Dear Mark: Bodyweight or Barbells, Restaurant Traps, Primal Egg Coffee Stability, and Post-Exercise Insomnia

Vegetable OilToday’s Dear Mark is a four-parter with some fantastic questions (and passable answers, I hope!). First up, I answer a reader question from the comment section of last week’s Barbell Dogma post. Second, I discuss the number one nutritional trap of restaurant foods, and it has nothing to do with grains, sugar, or carbohydrates. After that, I field a question about the stability of the yolks in Primal Egg Coffee allowed to sit in a thermos for several hours. And finally, I present a few strategies for combating the insomnia resulting from a post-exercise late night cortisol rush.

Let’s go:

I’m a bit discouraged by this article. Mark’s PBF seems to say bodyweight is a great way to be strong, fit, and lean. But he clearly says in this article that barbell is the superior way to go – only he’d basically be more tactful in communicating that to people depending on where they are on the journey. I’m confused, is he basically saying if you can get access to barbells, you’re better off in the long run?

Sorry for the confusion, guys. Allow me to clarify my position.

If you’re interested in getting as strong and powerful as possible, you will want to incorporate barbells. If you’re a football player, powerlifter, weightlifter, or strongman competitor, you’re going to use barbells in your training. If you’re training to be an “elite athlete,” you’ll want to lift some iron bars with weight plates at either end.

That’s not everyone, though. Or even most people. If you just want to be fitter, stronger, faster, and healthier than your old self and the people around you while maintaining your mobility well into old age, bodyweight training is perfect. That’s exactly why I suggested it, and why I use it as the foundation for my own training: it’s effective, protective, adaptable, and totally mobile. Everyone regardless of age or health can benefit from it without consulting a professional or buying equipment. It can get you strong and fit “enough” (to play, to maintain mobility, to look good naked, etc).

Revisit Primal Blueprint Fitness if you haven’t in awhile. You’ll find that bodyweight training is recommended as the most inclusive form of strength training, but it’s not touted as the pinnacle. I even suggest that further progression with all the movements will require added weight, whether that’s a weight vest, a sandbag, or a barbell.

Everyone can benefit from barbell work, provided they can use them safely and their primary goal is more strength. Everyone can benefit from bodyweight training. That was the point of last week’s post – it (mostly) all works! There is no one answer. The answer depends entirely on your context: your goals, your mobility, your injury status, and a host of other factors.

We try to eat the right things at restaurants. What, in your experience or analysis, are some of the worst seemingly primal restaurant meal “traps”?

I’ve read as many of your blogs near this subject as I can, nothing seems to squarely address it.

How to Eat Healthy Dining Out seems closest but doesn’t quite talk about the dangers, or the seemingly-primal-but-aren’t traps.


The biggest, sneakiest offender is the seed oil most restaurant food swims in. The stuff is incredibly cheap and pervasive. Taste-wise, it’s pretty inoffensive unless your senses are honed to pick up on it. I can usually tell if something has been cooked in it. Fast food restaurants (even just driving past them) smell like burnt oil to me.

Grains are easy to avoid. Sugar, easy. But vegetable oil? Very hard.

You could get the Mongolian beef sans rice, think you’re made off like a bandit, only to end up consuming five or six tablespoons of soybean oil in a sitting.

You could get the steamed veggies instead of the fries, only to get a plate of broccoli and cauliflower that was soaking in a seed oil-based brine before steaming.

You could find an Indian joint that cooks “in ghee,” only to find out that the chicken tikka masala you ate was made with vegetable ghee, a trans-fat-laden partially-hydrogenated disaster.

I’ve got a good trick I sometimes use if the restaurant just won’t or cannot cook in butter, olive oil, or another safe fat: bring your own. Seriously, keep a little flask of good olive oil in your pocket. Or maybe a small jar of coconut oil, or a stick of butter. And if you really like the place and plan on frequenting it, ask the management if they’ll keep something on site for you. I used to have a great Thai place nearby that kept a big jar of coconut oil on hand for me. This way I could have all the delicious Thai stir fries I wanted without that awful omega-6 overload, and I could even call in ahead. I became known as “coconut oil guy,” a moniker I was proud to have. You’d be surprised at the number of places that will do something similar. Most restauranteurs are happy to help. But you’ve got to ask.


First of all, your work on this site and your books (etc.) is amazing – it was through MDA that I revolutionized my lifestyle and my health has only benefited, so a HUGE thank you to you!

I have a question: I have been taking a thermos of (decaf) Bulletproof Coffee to work daily, and I start drinking it anywhere from 10AM to noon. I prefer the taste of the Primal Egg coffee you wrote about recently, but I have not tried taking that in a thermos. Would the time sitting in a thermos (up to six hours) have any negative effects on the yolks?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.


There might be some minimal oxidation of the yolks. I mean, you expose fat and cholesterol to heat, oxygen, and time, you’re going to have some oxidation. Is it enough to worry about? No, not in my opinion. The real oxidative offender is spray dried egg yolks, where egg yolks are subjected to high heat, high amounts of oxygen, and high pressure.

Plus, the coffee should actually be a protective shield against oxidation. Coffee (even your decaf coffee) is imbued with tons of phenolic compounds that impede the oxidative process, and coffee (when consumed) has even been shown to decrease the oxidation of cholesterol particles in the blood by incorporating those same coffee phenols into the particles themselves. If coffee phenols can  make it into your LDL particles just by drinking them, I’d imagine that adding them directly to egg yolks would be even more protective. Adding other phenol-rich stuff to the coffee brew, like cinnamon, turmeric, or dark chocolate, could increase the oxidative stability even further, but I think we’re getting a little ridiculous. If anything, add those ingredients because they make your coffee taste really, really good.

If you’re still worried, you could be the really crazy guy around the office and add the yolks to the thermos right before you’re ready to drink. Amp the crazy up even higher and bring a stick blender with you.

I am loving the primal lifestyle so far, but have one thing I’m struggling with on the sleep front.

My play is hockey. I love it and it keeps me going. The challenge is the games are late at night and disrupt my regular sleep schedule (which because of work and family is early morning centric). I used to have a couple beers to help me fall asleep after hockey. Any alternative suggestions to calm down after a late workout (so it doesn’t take me 2 hours to fall asleep) and how to recover from 1 night a week of off cycle/shorter sleep?



Yeah, this is pretty typical. Any hard enough workout, like a hockey game, is going to raise cortisol, especially at night. Cortisol is the fight or flight stress hormone. It wakes us up in the morning and ensures we’re alert enough to handle ourselves. If it’s elevated at night, we’re going to have trouble getting to sleep until it normalizes. Luckily, there are some ways to reduce cortisol.

First of all, make sure you’re well-fed prior to and after games. Some folks in the Primal fitness arena pride themselves on fasted training. There are definite benefits to this, but also drawbacks. It may heighten the stress response to exercise, so your cortisol levels could be even higher after a fasted hockey game. When you get home, eat a good-sized meal. Get enough protein, fat, and carbs (which you’ve earned).

There are also supplements to explore. Phosphatidylserine is well known for blunting the cortisol response to exercise, so it might be your best bet at improving sleep by reducing cortisol. L-theanine, a component of green tea, is also be worth trying. In humans it induces relaxation and appears to lower the perception of stress. So even if it’s not objectively lowering cortisol, you’ll stress out less about the stress (if that makes any sense). As for sleep itself, in children with ADHD, L-theanine improves sleep quality.

You can also experiment with some calming, soothing, stress-busting teas. Several months back, I wrote a couple posts examining the evidence for twelve different ingredients. Check them out (here and here) and try a few. In Primal Calm, I’ve taken the best-studied of these herbs and ingredients (including L-theanine and phosphatidylserine) to form a very effective stress-busting supplement. It works incredibly well for me, and I’d suggest you give it a shot if you’re still having issues.

Consider meditation, which might be hard to focus on after a tough hockey game but definitely reduces cortisol. Are you cooling down after the games? If not, maybe a light movement session when you get home will help relax you. Just some stretching, some deliberate, slow, focused movement, and maybe even a bit of easy foam rolling.

That’s it for today, folks. Keep sending along the questions and thanks for reading!

TAGS:  coffee, 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.

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

55 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Bodyweight or Barbells, Restaurant Traps, Primal Egg Coffee Stability, and Post-Exercise Insomnia”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. I worked in a restaurant for years before I went into the healthcare field. You’re spot on about the oils used in restaurants. The oil is bought in large (cheap) jugs of the lowest quality. Not only that but (assuming most people wouldn’t order anything put through a deep fryer here) the oil is only changed out of the fryer once a day usually.

    1. I knew the owners of a local grease pit real well. If my memory is correct, they filtered their oil either daily or every few days, but they only changed it once or twice per week. Talk about a smell. It made me feel horrible just being around that smelly place.

    2. Matt,
      Not every restaurant is same 🙂
      But I liked Mark’s Idea of carrying Olive oil bottle when eating out!
      Nice article Mark!


  2. I would add a further question to the section on late night playing – but in this case the ‘playing’ is not sport but music. I often go out to ‘session’ – group playing of traditional music. Great fun, but always late in the evening and always hypes you up. However, the energy expended is mental rather than physical. So are there any variations on your above recommendations?

    Love your website – my only regret is that you didn’t start it 2 years earlier, when our family first found out we were celiac – but it did confirm a lot of experimental findings!

    1. Jenny,

      I am a musician and I have the same exact problem – if I play a gig in the evening – I cannot get to sleep. My best solution, weird as it seems, is to sleep on the sofa with the TV on – this is the only situation though in which that works. Glad to know someone else has this issue!

      1. That actually makes a ton of sense. Mental challenge and stimulation can give you as much of an adrenaline kick and subsequent stress response (or even more) than primarily physical stuff.

        My last job was a high pressure, high workload sales environment and myself and a whole bunch of the guys used to have to tune out the exact same way. Even if the show was utter crap, it was something to mentally bring you down over an hour or two.

        I found it much harder to tune out and sleep after a long, busy day than a weights session or rugby training, funnily enough. Still, I can imagine the buzz you guys get from performing would be way more fun than from work 😀

      2. At my house we have both (physical and mental) issues with sleep. I, like the reader in the blog post, play hockey late at night. I have a hard time going to bed afterwards (thanks for the tips). My wife has issues with the mental stimulation as she cannot ‘turn off her brain’ when she wants to go to bed. I will try some of these suggestion tonight as I have a late night skate.

    2. Jenny, are your sessions Irish music sessions? You are right, it’s hard to decompress after a good late night session (or gig).

  3. My Jiu Jitsu class runs late into the night and has kept me from sleeping properly in the past. In addition to the tips above, a cold bath helps get me into the cool, calm state needed for sleep.

  4. It’s funny because as soon as I saw “post-exercise insomnia” I thought of my days playing men’s league. Absolutely amazing phenomenon. You bust your ass and maybe get done at midnight. You might be in the locker room for an hour drinking beer and trying to get the gear from your lower section off (locker rooms are filled with guys who are naked from the waste up and still have all their gear on from the waste down, cause it’s a pain). Next thing you know, you’re at home, drinking whatever beer is left in the house and eating every single leftover while navigating late night TV which usually turns into skin-emax. And no, sleep is not coming til 3:30 or 4 if at all.

  5. I love lifting, and agree it’s the best way to get strong, BUT if you’re hellbent of doing only bodyweight, or are relegated to it for a while (as I was for over a year once), I highly suggest incorporating poor leverage stuff such as one arm pushups and pistols—you can get pretty damn strong with that stuff. The year off I took from anything but bodyweight was truly excellent for me.

  6. I was just thinking how I love to sit and sip my coffee and read Mark’s Daily Apple, and today he’s talking about coffee. 🙂

    And I loved this:

    “…you could be the really crazy guy around the office and add the yolks to the thermos right before you’re ready to drink. Amp the crazy up even higher and bring a stick blender with you.”

  7. I wonder if you could just break the yolks and then shake the thermos. Forget the stick blender.

    I, too, have a hard time sleeping after a session. Yesterday I played all day at the Old Time Fiddlers convention. It was exhausting and I fell asleep in front of the TV. But then I woke up, remembered I had a few things to do before I could go to bed proper, then the music started up in my head again and it was a long time before I could sleep again.

  8. For Dave’s original question, and others in the same boat about insomnia, refer to another “Dear Mark” post regarding animal fat and gelatin and sleep induction:

    “As much as we criticize chicken for containing too many PUFAs – which is a valid point, especially if you rely on chicken for the bulk of your animal calories – chicken fat is actually quite high in oleic acid, the primary monounsaturated fat and the same one found and championed in olive oil, ranging from 37% to 56% of total fat. In fact, it’s the primary fatty acid in chicken fat. In the body, oleic acid can be converted into oleamide, a fatty acid amide. Fatty acid amides are formed when a fatty acid combines with an amine, and they are used in chemical signaling within the body. Oleamide in particular has been fingered as a potent sleep-inducer.”

    “For a real nice sleep, try chicken soup. The glycine in gelatinous broth links up (in your body) with the oleic acid in chicken to form n-oleoylglycine, a bioactive precursor to oleamide with “chill-out” properties of its own.”

    Personally, I like to wind down with a cup or two of some warm bone broth before bed. 🙂

  9. Crap. I guess I’m the crazy guy in the office.

    I keep eggs in my mini-fridge, and the stick blender is right beside my personal coffee pot…

    1. I’ve been considering doing the same thing! So you’re the crazy guy in YOUR office, but don’t worry, there are more crazies out there… 😉

  10. I use the cold shower trick Mark mentioned in an article recently. The cooler showers help me wind down and put my body into a more relaxed state (ironically). As long as I can get my mind to wind down, my body is ready to go to sleep.

    1. I do Muay Thai some weekdays and tend to finish around 9 pm. I take a cold shower afterwards which seems to help. That said when I spar, I typically can’t sleep ’till 1-2pm in the morning, I guess its unavoidable when your adrenaline is elevated.

  11. Mark,

    Thanks for addressing my question about yolks in a coffee thermos–I not only appreciate the answer, I even like the answer! (Not that you have control over the science suggesting that the correct answer is the one I was hoping for…or do you…?)

    I already am the crazy guy in the office (my intermittent fasting has them joking that I only eat the dew off the leaves for sustenance), but I can always kick that up a notch…


    1. I can give an even better answer, it works!

      Every morning, I throw 2 cups coffee, two whole room temp eggs, a dash of molasses, and right now for the “pumpkin spice” kick I toss in a pumpkin purée ice cube I heat up, frappe it and thow it in my 4 cup thermos for work. It’s usually gone in about 4 hours but stays warm and tastes the same. You notice the egg taste more if it’s longer, but I’ve yet I get sick or anything from that or the eggs.

  12. Thanks for all the suggestions (from Mark & commenters) about sleep after an active night– I have the same issue after Hoop Jam every week– it really revs me up, but I can’t bear to miss it! I especially like the bone broth idea, now that the weather’s chilly.

  13. “I’ve got a good trick I sometimes use if the restaurant just won’t or cannot cook in butter, olive oil, or another safe fat: bring your own.”

    My quibble here is that if I’m bringing my own ingredients is that I’m starting to lose the point of going to a restaurant. We try to avoid it anyway because of economics of eating out. I’m already trying to convince myself the overpriced meal is worth it. I don’t think I can talk my cheap side into adding to the cost. 🙂

    At any rate, I’ll suggest a couple of other fat choices if we’re stuffing our purses with our own food. Vegetable oils generally have a high smoke point. Tallow, clarified butter or lard might be better choices as they have higher smoking points than olive oil, coconut, or butter. Tallow, stands out especially,as it’s relatively odorless and smokes at about 420F.

  14. According to author Jennifer McLagan in her book Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes, the British started calling the Dutch “Butter Boxes” as a derogatory term during the Anglo-Dutch wars, due to the Dutch carrying their own butter everywhere in special boxes. Gives a whole new meaning to BYOB.

  15. I travel every year to Thailand, and the people there do not use coconut oil! (It is exported) Canola oil is pervasive. (of course Coconut milk & meat are used in many different ways) I request my eggs to be fried in butter or bacon grease. Thai food is great. After work-outs coconuts replace electrolytes, like immediately.

  16. About the egg yolks in the coffee – make sure to go with pastured eggs as the risk of salmonella drops significantly. If you happened to hit the salmonellottery by chance, the low amount of heat for that long of a time is a breeding ground. We are talking 1/100k chances however…

  17. On the topic of exercise (wanted to post on latest blog date to hopefully get quick responses)—I need suggestions for off-the-feet aerobics etc. My feet are ruined d/t 9 1/2 years of 36 hrs/week on concrete hospital floors, giving me VERY stubborn chronic pain. Can’t hike any more (LOVED it and miss it); any walking over irregular ground gives me a flareup. I do have a good magnetic-resistance pedaler (wheel and pedal parts of an exercise bike; you sit on your own chair OR you can put it on a tabletop and use it for your arms); does this sound adequate to you? What’s a quick lookup for the in-a-nutshell look at the bodyweight exercises?
    Can’t stand how I look or feel another minute; need to lose about 100 lbs and get sugars and pressure under control. Help!!!

    1. Ouch 🙁 Your poor feet.

      Here’s the “How to” posts on the key bodyweight exercises:

      1) Push up

      2) Squat

      3) Pull up/Chin up

      4) Planks

      As far as activity level, my personal opinion is anything you’re comfortable with and that your joints can handle is good. I know that using an arm peddler I’ve managed to absolutely blow myself up in ten minutes and get a kick arse workout. If swimming or canoeing is feasible for you, they would also be ways to keep the impact of your feet.

      Stick with the primal fitness guidelines…as long as you can incorporate some “sprint” level intensity on the body parts that can handle it and keep it light and easy slow movement on your feet, you should be okay.

      Good luck with everything 😀

    2. Buy a Concept2 ergometer. Better yet, take up the sport of rowing (on the water). It’s a sport for life.

    3. Do you have access to a pool? Twice a week do some long, slow paced swims to simulate a nice long walk, and once a week swim a few quick-paced laps to get your HIIT in. Even with bad feet there are quite a few options for strength training, do that at least twice a week. Combine that with a strict primal diet and maybe even look into IF and I’m sure you can drop the weight and tone up.

      1. My feet are the same way shrimp4me, but from years of concrete floors in factories and retail stores. Swimming is great and it really helps with joint pain, at least for me. Most Y’s have heated pools for year round access. I live in Florida so I get to swim a little longer than average, after it gets cooler I just head to the Y.

  18. With Mrs. Dude being pregnant, we’ve found that she can’t seem to get enough egg yolks no matter how many eggs I scramble. I make her decaf primal egg coffee every morning with four yolks and a little unsalted butter, some cinnamon, and a couple drops of chocolate stevia.
    Mrs. Dude is happy.

    She also has at least three eggs for dinner several times per week.
    I like this better than the last pregnancy where she craved bagels with cream cheese (LOTS of cream cheese).

  19. Thanks for clarifying the exercise question. Makes perfect sense now. Now, on to achieve my level 4’s of the PBF!!!

  20. I, for one, think that proper bodyweight trainig is actually superior to barbell training.

    Lifting barbells makes you stronger… at lifting barbells, but not much else in my opinion. I’ve seen a friend, with big muscles and used to pumping iron, break his back while lifting packets for a moving friend of ours. Everyone thought he was “the strong guy”(TM), but his real life performance was in fact less than impressive.

    Using different angles and lever there is much more variety and difficulty in bodyweight training than what one might think at first. It goes much further than just adding weight on a barbell. And you’ll work on mobility too, so that you can actually use your stength in everyday life. Many trainnees who use barbells day in and day out work only to reduce their range of motion (which can eventually lead to chronic pain).

    I am currently following the Gymnastic Bodies program (Foundation 1 to begin with) from coach Christopher Sommer and I think it’s fantastic.

  21. What about tryptophan for insomnia? I’ve been taking 5000mg an hour before bedtime. It works (most of the time).

    1. Tryptophan may work, but there’s very little conclusive evidence to show that it actually helps or stimulates sleep. I work for a psychiatrist and a neurologist and (besides sleep aid medications) his best recommendation is melatonin supplements for pretty much any patient.

  22. Can I suggest an epsom salt bath at night for the late-night hockey player? That stuff always puts my wife to sleep with some chamomile tea.

  23. Since college and soccer pre-season 2 and 3-a-day trainings I have resorted to taking a swig of nyquil to help me sleep when the cortisol response won’t let me sleep. I had to do it just last night after attempting ‘Clovis’ (150 burpee pull ups, 10 mi. run for time). I was never going to get to sleep at the rate my heart was pounding while lying in bed!

  24. Great post! You are so right about body weight training. It is just an amazing way to stay in shape and stay healthy while at the same time it can be quite challenging, particularly when you progress to the more difficult exercise types like the planche. Thanks for sharing, I have been really digging into your content lately, great stuff!

  25. Gee. I go to restaurants all the time. But I never thought about, or even heard about the seed oil stuff. I guess I have to learn cooking at home now…:)

    Thanks for your post. The more I read on your site, the more motivation I have on keeping eating and exercise healthy. I think that is a good thing…LOL.

  26. My Jiu Jitsu class runs late into the night and has kept me from dozing fittingly previously. Notwithstanding the tips above, an icy shower helps get me into the cool, quiet state required for rest.

  27. Question for mark-Read the primal blueprint with real interest and have followed the diet plan -however as a national /international level squash player training 6 days a week I find that I need more carbs than can be got from veg and fruit .Also seem to be gaining weight including carrying more round the middle despite having cut out wheat !heaviest I’ve been for 2 years .lastly read your article on sleep post competition/hard training -really struggle with insomnia after a competition weekend -sometimes taking up to 4 days to get a decent sleep -makes recovery and fat loss hard!!i guess by reading your book my choice of sport and exercise is not conducive to keeping my cortisol levels down ?!

  28. Ever noticed that it’s usually all the dieters that know the calorie count of everything on the menu. Sprinkle a little bit of vanilla protein powder on the sandwich or wrap to add a little bit more protein to your meal.

  29. What about tryptophan for insomnia? I’ve been taking 5000mg an hour before bedtime. hope some help.