pressed it.

We pushed it up the hill for half an hour to a parking lot. I’m pretty sure it would have been there forever if we hadn’t.

Good post, good ideas.



Tire Push


That’s exactly what I’m talking about! You didn’t go to the gym. You saw an eyesore marring your favorite beach – an insanely heavy wheel inside a huge tire – and decided to roll it up a steep hill to remove it. You didn’t go to the gym. You did something useful, something utilitarian, and got a great workout in the process. The task was the workout. It had purpose. Quite literally, it was meaningful.

That’s what we’re all searching for, isn’t it?

Okay, everyone. I’m totally exhausted after a great weekend at PrimalCon Oxnard (which you’ll hear more about tomorrow). It’s time to crash.

TAGS:  dear mark

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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57 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Alcohol and Training; Sitting and Standing; A Useful Workout”

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  1. The tire halfway to the beach? It got there the same way you guys got it back to the parking lot. Next week, you’ll go to the beach, and find that tire half-way to the beach again! (snicker)

    1. I bet if you dug down deep enough, you’d find the rest of the truck buried underneath it. 🙂

  2. Anyone interested in starting the 21 day challenge? I need to get my A$$ in gear and would like to have sort of a accountability partner. We can communicate daily to check in and offer up encouragement when needed. Let me know.

    1. I’ll bite. I’m doing way too much “paleo-fying” sweets lately, and eating a lot of rice. When are you starting?

      1. Great! Officially today but I’ll extend it past the 21 days if you want to start in the next couple of days… I was doing pretty good at the end of last year but I just haven’t been discipline for a while now and I’m feeling it.

        Don’t know how we exchange emails or whatev on here. If you’re on linkedin my name is Ben Coburn and I work for Biomet ..

        1. I can start tomorrow! Great, I do so much better when I have an accountability buddy. I’m not on LinkedIn anymore. Actually, I don’t do much online networking anymore, but I do have standing accounts on facebook and google+. Do you have an account on Mark’s forum? My username is kitmao.

        2. Me too! It definitely helps having the support for sure… I don’t but I’ll jump on this evening and sign up and look you up. I’m about to catch a flight to OKC so I’ll connect with you later this evening. Looking forward to it

        3. Hey I live in OKC!!!

          Sorry. You know how it goes when someone mentions where you live…you get all excited…. O_o

          Good luck with your challenges Ben and Casey!

        4. Still trying to get there! Mechanical problems coming out of Minn. the joys of travel

    2. I will join you two too!!

      I’m mostly primal already, but I will start Monday and I will ditch the yogurt, milk and potatoes…..that’s about the only non primal I do right now…..except for that bowl of Count Chocula I ate last week….I never eat cereal but if you ate this when you were a kid you may be tempted to try it as it makes a limited time comeback for Halloween. Was not as good as I remembered it being!

      I’m even committing to eat some form of organ meat (uggh)…..just because I heard some Mark guy say it is SOoooooo good for me.

      I will sprint run twice a week.
      If there is sunshine I will spend some time in it.
      I will play.
      I will sleep 8 hours a night.
      I will Ditch all blue light one hour before bed.
      I will add to this list when I remember all the other things that are good for me!!

      1. Hey CM! You’re welcome to join us. I just joined the forum. SN is hoosier1791. Or you can find me on linkedin. How ever you guys prefer to communicate and keep each other motivated I’m cool with

        1. I think I would like to join you three, if I may? I definitely need some accountability.

        2. Absolutely. If you guys want to join the forum, we can have a ongoing daily dialogue to keep each other on track. My SC is hoosier1791 and Casey has hers above

  3. I’m just sittin’ here watching the wheels go round and round.

  4. “When we stop moving, we start dying.” That’s a t-shirt waiting to happen!

    1. Ha, that could be a bumper sticker. But, if I saw that on a car I would probably think in terms of sitting in traffic…

  5. Stretching is huge for me after long periods of doing anything. Whether it’s a long run, long walk, day of shopping, or a long time writing at my computer or sitting on the couch I need to stretch to relieve tightness and discomfort. I’ve always been sensitive to this and sadly it’s actually one of the reasons I hate going to the movies 🙂

    1. +1. I’ve always had a problem with tight muscles. Some of it is hereditary and some of it is just me getting older. I find that gentle stretching works much better for me than exercises that involve reps, all of which seem to aggravate my too-tight muscles.

      Sitting too long is disastrous. When I go to a movie I change positions frequently and flex my back a lot. This might be annoying to the people sitting next to me, but you can actually stretch almost every muscle in the body while seated. Doing so seems to prevent the stiffness and discomfort that would otherwise occur after I’ve been sitting for 2 hours.

  6. Awesome idea with the tire. No telling how many people walked past it and didn’t even think of the possibilities. If my normal walk route at work wasn’t so crowded I’d be doing pullups from the tree limbs as I walked…don’t need all the stares though.. People think I’m crazy enough as it is. 😉

    1. Haha that’s brilliant.. I find the deeper I get into the primal rabbit hole, I tend to forget that a lot of what I’m doing is very strange to the average person!

      It’s bizarre that stuff like that is considered weird, whereas spending 7 hours after work watching soaps and reality TV is perfectly normal!

      1. I used to do pullups on a tree branch in my local crowded park near work. People would stare and the street-folks would heckle me, but everyone got used to it after a while. Recently they pruned my pullup branch, so I had to put a chin-up bar in my office door. Now my co-workers stop by to do pullups and I heckle them if they don’t do full range of motion.

        1. I get the occasional curious person poking their head into my office exclaiming “you really do have a pullup bar, and what happened to your chair?” followed by “what’s with the shoes?”

          This morning’s workout was carrying a water-cooler bottle across the building. I’m starting to care less and less about what people think. However, if I ever show up to work wearing skins from animals I personally caught, would someone please let me know I’ve gone too far? 🙂

    2. I frequently have done leg lifts/leg raises/combos with either plus pull-ups. If the City of Scottsdale would stop CUTTING DOWN the perfect, accessible, crying-out-to-me tree limbs, I could keep doing it!! Sadly, they have no clue they’re taking away my fun and mid-day exercise!

  7. Love the “tire workout”. Another good one I did yesterday is “the sunflower pull”. Pull out all of your dead sunflowers without any garden tools. Person with the largest dirt/rootball at the bottom is the winner.

    1. Ha, my husband and I did a variation of this a week ago. We cut down four bushes (rather, wannabe trees) in the front of our house, then had to chop it all up and drag it out to all the bins in the alleyway. I was doing sprints with a wagon up and down the hill all afternoon. Yard work gives you lots of great workout opportunities!

  8. Love the wheel story. I felt the same way after carrying in the 42lb bag of cat litter. I got a little workout and the cat is very appreciative =^o^=

  9. Great stuff about sitting/moving in the daily hours in the office. Like this one – “When we stop moving, we start dying” 🙂

  10. I probably missed this, but has anyone heard how Mark’s no/less alcohol personal experiment is going? My nightly glass of red wine habit is kinda afraid to ask!

    1. No judgments, but how about it Mark? How is alcohol working/not working for you. Personally, I don’t indulge as I can’t drink like a lady or have one or two. Other people can.

  11. I have a standing workstation, a task chair and a swiss ball at work. On workout or sprint days I sit much more

  12. Great reminders here. I think it’s really hard to justify alcohol at all. It’s essentially like throwing gasoline on a fire inflammation wise. There’s a lot of proven benefits of red wine as far as polyphenyls and antioxidant content but you can get more from things like blueberries and even fresh herbs while avoiding the toxic effects of alcohol.
    A little bit of poison is still poison..


    1. I don’t disapprove of alcohol, but being sensitive to both brewer’s yeast and foods/drinks high in histamines, I have to avoid it. Actually, for me beer and wine are the worst. Two glasses of wine will literally make me sick.

  13. I turned my regular chores into exercise by getting rid of most of my motors. I have a fair bit of grass and bought a push/reel mower (a really nice one) and parked my riding mower. Instead of towing the inflatable island out to the middle of the lake with my boat I tied the lead onto my ankle and swam it there. I trimmed all my hedges with non powered clippers.

    I live next to a large pasture with a dead end road leading up to it and its downhill from there. Despite the fact that there are plenty of places that take used tires, there’s always an idiot that drives up there at night and rolls his old tires down the hill. Never seen one with a wheel in it though. I turned a bunch of them into a bridge to cross a stream that gets full enough in the rainy season that I can’t cross it. There are some great walking paths with a real nice view past the stream, and it’ll be nice to walk up there all year.

  14. For me quitting alcohol all together was the only way. I hit 1 year sober on the 9/19 and made amazing weight loss and strength gains.

    1. Congratulations, James! Every individual is just that – individual. You have to find what works best for you. Some bodies tolerate alcohol less well than others… I wish I could make one of my own friends see it. It takes a lot of self-knowledge, and a HUGE amount of self-discipline to do what you have done. And now, you should know that you can do whatever you set your mind to.

  15. I agree that alcohol can be detrimental to anyone who exercises a great deal, but so can a low carb diet. Some good info on this site, but low carb diets are really only appropriate for the obese, those with diabetes, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, etc.

    1. Primal is not about low carb. It is, instead, about high nutrition. Instead of eating carbs from grains, shift over to carbs from REAL foods, like parsnips, turnips, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, plantains, winter squash… etc. You will get better vitamins and minerals from these foods, since the vitamins and minerals in grain carbs (bread, pasta, cornbread) are tied up by the phytates and lectins, and never get into your system. If you are eating grain carbs and refined sugar foods, they are pulling the vitamins and minerals out of you. You can not be your healthiest self if you are eating those empty calories.

      1. Yeah but if you eat 100-150 g of carbs a day off of the foods you listed (and that’s modest for anyone who seriously exercises, weights and cardio), they will be ingesting almost the same in sugar, primarily in the form of fructose a day. This is why I see many women who eat primal and have lost muscle and gained even, not lost, fat. This is why bodybuilders have the diet they have, look at Rachel McLish, not your typical female. But not your typical primal diet either.

        1. I am not saying anyone should ingest a particular amount of carbs. The amount of carbs you need will of course vary with your individual makeup, and activity levels.
          I am just saying that IF you need more carbs, you are better off with carbs from vegetables rather than carbs from grains, because you will be getting more vitamins and minerals with them.

      2. I think the point that is trying to be made here from those discussing is, excuse my English, that to maintain muscle and be of a lean state, requires more carbs than a Primal state, you cannot eat sugary root vegetables and expect to maintain muscle and be lean. I too see a lot of over fat women, all on Primal lifestyle diets. And Primal is low carb compared to what exercising individuals take in. This is why so many women are over fat on Primal. Very few are low body fat indeed.

  16. Finally! The one and only thing I seem to do quite readily and easily, for my entire life, that is healthy (aside from sleeping) FIDGETING! Small victories 🙂

  17. Great post! I think Grok worked really hard to make his own alcohol, and got to enjoy it only rarely. I think ALL “treats” should be like that – enjoyed rarely. That way, they remain treats! (Rather than becoming bad habits…) But NO treats makes Jack a dull boy, and Jill a dull girl. So we should enjoy things like alcohol as a treat – once in a while.
    I am delighted to see Grant Petersen here!! He is another kindred spirit whom I admire and regard with gratitude! I guess I am a fan of things that are simple and natural – like the primal lifestyle, and like Grant’s style of riding. Grant is also a major fan and proponent of burpees… Grant was the first to make me aware of insulin resistance, and helped to boost my understanding of how to keep my insulin resistance at high levels. “Just Ride” is on my shelves, alongside “Primal Blueprint”…

  18. Can’t shut up tonight… About that tire… It’s a great kick to clean up a favorite spot! Good job, Grant! I used to stop a run to clear a log from a favorite running trail, when a tree or branch had gotten to the end of its time. It’s a totally different kind of workout – serious heavy lifting! And then the run afterward would feel fantastically light and free!

  19. How close to the beach was that tire? The hub looks like those typically on trucks here in Japan. Same with the Bridgestone TCOT tire. Makes me wonder if it’s debris from the 2011 tsunami.

  20. “When we stop moving, we start dying.” <– Love that quote! Also, the tire story is a great example of functional fitness. Love it!

  21. I feel so much better without alcohol. I stopped having a glass of wine in the evenings some time ago. It is so addictive, just like sugar. It doesn’t make sense to try and get away from sugar and keep drinking alcohol. I slept like a log, but I wasn’t refreshed in the mornings, my weight kept creeping up though being very active. I think sometimes people who work out use this as an excuse to cover up their addiction (“a drink is okay, I worked out hard”). If one finds it hard to not drink alcohol for about 3 weeks or so, I think one is already addicted – and this is what we all don’t want, right? If you are a competitive athlete then I believe alcohol would undermine your success in the long run.

  22. As you say, stasis is the problem. The number of patients I see with upper back and neck pain from just sitting at their desk all day…. Even just taking a break every hour to stretch, stand up, walk about, will make such a difference in posture and muscle tension