Dear Mark: Reader Issues, Chocolate Toxins, Chipotle’s Revelations, plus Red Meat and Diabetes Redux

Lots of QuestionsI’m covering a smattering of issues in today’s edition of Dear Mark. First, I help a reader with some issues. It’s a somewhat typical story with any lifestyle change – the stall. Why might it be occurring? What can she do to figure things out? After that, I answer a quick two-parter about dark chocolate. Then, I discuss the recent revelation of GMO products at Chipotle, along with my reasoning for not worrying too much about it. Finally, I briefly cover the latest red-meat-will-give-you-diabetes study. “Briefly,” because not only does this study retread old epidemiological ground, it’s using the very same inaccurate data sets we’ve seen a dozen times before.

Let’s go.

I have been paleo for the past year and a half. Initially with great success, lost weight, saw improvement in skin, PMS, energy. I worked out 3 times a week at local CrossFit gig, slept 7-8 hrs a night, stress pretty low.

I was getting lean, but not as lean as I wanted to be, so I decided to cut out starchy veggies (sweet potatoes, squash).

But instead of leaning out further, my energy dipped, I gained 7 pounds out of nowhere, started experiencing sleep disturbance. My workouts suck, and recovery is very slow.

My TSH went from 0.6 to 1.76 in 6 months.

What gives? I thought I was being fat adopted at this point. I feel like I’m back to square one.

So does it turn out that we need carbs after all, or am I an exception?



A few thoughts here: This sounds like a few things. First, are you eating enough calories? If you just drop starchy veggies and make no other changes, that’s an overall drop in calories – dangerous, or at least counterproductive, when you’re doing something like CrossFit. It’s far better (and safer and more sustainable) to moderate a drop in calories; remember, exercise increases caloric needs.

Second, carbs. I’ve made no bones about the fact that CrossFit (metcons, lifts for time, full body explosive movements done in a truncated period) necessarily hits the glycolytic pathway. That is, it burns glycogen, and the best way to replenish glycogen is carbs. This is partly why I don’t recommend a lot of intense exercise all the time – it requires eating a lot of carbs all the time. But if you’re going to exercise like that, you will benefit from starchy carbs.

Third, the body will start to seek its ideal body composition when the macronutrient ratio is appropriate and calories are adequate. That means most people who are not metabolically damaged from years of insulin and leptin resistance, or compromised micronutrition (through gut compromises), etc., will lose body fat and retain muscle mass for a while. But at some point, the body, which has no idea what the cover of Victoria Secret catalog or SI Swimsuit Edition look like, says “this is a great weight. I’ve reduced fat, I have energy in balance, I don’t get sick much if ever, and I’ll probably live a long time at this weight.” So, many people get frustrated because they think they will arrive at 10% body fat linearly, but many plateau at a “healthy” (or “ideal”) 20+ %. Another problem is, men and women are different hormonally and at even more so at different ages. There’s lots going on in the experiment of one. A ton of variables.

So, if you are metconning a lot and depleting glycogen stores, that’s probably good for your insulin and leptin sensitivity issues, but might manifest itself in adrenal abuse (too much cortisol) if you go to the well (workout without glycogen) too much. This affects the H/P/A axis. I’d recommend experimenting with topping off glycogen (which takes as little as 150 grams of carbs at dinner the night before) and avoid taking up residence in the well.

As with all these experiments of one, consider all the variables in your experiment. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you working out too hard, too often? Not intensely enough for too long? Are you really fat-adapted yet? And so on. Then record the changes; when you eat, what you eat, how you felt the next day, intensity of the workout, any bloodwork changes, etc. The 90-day Journal was designed to take you through this whole process, so that might be helpful. The answer is usually there, you just need to identify the necessary changes to make.

Finally, this is always, first and foremost, about reclaiming health. LGN (looking good naked) is a nice side effect for a lot of people, but not everyone. Give yourself credit for the weight lost so far, for getting off the meds, for feeling better, for your skin clearing up or whatever great stuff you have done already. It may take a bit more work from here to get to whatever your “next level” is, but you CAN make progress with the right inputs.


I continue to enjoy your posts and books. Thank you! As a fan of chocolate, I had two questions on the post you did a while back:

The 5 Best Dark Chocolate Bars in the World

1. Much has been made about mycotoxins in foods, particularly chocolate. Do you have any experience or insights as to the brand that is least likely to have mycotoxins?

2. I understand that the Dutch Process (e.g. alkalizing) takes away  much of the benefits from cocoa. Keeping (1) in mind, any updates as to a bar that is not alkalized and is 85% (preferably 90% or higher) and organic?


1. I don’t have a whole lot of experience with mycotoxins. I do know that the guy who’s responsible for bringing the mycotoxin issue to the forefront of the community and claims to have an extreme sensitivity to mycotoxins in food, Dave Asprey, says that Lindt is the brand that’s most consistently free of mycotoxins. While that’s not exactly based on peer review research, the guy does seem to know the subjective effects of eating mycotoxins better than anyone else.

Europe seems to have the stiffest regulations on mycotoxins in food, allowing just 0.5-2 parts per billion in their chocolate products. If you’re really worried about this, you might try sticking to brands manufactured in Europe. That should give you the best shot at getting a safe piece of dark chocolate.

2. Green and Black’s 85% is non-alkalized and very good. For future reference, just check the ingredients list. Dutch process chocolate should contain something like “cocoa processed with alkali.”

Hi Mark, I know Chipotle is the Paleo “go-to” for fast food/on the road. Wondering if you were gonna comment on this?

Chipotle GMO information added to website: Addition earns mixed reviews


You know, I’ve never been a big fan of Chipotle, probably because I live near some of the greatest Mexican food joints in the United States (Southern California), and the bastardized versions found in Chipotle simply pale in comparison. But this GMO stuff doesn’t concern me too much.

Reason? All the GMO-containing foods are already problematic for other reasons. The biggest GMO offender is the soybean oil that’s found in just about everything on the menu. I don’t know about you, but when I see empty cartons of soybean oil outside the back of restaurants and shudder to myself, I shudder not because the soy used to make the oil was genetically modified. I shudder because soybean oil is one of the best (read: worst) sources of linoleic acid in the American diet, a fatty acid that already skews our collective omega-3:omega-6 ratios an unprecedented amount. That’s the real reason you should be wary of Chipotle. There’s also GMO corn in the tortillas – which serve to spoon soybean oil-cooked meat into your maw – and chips – which are fried in even more soybean oil.

Go ahead and eat Chipotle. You can certainly do a lot worse. Plus, you can be smart and pick around the problematic stuff to get a decent meal. The carnitas, for example, is free of soybean oil, though it does contain some rice bran and sunflower oil, which aren’t terribly better. Their guacamole is good slathered on the aforementioned carnitas.

I’d just be more worried about the seed oils for their fatty acid composition than for their GMO status.

Hi Mark,

I’ve been paleo/primal for the past year and half, converting from a fairly strict vegan diet. My partner is following a similar path and has added meat back into his diet during the last four months.

I just read an article on NPR’s the Salt about the high correlation between type 2 diabetes and red meat consumption. (The article seems to imply causation, but I could only see a correlation.)

Granted, we are not big hot dog eaters (what’s in those things anyway?), but bacon and steak are staples in our house! Red meat is an almost daily occurrence. Is this article just more “conventional wisdom” in the works? I’d love your thoughts.



Thank you for your question, Liz, but sweet fancy Moses am I bored to death of these types of correlational studies “linking” red meat to diabetes, death, cancer, and heart disease using food frequency questionnaires. I really am. I mean, let’s unpack this a little bit. A food frequency questionnaire is a survey that expects you to remember what you ate for the past (in this instance) four years, and how often you ate it. So, yeah, go ahead and do that for me. Right now, tell me how often you ate chicken, or leafy vegetables, or ice cream, over the last four years. Make sure it’s accurate, because I’ll be making some sweeping conclusions about the effect of certain foods on human health based on what you tell me. Also, the largest media outlets will be doing some serious fear-mongering based on what I conclude from what you tell me. And then, in turn, the people who read those media outlets will be making some big changes to their own diets based on what they write based on what you said to me. So, yeah: do a good job remembering what you ate every day for the past four years!

Let’s hope you’re a little more accurate than the actual people surveyed in some of these data sets, who notoriously underestimate the amount of animal products they eat and overestimate the amount of fruits, vegetables, and fish they eat.

See what I mean? That’s why I refuse to go line by line and discuss why this study doesn’t mean much in the long run. It’s been done before, here on these very pages, oftentimes responding to studies using the very same datasets as this most recent one! Check it out:

Does Eating Red Meat Increase Type 2 Diabetes Risk? – Here, I discussed an eerily similar study that was conducted by the same people, used the exact same data, and examined almost the exact same issue. Read through that post, because the arguments raised would be the same arguments I raise here.

I don’t blame you for worrying about this stuff, because they do a really good job of making it sound scary. But please don’t worry any more. Worry if you start getting symptoms of type 2 diabetes (it doesn’t just appear, after all). Worry if you start getting insulin resistant and if you start gaining abdominal fat. Worry if your fasting glucose begins rising. If you’ve been doing this for over a year, it’s probably because you’ve made some health improvements. Maybe you’re putting on lean mass. Maybe you’re performing better (in the gym, in bed, in your brain). Maybe you’ve lost fat. Maybe some nagging health issues have finally cleared up. Whatever it is, you’re eating this way for a reason: it’s working. Don’t worry if it’s working.

That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading this edition of Dear Mark. See you next time!

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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87 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Reader Issues, Chocolate Toxins, Chipotle’s Revelations, plus Red Meat and Diabetes Redux”

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  1. That’s what I wondered! Zero pretty much has to mean the lab did not report correctly. Otherwise, reader needs an endocrinologist stat.

    1. I was thinking the same thing. 1.73 isn’t bad although a bit high for me. But a TSH of zero sounds like hyperthyroid.

  2. Mark – At the risk of making myself hungry, What do you eat/avoid at your favorite Mexican restaurants? (And how do you minimize Soybean oils when eating there?)

  3. In regards to the chocolate – I just did a breakdown on all the health benefits that chocolate has to offer but I think it’s important for people to realize there is a difference between chocolate and cocoa. One way to get all those health benefits without having all the antioxidant power lost through production is to get nibs. Nibs are part of the cocoa beans that haven’t been processed yet into chocolate and you can use them much like you would pepper in a pepper mill. They actually make a cocoa grinder that uses nibs and I have one and use it all the time.

    Using ground nibs to get cocoa powder goes great on many different things. For example you can make sweet mashed potatoes and use ground cocoa powder to top them – it’s amazing. I also put it on many of my salads (just as you would pepper but use cocoa powder instead). It goes great with fruit dishes as well.

    1. Where do you find nibs? Would a good grocery store sell them? I live in TX near Houston. Great idea!

      1. They sell nibs at Whole Foods grocery store. They also have dark chocolate as high 97.5% which is the highest I have ever encountered

      2. Whole Foods (of course…) carries Nativas brand nibs. They also carry raw cacao powder.

      3. You can also order organic cacao nibs from SwansonVitamins online.

        Not sure where “near” Houston you live, Lora, but Mediterraneo’s in Nassau Bay (Clear Lake) sells Lindt’s 99% chocolate bar. It’s delish after a big greek salad and some gyro meat!

    2. Who makes a cocoa grinder? I don’t see one on amazon 🙂 I love your idea of putting it on sweet potatoes.

  4. This topic of mycotoxin is very interesting to me as chocolate and particularly dark chocolate makes me very ill. On an allergy test I am not allergic to it but I am allergic to molds and fungus. I will have to talk to my doctor about this next time I see him.

    1. Cindy, I have the same problem. I loved dark chocolate as an energy food and delicious treat – until one day I over-indulged and ate an entire bar at work over the course of a day. I had butterflies in my stomach, dizziness, and a tingling numbness in my hands, feet, and lips. I’m talking really numb, couldn’t feel a thing. It was really quite frightening. An allergy test showed I am not allergic to chocolate – technically I am not allergic to any food. While the experience mostly turned me off dark chocolate, I still have some once in awhile. And I can still tell a bad batch when I start to feel tingling lips. I just didn’t notice it before.

      Of course it all depends on a person’s individual body sensitivities, but this is definitely a real thing.

  5. The first and only time I ate at Chipotle, quite a few years ago, I ended up with too way much rice, along with a few other odds and ends, all rolled into a thick, cold flour tortilla. I practically had to scrape it off the roof of my mouth with a putty knife. It wasn’t at all what I thought I’d ordered. Maybe they’ve changed their menu since I ate there, but it sure wouldn’t be my go-to place on the road.

    1. If you ask for a bowl of lettuce with pico de gallo, carnitas, and guac you won’t get any rice or any nasty cold tortilla. Perfect? No. But it doesn’t have to suck.

  6. I’m not surprised she had that experience reducing starch even further—as an active person, re-introducing MORE starch is what took me to the next level, leanwise. This is why Paleo 2.0/PaNu/EM2, PHD, etc is getting so much traction in the community—we’re still learning, and the strict, Cordain paleo isn’t all that great.

    1. Agreed, agreed, agreed.

      Very low-carb had kept me at a decent weight for a while during an injury, but coming back into exercising, I felt weak.

      Adding in carbs has been a great experience. I’ve got way more energy. And, honestly, think about.. we may not agree at all with Fruititarians, but they sure still stay lean with 30 bananas a day. That’s all sugar, man. These are my thoughts on carbs, paleo, and veganism –

    2. I agree. As long as I’m working out, I need carbs. I’ve tried being less active and eating very low carb, and it just makes me feel lethargic. But if I work out and don’t eat enough carbs, I end up feeling very weak and then gorging on whatever I can find later, anyway, usually sugar of some kind. I really need my starches, and I’m not even doing CrossFit. I just do sprints and weight-lifting.

      I have been my leanest eating up to 150g carbs from fruits, but starches don’t make me have cravings for more starches the way fruit makes me want more fruit.

  7. Red meat, is there anything it can’t do? …oh right, diabetes, it can’t cause diabetes.

  8. Mark: Thanks so much for sharing your experience and knowledge. I run in two marathons and a triathalon and it is so refreshing to hear they are not as good for me as I thought. After 3 months of karate and eating Primal, I am in better shape in all areas of my life than I was when I was running. I’m still haven’t found a single thing I dissagree with you on but still looking : )
    Since my marathon training 3 years ago, I have been diagnoses with anxiety and am taking anxiety medication for during the day and one at night time so I can sleep. The medicine are working which is great but I do not want to be on them always. Have you heard of how people are getting off of these types of meds? If I don’t take them, my body gets fatigue and shakes similar to having a low blood sugar after a hard work out. I am 6’1, 179 lbs, am 42 years old and am male. Been strick Primal including a very low level of stress at work and have very good support from family, friend and a strong faith in God. I just don’t seem to understand why my body is like this. I live in Northern CA so I get lots of sunlight and LGN is at goal : )

    1. Scott, as someone who suffers (if not controlled) from panic attacks (non-environmentally triggered, a neurotransmitter problem) and was concerned about being on anti-depressants the rest of my life (I eat very healthy and exercise, get plenty of sleep etc etc) I found that taking a l-theanine with Relora capsule mid day and at night a capsule that contains l-theanine, withania somnifera and magnolia officinalis does the trick. The panic stays at bay and I don’t have the side effects of an anti-depressant.

    2. The only thing that helps with my depression is strength training. Cardio — even very intense cardio — doesn’t do the trick. I gotta lift weights at least twice a week.

    3. Supplementing magnesium is probably the best way to move away from your anxiety meds. Deficiency is really likely if you don’t monitor your daily intake, and it causes anxiety, muscle spasms, and poor sleep. Either slowly work your way up to 400 mg of magnesium glycinate a day (it can cause diarrhea if taken too much too fast) or bathe in epsom salts a couple of times a week.

    4. Scott, one more idea is to make sure you have enough pro-biotic in your system. I can have anxiety (wakes me up at night at times) I have to make sure the yeast in my body isn’t taking over. I take pro-biotic to keep the yeast under control. That yeast will give people depression, anxiety, rage, etc, really any emotional upset.
      My husband had a high stress job so he got to feel what I was up against some times. I made him get up and take about 5 pills (Acidophilus ) in the middle of the night when he’d wake up (like a post-menopausal woman don’t cha know) with a full blown anxiety attack. He’d do it and then within 20 minutes I’d hear that snore…. nice.
      Another thing that I use for an anti-anxiety fix is to make sure my bare feet are on the ground at least 30 minutes to an hour a day. Helps to balance or ground me.
      Hope you get some relief from these posts.

    5. Here is what I take to help my anxiety (which is mild compared to yours, but maybe this might be helpful anyway): phosphatidylserine before bed with magnesium and gelatin, inositol and rhodiola rosea in the morning. There’s another herb called bacopa which I take when I am feeling particularly on edge. It seems to help. (note I am not a licensed herbalist, your mileage may vary, etc etc)

    6. Hi Scott, Find a good naturalpath. I found one that got me off Prozac with a combination of 3-phos-B, Amino-balance, melatonin, 5HTP and L-Tryptophan. He also put me on Magnesium in the form of Natural Calm and Phosphadytlserine as mentioned by others above. The dosage can vary depending on your needs and some of these shouldn’t be taken for long periods, so I’d definitely do it under a Doctors care (Non CW doctor). Usually Doctors specializing in Adrenal Fatigue are a good place to start looking for someone to help you.

    7. Scott, I understand there isn’t one answer for everyone, but I have some advice that could help. Until about 4 years ago I suffered from mild to severe stress my entire adult life. Then, almost by accident I decided to cut out gluten because I heard it could help with my flexibility. Suddenly I noticed my stress was going away. It took me about a year of being gluten free to actually be gluten free. Finally, when I eliminated soaps and lotions that had gluten I was free of gluten. During the last 3 years I have been, for the most part, stress free. If I ever do experience stress, I can always trace it back to me consuming gluten. An interesting fact I learned along the way is that gluten is abundant all over the planet be it causes paralysis in insects and small rodents. Because gluten is everywhere and people consume it their whole lives, they never realize what a damaging effect it’s having.

  9. Mark, you’re my hero when discussing “all things exercise”! your dietary discussions ain’t bad either. 😉

  10. My go-to place to eat when I’m on the road is my own pocket. I always carry Tanka bars, Tanka bites, dark chocolate, and grass-fed beef jerky from my local rancher when I travel. Primal packs and US Wellness Meats pemmican are both awesome, too, but they leave my hands too oily afterwards, so I tend not to eat them in the hotel room where I have access to plenty of napkins and a sink.

  11. Glad to hear about the chocolate. My gal is from Switzerland and when her sister visits us here in the states, she brings about 25 lbs. of the dark stuff!

  12. Taza chocolate is a great raw brand, completely organic and fair trade. It’s not alkalized and has a whopping anti-oxidant count. Check out their website (tazachocolate dot com). A bit pricey but they’re sooo good. 87% is the highest I’ve seen them go.

  13. The red meat-diabetes articles make me laugh. They choose to go after red meat, above all the other factors that more greatly affect insulin resistance/production? Yeah, okay. Why not look at the prevalence of sugary snacks? Or processed flours? Or industrial seed oils (even though they might not have a direct insulin effect… but my knowledge on that relationship is low)?


    And a four-year food study? Pfffttt. I can barely remember what I ate two months ago.

    1. I agree. If the muscle meat of cows caused diabetes, we’d have seen an explosion of the disease among Texas cowboys. It would be an epidemic in rural Argentinian ranches.

      If there IS a correlation, its more likely the antibiotics, hormones, and traces of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, from CAFO-raised cattle, screwing up our gut flora.

      Easy solution, skip the CAFO and eat meat that goes right from the prairie into the pot.

      1. The connection is so ludicrous that it’s to the point of full on crazy. It just takes a basic understanding of human endocrinology to see it. The *least* likely candidate to create insulin resistance that leads to diabetes would be consuming meat with a high fat content, regardless of how it’s being raised or type. (I’ll grant you the residual chemicals from CAFO might cause other problems, but diabetes is not likely one of them.)

        But I guess NPR journalists assume that despite living an era where we can practically photograph every detail of our innards, how people gain weight and become diabetic is still some giant mystery. We had that down cold but somehow mainstream medicine has forgotten. My grandmother knew, her Doctors used to know, and I know. I guess at this point, I’m just waiting for the mainstream medicine (and journalists) to catch up on much older body of knowledge.

    2. The concept red meat = diabetes could only be taken seriously by journalists who never seem to absorb or process any of the information they are exposed. Maybe the odd researcher who was social promoted way out of his level of competence.

      It amazes me that the mainstream media just absolutely refuses to “conjecture” that too much sugar/starch intake can lead to insulin resistance and then Type II diabetes. (The article will only make the connection of diabetes to obesity.) My grandmother, who only had an 8th grade education, understood the issue very clearly as she had been warned about it by Docs in the 70/80’s, before fat became the devil. (She ended up with adult onset diabetes in her late 60’s – overweight, but by no means obese.)

      In almost all of these correlation type studies, I can usually easily imagine some non-magical reason why the correlation happens other than the one the researcher is pushing. If meat is bad in mainstream health culture, then eating red meat is clearly only safe while near a defibrillator and paramedics to run it. Thus, most people who attempted to improve their health recently would have probably tried to cut back on the red meat consumption.

      In other words, most of those paying attention to their diet and trying to avoid weight gain (which naturally reduces carb loads) would probably remember attempting to reduce the amount of red meat they ate. Those who didn’t make an attempt (and continued to gain weight) would note no change in red meat consumption. Thus red meat gets the “credit” for what really is an overall lifestyle change.

      As always, frustrating. Even more so when it supposedly comes from news sources aimed at the intellectual set.

  14. I eat lots of very dark chocolate. Probably more than you would recommend. I have to restrain myself from eating more than a half a 3.5 oz bar/day. I’d say my favorite (which I haven’t seen mentioned here!) is Equal Exchange 80% Panama Extra Dark. It is produced in Switzerland. Whenever it goes on sale I stock up. I also like the Green and Black 85%. I have noticed no ill effects of eating all of this chocolate. It fulfills a significant percentage of my daily caloric intake. I am an athletic, muscular 53 year old. I run trails twice/week, lift weights and do Crossfit several times/week, as well. I compete in obstacle course races (Spartan races mostly). Please let me know if you think I am unwittingly doing some type of damage to myself eating all of this chocolate. Mark, thanks so much for providing this forum and wealth of information!

  15. On the non-alkalized dark chocolates, if you live near a Trader Joe’s, I’ve become a big fan of their Dark Chocolate Lover’s 85% bars (found near the cash registers). Nice natural, fruity taste (much more flavorful than Lindt or Ghirardelli, in my opinion), and the best part–$1.49 for a 3.5 oz bar! It’s actually packaged as 2 thin bars, which makes it even easier to portion out in small amounts, and keeps it fresh.

  16. The reason I went Primal/Paleo was because of acid reflux. Of course, I happened to lose 70 lbs and acquire a completely different body composition in the meantime…but the main reason was because I was getting sick constantly. Acid reflux is completely gone now!

    Chipotle makes my reflux come back like crazy, so in my book, Chipotle isn’t healthy and I refuse to eat there.


    1. +1

      I used to have bottles of antacids stashed at home, work, in the car, emergency packets in my pack, etc.

      Since going primal, I can’t remember the last time I needed an antacid.

  17. JMO, for most people here the benefit of chocolate is in the cocoa butter and relative low carbs; no need to max out on the polyphenols, methylxanthines.

  18. Never mind the GMO’s..
    I really enjoyed Chipotle the one time I ate there, but was totally freaked out the next day when the scale was three pounds up! Hello sodium much? Good in a pinch, but I think I’ll stick to my kitchen where I can keep the salt factor under control.

  19. Hey guys! (The great Primal Blueprint community)

    I did ask this question on yesterday’s post, but didn’t get much of an answer, I then tried to write a forum, but can’t figure out how to start a new question!

    I am just looking for a basic answer to a simple question. If you’re able, I’d be greatly appreciative!

    I was introduced to LCHF by Prof Tim Noakes here in South Africa 3 months ago and I LOVE it! I’m 7kgs down and feel healthier than ever. I’ve since been introduced to Mark Sisson’s stuff and want to go Primal in my workout. I’ve always been a gym goer, and try stay fit where possible. Although reading Mark’s PBF book has inspired me to change my workout. So I am starting the PBF workout, and started with sprints on thurs and loved them. Now I’m preparing for my Lift Heavy Things section. I just have a few basic questions that would really help if answered by one of you fine primal folk!

    Could you please tell me if stretching is essential before and after each work out, including sprints? It’s the one thing I loathe and Mark seems to imply Primal living doesn’t require much stretching. But my muscles were feeling it the day after my sprints! I didn’t stretch. Should I stretch before sprints and LHTs?

    The second question is a lot more specific. It has to do with the LHT Self Assessment. The pull-up section of the self assessment doesn’t mention a Chin-up. Should I be doing a pull-up only for that self assessment? Or should I do one set of pull-ups and one set of chin-ups to see where my level should be?

    Sorry this essay. But any help and suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thanks for the great work guys! And thanks to Mark and the team and the Daily Apple for such a remarkable resource!

    1. Hi James,
      I assume you have the Primal Fitness e-book, since you mention the LHT self assessment?
      Check page 78, mark explains that stretching can even be counter-productive here. I think it is more important to warm up before going all out (in any exercise) and this is basically described in the setup of the sprint workout (p.65): you do warmup runs before you sprint, and accelerate from moderate to full intensity sprint (instead of going from zero to 100 in 1.2 sec. 😉 )
      Muscle soreness is adressed at p.80. I doubt stretching would prevent all soreness all the time…

      For the self- assessment, I think one set of pullups only would be enough to see how well you can handle them. But you can always test both pullups and chinups, if you’re curious enough…

      Hope this helps, good luck! I’m doing the assessment myself in 2 weeks (when swimming season is over) and am kinda dreading it because I am not used to this kind of exercise, I don’t think I’ve even done one single proper pushup!

      1. Hey Feather! Wow, that’s really helpful. I haven’t got to page 78 yet to be honest. I started the LHT section and went straight into my self assessment. But I’ll check those pages out and hopefully have more clarity. Already here you’ve helped a lot!
        I assumed the same for the pull-ups, and did chin-ups out of curiosity as well. It didn’t help though. I was still rubbish! Haha. Thanks again!

        1. Oh my word! I’ve just got page 78 and see the first FAQ is about stretching! What an idiot! So sorry everyone! You probably think I’m so dumb! Please don’t think all South Africans are like this. 😉

  20. I used to eat at Chipotle and in 2011 I emailed them and asked them why they had switched from coconut oil to soybean oil. They said they liked the way the soybean oil made their food taste.

    1. “They said they liked the way the soybean oil made their food taste.”

      That’s corporate speak for “Soybean oil is cheaper and we don’t seem to have lost any market share. Cha-ching!”

  21. Hey Mark,
    Your comments to Oleysa were some of the best I’ve read on the site. Really helps summarize what’s happening as the body adapts, and why we can’t get hung up on what society thinks is “perfect”. Bravo!

  22. Just an FYI, I don’t think Lindt chocolate is fair trade, and hasn’t signed up to any agreements with regards to child labour/slavery.

    I kind of think that things that make us happy shouldn’t make others miserable…. but just my 2 cents.

    Green and Blacks are owned by the same company as Cadbury, which recently declared all of their chocolate fair trade (hoorah!)

  23. It’s SUPER common for women to get thyroid issues on a low carb or low cal diet. Simply put, you never spike your insulin enough to get adequate leptin, and then you fail to convert rT3 to the active form. Usually you wind up with highish T4, medium rT3 and very low aT3. Often you get hypothalamic amenorrhea as well.

    For a lot of women, our bodies just won’t healthily go as lean as we want them to

  24. My favorite chocolate bar — Endangered Species 88% Dark . Yum. And no weird aftertaste I get from most bars (Lindt and Green and Black included.)

  25. Perhaps renaming the diabetes in popular speech may help understanding the proper link between certain foods and diabetes. In Holland diabetes is more commonly known as “sugar disease” or simply “sugar” (i.e. suikerziekte, suiker).

    Nobody here missess the link between diabetes and sugary foods.

    On a similar topic (made me laugh and cry at the same time)

  26. I have lost about 30 pounds effortlessly just by eating Paleo,
    I would like to lose a few more pound but I’m not too bad at this weight,
    I found that when I eat more food (Paleo) in a week I lose, less food keeps me at the same weight.

  27. Just thought I’d throw a little input of a primal college girl to the mix… I’m 18, have been primal for 2 years and will be attending PSU in the fall. I’ve stayed there multiple times, last week I stayed for 5 nights in a row and got to explore all the local eateries, from the commons to restaurants. I ate at Chipotle 3 times; my go-to is a salad with chicken and mild salsa (pico de gallo) sometimes with Guac. It’s delicious, it doesn’t give me stomach problems and is both a lovely change and a pretty decent alternative to many other places. Chipotle holds a special place in my heart (I ate if for breakfast), because for me this lifestyle has become about doing what you can with what you have at hand. The “minimalist” approach works very well for me as a college kid and most people on the go. I take road trips, visit friends at college and take beach trips with my friends frequently and ALWAYS manage to stay primal. I admire those who have access to non GMO, local, organic, grassfed foods and I can’t WAIT until I’m at a point in my life where I can access these things within budge as well 🙂 But for now I try to live my life as primally as possible; accepting less some days, working out where/ when i can, and making the BEST choices for my health without compromising me happiness. Thats what this lifestyle is about to me, eating for maximum health and using that health to live as happily as possible.
    I was featured on MDA as a friday success story a few weeks ago, “Grok the Highschooler” and upon seeing requests for a “Primal Teen” blog of some sort I created an Instagram strictly about primal living, what I eat, and what I do. if you search for “Primalteen” I’ve recorded weeks of meals both at college and on the road on there, if anyone is curious!

  28. Just FYI – we eat a ton of the chipotle chile spice and it took me until the end of your post to figure out you were talking about the restaurant! That would have been good clarification at the start. Thanks for sharing all your knowledge though!

  29. My newest favorite chocolate is TCHO. I have no clue about the mycotoxin levels in it, but I do know this is delicious quality chocolate. I’ve enjoyed every one of the chocolates that made Mark’s top 5 back in 2010 and I think TCHO is even better.
    (This is not spam. I’m just a big fan of this chocolate!)

  30. Make your own fairtrade organic raw chocolate yourself , takes about 20 minutes and the cleanup is delicious .

  31. Mark, my diet is 100% gluten free and about 95% paleo. I only eat grass fed, wild caught and pasture raised meats. I stopped eating at Chipotle a few months ago when I discovered what a bad effect unhealthy oils were having on me. You mentioned that you eat at some Mexican restaurants that are better than Chipotle. I also live in Southern California and I’d appreciate it if you could recommend any of them.

  32. Hi Mark (and others),
    In reply to the Olesya you state that for those who are not metabolically broken you will reach the natural weight for your body. What about those of us (like me) who are insulin resistant?


  33. Green & Black’s is my go-to chocolate. It’s available almost anywhere and it is relatively cheap. But most importantly, I think that it tastes far better than most of the others, especially Lindt (which is pretty bland to my palette). I can’t keep too much on hand, though, because I’ll eat it all.

  34. I was wondering about rejuvelac. Is it healthy? I know it’s made from grains, but it’s also a fermented food, so I was wondering if maybe the benefits outweighed the disadvantages of the grains?

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