Dear Mark: Leptin Resets, Cold Thermogenesis, and Safe Starches?

Before we get to the topics du jour I’d like to express my appreciation to everyone that participated in last week’s “Dear Readers” comment board. As I said, Mark’s Daily Apple, my books, and what I do is constantly informed by your thoughts and ideas. In other words, I couldn’t do this without you, so thank you for your feedback.

My team and I have compiled all of your ideas and have begun laying out a plan to give you what you want, and to reach the largest number of people possible. We’ll be checking things off the list in coming months, so stay tuned! Now on to today’s article…

From cruise ships to tweets to ice baths to supposedly hacked social media accounts, Dr. Jack Kruse the man is nothing if not controversial. But what about his ideas – do they have any merit? That’s what many of my readers have been wondering, along with how I feel about them. I’ve remained pretty silent on this matter, because Jack was doing his thing and apparently helping a lot of people in the process. I was doing mine and helping people in my own way. And all was well. Now, though, the questions are coming in droves, and I can’t really ignore them any longer.

“Do I have to sit in ice water to stay healthy?”

“Do I really have to eat 50 to 75 grams of protein for breakfast even if I can’t force it down?”

Etc., etc.

I’ve also included a question about safe starches for good measure. Ready? Let’s go:


What do you think about Jack Kruse’s Leptin Reset or his Cold Thermogenesis protocol? Any merit to them?


Well, let’s look at the Leptin Reset. What does it call for, exactly?

  • A big protein-rich breakfast, at least 50 grams’ worth, but even up to 75 grams.
  • Eat low carb Paleo, especially if you’re really overweight, in which case you should eat very low carb. Increase carbs only if weight loss progresses.
  • Don’t snack, especially late at night. Eat three solid meals.
  • Reduce or eliminate light exposure after sunset.
  • Keep workouts to a minimum, and if you do work out, do it after five.
  • Practice meditation or some other form of mindfulness before bed.

Sound familiar? Other than the emphasis on protein (more later) and the “after five” admonition, I can’t really find too much fault with this approach. It hits all the major points we talk about and have talked about in the past.

That said, my views slightly differ on the importance of protein in the diet. It can be extremely satiating, which is helpful when trying to lose weight and subconsciously curb food intake without obsessing over calories. Anytime you’re trying to stuff yourself with a macronutrient past the point of feeling disgusted with yourself, though, I have a problem. We shouldn’t be doing that. It shouldn’t be necessary. Studies do show that a high-protein breakfast improves weight loss and satiety better than a breakfast of any other macronutrient breakdown, but it should not be continued indefinitely.

I also question whether that amount of protein is really necessary – or even useful – for most people. Thirty grams at a sitting is probably the most your body can deal with. Of course, if you’re legitimately using that protein toward muscle building and repair, have at it. Metabolically healthy, training hard and lifting heavy? Eat to your heart’s content. But if you’re eating protein just to stuff yourself and stay full and satisfy a requirement you feel bound to, you’re going to waste a lot of it. As I’ve said before, I’m trying to minimize my use of glucose, whether exogenous or endogenously produced. If I’m eating so much protein that the excess is being converted to glucose, I’m not really minimizing it, am I?

What about the Cold Thermogenesis stuff?

I like the idea of using cold water as a hormetic stressor, and I even did a post on the benefits of cold water immersion back in 2008. Throughout the year, I take frequent cold plunges myself in my pool, which reaches the mid 50s in winter. I’ve been doing it for years now after a training buddy of mine turned me onto it. I use it for recovery after a training session, and sometimes just to wake up and feel energized in the middle of the day. My sessions typically last about five or ten minutes, but I’ve gone as long as thirty. What do I notice since doing cold plunges?

  • Enhanced recovery from particularly vigorous training or playing. I’m ready to go the next day, rather than feeling beat-up and worn down.
  • Reduced DOMS, even after a heavy day.
  • Less pseudo-arthritic pain in my lower body joints. My arthritis pretty much disappeared since going Primal and giving up endurance athletics, but once in awhile I’d still get a few lingering, worrisome pains. No more.

I’ve never had much fat to lose, so that’s never been a determining factor for me. I do have a concern, though, with the concept of regular prolonged immersions and cold “adaptation” for people trying to lose body fat. One of the epigenetic adaptations to regular long exposures to cold is an increase in subcutaneous fat, as the body attempts to prevent heat loss by building a layer of insulation (fat). This happens often in marathon swimmers who train in cold water. Even non-elite pool swimmers who put in huge yardage tend to have this layer. The other concern is what seems to be an increase in appetite after long exposures to cold (after burning all those calories shivering). That would seem counterproductive – and uncomfortable.

Dr. Kruse is enthusiastic, and, judging from his followers and his monster thread on my forum, many people have found success using his methods. I’ve got nothing against the man. I just want people reading his stuff to be cautious. Take cold plunges, absolutely, but be careful with the two-hour ice water baths. Be wary of some of the more fantastical claims, like improving your lifting numbers by 150 pounds just by sitting in an ice bath, getting “shredded” just from cold water exposure, or falling asleep in a bathtub full of ice for ten hours being safe.

If you’re really interested in cold water therapy, I’d look to Ray Cronise, the NASA scientist who helped Tim Ferriss on the cold water immersion section in the Four Hour Body book. He’s far more measured in his claims and recommendations. According to Cronise, “cool water” is very effective for weight loss, not just freezing cold water, and you don’t have to go numb for days on end to derive benefits from it. Another place to look for inspiration is Richard Nikoley of Free the Animal, who’s been experimenting with cold water exposure for a few years now. Check out Richard’s post from a few weeks’ back where Cronise participates; it’s pretty interesting. If you want to try this out without getting too obsessive or buying any special equipment, you could do the occasional cold shower thing, maybe, but my advice is to just go for a swim in a cool – or even cold – body of water. A pool, a river, a lake, the ocean, whatever. And yes, swim. Don’t sit and stew. Just do some laps, see how many times you can swim underwater from end to end without taking a breath, play Marco Polo, play water polo, get three more people in there for some chicken fights.

Hey Mark,

Safe starches. Are they really safe?


There are certainly safer starches. Things like white rice, yams, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and any other starchy root, tuber, or vegetable that are relatively free of food toxins (gluten and related proteins, grain and legume lectins, etc) are far better choices than pasta, bread, muffins, and pizza. But that’s not to say that everyone should be making those choices, day in, day out.

In general, I’m trying to burn as little glucose as possible. That’s not to say I’m always full-blown ketogenic. I tailor my carb intake to my activity level and my natural inclinations and desires. If I’m playing a lot of Ultimate or going through one of my periodical (but rare) two week stretches of heavy lifting and sprinting a ton, I’ll generally eat a few more sweet potatoes than usual and opt for nigiri over straight sashimi at the sushi spot. But that’s not very often. Most of the time, I stay active, but I don’t go nuts. I’m mostly burning fat, walking a lot, staying on my feet, maintaining a constant level of activity, and punctuating my days with brief spurts of intense activity. I’m not intent on increasing my work capacity, my muscle endurance, nor my ability to take a ton of pain and come out on top – even though I do pretty well when I try something (like Ultimate) that calls for that stuff. So I rarely feel the need to “carb-up.”

The common factor among all these scenarios is that I let my needs dictate my consumption. I call carbs “the elective macronutrient.”  If I need the safe starches to perform better at what I want to do, I’ll eat them. If delicious food that happens to be higher in carbs is in season, I’ll eat some. Just last week, I spied a flat of organic Gavota strawberries at peak ripeness on my way to pick up pastured eggs at the farmers’ market and felt like eating a bunch. So I did. I bought that flat and we went through it in a few days. Was it a “lot” of carbs? Sure, but they were delicious, the weather is really warming up, and they were in season. It just felt right. And because my glycogen stores are generally light, I’m sure I simply topped them off and then burned through most of it doing HIIT the next couple of days.

That’s how I think we should approach safe starches. If it feels right, if your body seems to want it, and you’re going to use those carbs, then go for it. If not, don’t. You’ll probably find that 150 grams of carbs gives a surprising amount of leeway. You’re still low-carb and relying on fat for the bulk of your energy needs, but you’re not in full blown ketosis all the time, which can be limiting (but useful as a therapeutic tool). And if it’s not enough, if you insist on hitting the training a little harder (than I’d like) some days, try a cyclic low-carb approach. Eat low-carb on rest days, higher-carb on training days. A “carb refeed” might be warranted in this case, and it would allow you to still be in fat-burning mode most of the time.

But ultimately, I think we should be focusing on becoming fat-burning beasts, running on clean plentiful fuel, enjoying steady even energy, and avoiding a lifetime of sugar-burning. If that means limiting the types of chronic high-intensity, high-volume training that necessitates eating loads of safe starches, so be it. That’s what I’ve chosen to do for the rest of my time here, and it seems to be working pretty well. I’m rarely ketotic, since I like my veggies and berries as much as anyone, but when I do slip into ketosis, it’s not a struggle and there are no side effects. The machinery is already in place and fully operational.

Well, that’s my take on it all. What’s yours?

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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120 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Leptin Resets, Cold Thermogenesis, and Safe Starches?”

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  1. I really like your input on safe starches. When I first went primal I was almost fasting and avoided non-veggie, starchy carbs for about two weeks. The thought of eating them while my body was adjusting made me nauseated. Since then I can tell much easier when my body has had enough of the sweet stuff (berries or yams) and I don’t overdo like I used to. Having been raised by a sugar addict into my own sugar-addicted lifestyle, this is huge for me. Thanks so much!

  2. Safe starches are awesome. As a young, active guy I feel they really help my performance (and hence enjoyment) at sports. It’s hard to chow down enough potatoes (sweet or regular) to get enough carbs so I eat white rice on really heavy days.

  3. Be prepared to link back to this post every other day. People are going to continue to ask the question until they are told it’s OK to stuff their face with sugar whenever they get the urge.

    1. This is so true. I know this because this is what I have done in the past. No more for me, it stops now.

  4. Mark – You’re like warm butter waiting to spread. Very laid back and peaceful. Thanks for your responses. I love your “regular guy” attitude toward starches and food in general. As well as cold immersion. It’s there to help, so enjoy if possible!

    1. Mark’s laid back, common sense approach is what attracted me to this blog three years ago and what keeps me coming back daily!

      I’m not sure I’ve ever found I disagree with his take on much of anything.

  5. I’m a hell raiser who was born to laugh at tornadoes, I only eat the unsafe starches.

  6. As far as carbs go i find it works best for me to stay below 100g per day. Around 50-70 is good for me

  7. The whole safe starch thing gets under my skin a bit. Some people wouldn’t consider me paleo because I eat sweet potato every week and I’ll eat quinoa regularly too.

    I’ve heard so much quinoa bashing around the net, the way people talk you’d think it was equivalent to a McDonald’s Happy Meal! Relax people!

    1. LOL – yeah I agree. Like really, we aren’t eating pizza pops and tv dinners. Come on….. relax people.

    2. I have issues with high carb things, but I didn’t seem to feel sugar-crashy after eating raw sprouting quinoa. Didn’t know people were bashing it. I don’t find it all that appealing, so from that perspective, I consider it rather safe to have in the pantry.

  8. Well sweet potatoes are definitely paleo and thank goodness for that! Although I personally only eat them about once ever 2 months. I am currently trying to lose the final 5 to my goal weight

  9. Your Kruse comments were very measured. I can ALMOST see that you’re in line with most everyone else: that Kruse has issues but hopefully he’s helping others.

  10. I like this post so much. It reminds me of the very first time I read your blog. For days I kept shaking my head and thinking, “That’s so . . . humane.”

    The idea of eating seasonal fruit and being thoughtful, rather than rigid, about carb intake offends the heck out of my inner pharisee (you know, that holier-than-thou part of my personality that wants to count everything so he can be right all the time). I think that’s a pretty good sign.

  11. Right on Weatherwax (and Mark!) the “humane-ness” and general “it feels right” aspect of Primal and MDA are what keep me coming back. Regarding the starches and carbs, I had a few very low carb weeks, which, along with a lot of walking, cycling (low intensity) and bodyweight workouts, left me feeling depleted…so I just ate more fruits and veggies and it helped a lot. Listening to your body is key, I think. And it’s certainly easier to listen to your body when it’s clean, not cluttered up with sugars etc.

  12. Otzi here from the forums;
    Thanks for this timely post, you are ever the calming voice of reason! I started a thread on Cold Thermogenesis in the Nutrition Forum a few months back and am getting quite a bit of positive feedback from people trying cold baths, showers, ice packs, cool swims etc…

    I am the guy that invited Ray Cronise to this forum and also Free The Animal. I love to get his input since he is so different than Dr. Kruse. I hope to see big things from Ray in the coming years.

    Regarding the fat layer from chronic cold exposure-this does not occur when following the Primal Blueprint and being mindful not to overeat. When eating a carb-laden SAD, this will definitely occur. I like to do as Ray Cronise and plan a huge calorie poor/nutrient rich meal after any cold dips.


    1. Totally agree – CT is the first thing that has gotten rid of the stubborn belly fat that even 2 years of primal & the leptin reset couldn’t get rid of.

      That said, to address Mark’s concerns above, and as Cronise mentions, anyone using temps <60F needs to take certain precautions, and Kruse lays out those precautions in one of his first CT blogs. Ease into it slowly over weeks & months (he gives suggestions how), check your skin color & core temp, have a spotter if you decide to do something more intense, be aware that hypothermia kills by making you stupid.

      No one should be doing anything intense right off the bat, period. Now, 65 degrees felt intense to me, lol, so I don't mean that, but going below 60, extending the time significantly, etc., must all be done after you're already cold adapted and with all the above precautions. There are alot of people on the MDA forums sharing their experiences with low-key, moderate, and intense CT, both positive and negative, so anyone interested here should check out what they have to say!

  13. I suspect Dr. Kruse is a nut, and a member of a group to which I refer as “A diet-guru-wannabe with an MD who discovered one thing that seems to work, and immediately concluded that he has *all* the answers” — a group that includes Ornish and McDougal.

    I was disappointed that he got kicked off the cruise, because I wanted to quiz him personally about some of the inconsistencies in his “TedX” talk.

      1. Cronise’s experimentations with heat and cold are worth looking into, even if you wouldn’t eat the same diet that he currently eats. He’s also the guy that pointed out that if nutritionists are going to go on and on about “Calories In, Calories Out” that, hey, you better factor in temperature, as well as diet and exercise. After all, a calorie is a unit of heat. How could you go on and on about the First Law of Thermodynamics and completely ignore heat?

        Beyond fat loss, there appear to be other benefits to cool or cold exposure (from showers, dips, swims, lowering your thermostat), like increased immune system function and better skin. Certainly worth experimenting with.

        1. First Law of Thermodynamics applies to a closed system. The human body is far from a closed system. Where do you draw the circle?

          You can go on about the effects of a system to maintain a set temperature under the influence of reduced ambient temperatures. It takes calories to create heat, but trying to write an energy balance equation around the human body has never been done. They are all vast approximations so why bother.

        2. Chris, those are the exact points that Cronise makes. And I am in complete agreement with you. My point is that you shouldn’t dismiss Cronise’s experiments with temperature and fat loss simply because he is currently experimenting with a plant based diet.

        3. I don’t dismiss his CT work but his blog at the moment is a little thin on CT, ya know for a CT site. It is also insane to wax poetic that an amino acid is an amino acid no matter what the source. And lowering TC to 135 is not good, it is dangerous and has been shown to be a contributing factor to CHD more so then high cholesterol. I mean WTF? I guess if you like dementia it is the way to go.

  14. Mark,

    Dr. Oz made a claim today that one should not consume liver due to the toxins in it. I was wondering what your primal informed response would be to this?

        1. Actually I would partially agree if your eating conventional meat. toxins are going to be stored up in the liver more than other places in the body. I’m sure Dr. Oz didn’t take into account grass fed organic liver. I have heard recommendations to eat calf liver instead because there is no time for the toxins to build up as much so if your going for conventional liver calves would probably be best.

    1. On 5/19/12 MDA posted a recipe for chicken liver pate…

      Also search the archives.

      It is all about the source!

      1. +1 – its always about the source…and Mark addressed the “toxin”issue recently. The liver is a filter, NOT a collector for toxins…cant recall the post, but it was recent!

    2. I don’t watch Dr. Oz, but – the liver is a toxin filter that’s its job. And I’ve seen some nasty abscessed cows liver in my life. On the other hand I think healthy organ meat is likely.. well healthy – after all that’s what the carnivores eat first. But I can’t stand liver so it doesn’t really concern me either way LOL

    3. Your first mistake was watching & listening to anything Dr. Ozhole has to say about almost anything in the first place. Just when I think I’ve heard the absolute nuttiest thing from him ever he finds a way to top his own extremely bad & factually erroneous ‘advice’.

      Mark has covered this ad nauseum, & a simple google search of the term ‘liver safe to eat?’ will give you more than you ever wanted to know about it, or you could just use the search box at the top of the page.

      1. One of the great things about this site is that it is never negative towards anyone. I would think that supporters of the Primal way would refrain from showing disrespect towards those with whom we disagree.

    4. Funny, that’s a better reason not to eat grains… too many toxins. The liver filters toxins, it doesn’t store them. I’ve sure liver has a few toxins (every food does), but they aren’t “building up” in the liver.

  15. Mark,

    According to Robb Wolf, in the Paleo Solution, peptide YY improves central nervous system sensitivity to leptin, and almost all people whore are obese have very low levels of peptide YY.

    Although dietary fat also releases peptide YY, you get much more bang for your caloric buck eating protein.

    It would seem that in order to restore proper functioning of the metabolically dysfunctional a high protein diet would be most prudent.

    No bias towards Kruse one way or another.

    1. It was the Leptin reset that started my journey. I was only on it for 6 weeks, which is what is suggested, but started to loose weight for the first time in 20 years. Dr.Kruses blog pointed me here and I have to say this is where I stay, but at the time I found his work fascinating, particularly his writing on Narcalepsy which my father struggled with all his adult life. I don’t understand all of his posts, I never did biochemistry at school, but I learnt enough to point me in the right direction. That said I looked at the cold stuff, and decided that our winter is cold enough, and ice baths was torture in my mind so have decided to ignore it. Everyone has bias and passions, we have the choice to take notice or not. Chill lol

  16. As far as Cold Thermogenesis stuff… does it have to be a “plunge” or does a cold shower count?

      1. Thanks!

        I despise cold showers, but if the short exposure after a heavy lift will help recovery, I’ll grin and bear it.

        Plus my wife will like the fact that the mirror won’t get all fogged up.

        1. A plunge, especially easing into it over time by slowly decreasing temp, is far easier than a shower, IMO. With a shower, you’re constantly being bombarded by cold, then re-exposed to warm air, then bombarded again. I never get used to it.

        2. My main issue with cold showers, to be honest, is how terrible it feels on you groin. This is probably way TMI, but wearing underwear during a cold shower seems to be 1000% more bearable, and I don’t give a damn if that means I burn 10 less calories because of it. God knows, I don’t think my balls need recovery after a bench press.

        3. In Germany (including at the traditional baths ie spas) warm to hot to cool to cold is the norm. Varicose veins, f.ex, are supposed to be helped by finishing a normal shower with cold, starting at the feet and working up. It makes you warmer afterwards (my feet are often cold otherwise) and (with dry brushing) it’s done good things for my cellulite!

  17. Jack is right about the carb/seasonal cycle. Carbs in winter is bad news.

    1. I can’t agree with that, though I respect your right to believe in it.

      1. How about, “Having more carbs and light than your climate would indicate” is bad news? Most people in developed nations today get WAY more carbs and light than one would get even at the equator.

    2. After reading Taubes “Good Calories, Bad Calories” I sort of have to agree. I know I gain weight in the winter and even submitted a question to Mark once on it. Taubes discusses in his book how average insulin levels will increase during the winter months. And because we frequent MDA, we all know what insulin does…

      1. I just cannot see what this has to do with the Missile Defense Agency

  18. I keep planning to try the cold water exposure after hearing Tim Ferriss discuss it while promoting his book, but man does it sound brutal. I tried a few cold showers and couldn’t stand it. Has anyone in the comments section had much luck with it?

    1. I tried the cold shower thing last year by turning the shower on full cold and just jumping in for as long as I could stand it. I have had greater success the past 2 weeks with getting the water a little cooler then tepid and getting in and then turning the water down to full cool over ~10 min. It has worked great and I am able to turn the water down at a higher rate every time.

      1. +1 again- I have gradually turned down the temp in the shower after workouts. most of us cant just jump into a really COLD pool! too much of a shock,in a bad way, I think.

    2. I struggle with cold showers. I need to plunge into cold water vs. cold showers or wading in.

    3. You’ll definitely lose weight with it, if you follow Tim Ferris’ protocol, but like Mark said, if you have a low BF% already it may add some fat to you for insulation.

      I used to be a competitive swimmer, and I always noticed that long-distance swimmers seemed to be “softer” with thicker skin, than sprinters, but they needed far more time in the pool to train. If you tune into the Olympics coming up this summer, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

      Now that I am very lean, I have staying away from cold – coldish water, because I know it will add insulation to me where I don’t want it.

    4. COLD SHOWERS SUCK. I put an inch of warm water in the tub, then sat in it and turned on the cold. Like boiling a frog, you hardly notice it. On the MDA forums, we call it the “Croak Soak.”

      After a few weeks of this, I can plunge right in without problems, and cold showers suck a lot less, too.

    5. I started doing a cold rinse after a short regular shower. (I shave in the shower and don’t want to shave in cold water). It took about a week of shifting to cold and rinsing for ~5 to 10 min before I built up a tolerance. Was pretty harsh at first, but have been doing it for 6 weeks now. Really look forward to it every morning, especially after my regular KB workout. Really a rush. Have not measured myself in a month, so not sure if it is having a impact on fat, but the pooch on my abs seems to be shrinking, pants loose, belt and wrist watch looser.

    6. Cold immersion reminds me of cold turkey morning dives for swimteam practice and it sucked so bad…hated it.
      But with summer coming up; go sweat your ass off outside and when you’re dripping dying of heat go inside and start with a tepid shower and slowly turn the temp down. It will feel wonderful and you’ll recover. Stress free way to enjoy it.
      An oh-shit-running-late-go-go-go is also the perfect time for cold water to the face or the body because it will snap you up. This is exactly the kind of stress I consciously deleted from my life, though.

      Cold shower as a calorie burning mechanism, I don’t really buy it, for various anecdotal reasons.

  19. Mark,

    What do you think about Kruse’s idea of longer/shorter light exposure to the eye (aka Summer/Winter) having such an impact on our metabolism and tolerance of carbohydrates?

    Also, any thoughts on what he says about epigenetics and cold adaptation?

  20. Mark, thanks for another great article. Since about the end of last year I’ve been feverishly studying paleo/primal, and guess what? Your blog is the last one standing in my reader list. I have shed 60# from my 5’2″ frame on low-carb primal, and I have you to thank for a lot of how I make it work for me.

  21. This is why I love MDA. Everything in moderation, and it’s OK to live your life and enjoy some splurges.

  22. To get a mental grip on & make sense of the whole ‘safe starches’ theory I like the analogy Dr Wheatbelly uses in talking about replacing dietary wheat & grains with gluten free wheat & grains, i.e. replacing something bad with something LESS bad does not make or mean the less bad thing is any better for you or safe & good for mass consumption.

    Following the faulty logic used by the average person & the cigarette industry, in practice that means that if regular cigarettes are bad, then we should all be smoking 2 or more packs of filtered cigarettes a day because they’re not as bad, or at least are less bad, than regular cigarettes, and just ignore the whole smoking thing & the negative effects it causes altogether.

    It’s obvious that the ‘safe starches’ concept is a devious plot invented by the safe starches lobby to promote sales & consumption of sweet potatoes & yams.

  23. Wished you would have discussed BAT a little more, that is the whole point of cold thermogenesis as far as I’m concerned!

  24. “It shouldn’t be necessary. Studies do show that a high-protein breakfast improves weight loss and satiety better than a breakfast of any other macronutrient breakdown, but it should not be continued indefinitely.”

    Well, honestly, this is a straw man. It *shouldn’t* be necessary, but for those of us damaged by several generations of eating crap, and ending up with certain diseases and/or serious cravings, it can be a life-saver. I’ve been on this forum for two years and reading your blog for three, but as many wonderful things as going primal did for my health, I never could get the cravings to quit thwarting my efforts until I tried the BIG protein breakfast.

    And Kruse **never** says it should be indefinite. In fact, he says the opposite. He says that for most people, this should take 6-8 weeks, and then go on to a reasonable maintenance diet, which is primal with the added tweak of eating carbs seasonally. He eats a LOT of carbs in the summer. It’s not just his idea; I know I came to the same conclusion a long time before I ever heard of him.

    1. cheers mama grok! I haven’t slep this well in years, until I followed the Leptin Reset. and same with “uncontrollable” urges to snack/binge- The Leptin Reset worked wonders for me on that front (though I’m still struggling with it). I think I needed the biological reset to reset my old eating patterns as well. And Unfortunately, MDA did not do that for me.

    2. MamaGrok, I have been eating 3 eggs for breakfast and just added 3 breakfast sausage links. It made a difference in my cravings. This is only 30 grams. What do you eat that adds to 50-75 grams of protein is my question?

      1. Simple way to look at it: 7 “units” are 49g. A unit is an egg or an ounce of meat.

        So 3 eggs = 21gm. I usually eat 3 eggs + 4+ oz of sausage from our pastured pig, or two bratwursts from same farmer, or traditional breakfast like pork chops & eggs, or steak & eggs.

        When I needed 65g protein, I cooked up a whole pound of sausage, and it measured up just about right after disregarding all the fat.

      2. When I was doing the reset, also only for 6 weeks, I found the best option for me was lamb chops or a bit of steak. I froze portions and got them out the night before. As I progressed I found that I simply couldn’t eat the breakfast I was eating at the beginning. As I eased off the reset I started to exercise again, and I used marks free e-book to get me started. These days I don’t eat breakfast at all, and I am still loosing weight, slowly! I love my new life

  25. “my advice is to just go for a swim in a cool – or even cold – body of water. ”

    I’m going to say that even this needs caveats. Many bodies of water get WELL below the “no problem” level of 60 degrees F. If you just jumped into a 50 or 40 degree river or lake, you could get hypothermia and die while trying to “tough it out.”

    Take someone with you until you’re thoroughly cold-adapted, and even then, if you decide to take it up a notch (doing some Polish or Russian style “ice hole” dips, for instance, or dramatically increasing the duration, or going in a much colder air temp), bring your spotter back!

  26. I really like your style. Intelligence, Integrity, common sense no nonsense approach to your life. Then we get the benefits of your knowledge and solid advice. Love your posts, keep me informed and I will attempt to make the right choices for my Primal Lifestyle. Thanks

  27. “Thirty grams (of protein) at a sitting is probably the most your body can deal with…”

    Boy, I’d love to hear you elaborate more on this one…

    1. SP, let me explain that in a bit more detail. You can certainly digest and process a huge amount of protein at a sitting. I do that fairly frequently. But I know that very little of that meal/dose will be taken in by lean tissue and used to actually “build.” Most of it beyond, say 15-30 grams, will be converted to glucose via gluconeogenesis and stored or burned as such (glycogen or as fat) – or will be excreted. So maybe I should have said “deal with efficiently and effectively.”

      1. If I may, here is the opposite argument.

        Essentially, it seems that protein intake greater than 30 grams a meal can be “used” by lean tissue, and for purposes other than oxidation or excretion, quite well. This might be largely due to most meals being mixed meals, i.e. having a healthy dose of fat that slowly transport of the food bolus through the intestine.

        Here is clever sport nutrition guy Alan Aragon on the subject:

        “If we were to believe the premise that a 20-30 g dose of protein yields a maximal anabolic effect, then it follows that any excess beyond this dose would be wasted. On the contrary, the body is smarter than that.

        In a 14-day trial, Arnal and colleagues found no difference in fat-free mass or nitrogen retention between consuming 79% of the day’s protein needs (roughly 54 g) in one meal, versus the same amount spread across four meals.

        Notably, this study was done on young female adults whose fat-free mass averaged 40.8 kg (89.8 lb). Considering that most non-sedentary males have considerably more lean mass than the female subjects used in the aforementioned trial, it’s plausible that much more than 54 g protein in a single meal can be efficiently processed for anabolic and/or anti-catabolic purposes. If we extrapolated the protein dose used in this study (79% of 1.67g/kg) to the average adult male, it would be roughly 85-95 g or even more, depending on just how close someone is to the end of the upper limits of muscular size.

        When Arnal and colleagues applied the same protocol to the elderly population, the single-dose treatment actually caused better muscle protein retention than the multiple-dose treatment [12]. This raises the possibility that as we age, larger protein feedings might be necessary to achieve the same effect on protein retention as lesser amounts in our youth.”

        1. Oops, type. Meant “healthy dose of fat that slows transport of the food bolus”.

          I’ve seen a couple studies of mixed meals containing more than 30 grams of protein, and amino acid uptake. Here is a study cited by intermittent faster Martin Berkhan, that funny enough studies a pizza meal 🙂 The pizza meal has 37 grams of protein, which admittedly isn’t much more than 30, but I can’t find the bigger protein studies right at this second.

        2. I ve read similar article when I decided to follow Lean gains protocol. If our body was able to use only 30-40 grams of protein in one meal, we wouldn`t be even here discussing this topic. Think about it. if our ancestors (hunters) were able to use only as little as 40 g of protein when they had their meal, and we all know they didnt have refrigerators, they probably wouldnt have lived very long.

      2. Post-workout, protein needs go way up (for 4 – 24 hours, until your muscles are recovered); other than that, pro intake should be much lower, with most cals from fat.

        If you eat high-pro outside the recovery window, the body converts the “excess” pro to glucose (as Mark mentioned); this is bad, as it reinforces your body’s tendency to be a sugar-burner, and store fat.

  28. I really appreciate the thoughtfulness you put into your posts Mark. Thank you.

    I keep my carbs to no more than 100 per day and feel great. I love sweet potatoes and eat them 1-2 times per month. I eat berries almost every day – but I track what I eat and will account for the carbs and adjust as necessary. I really appreciate the “it feels right” approach.

  29. I am from Santa Cruz, CA and I used to LOVE hopping into the ocean there for the invigoration of the freaking cold water. It just makes you feel so ALIVE!!! I really miss that.

    For my first triathlon at a lake here in CO I was the only person who didn’t have a wetsuit for the swimming part. It wasn’t that cold and I’m cheap. And boy did I feel hard core as the only wetsuitless person.

  30. Ever the voice of reason, Mark. Whilst others go off on their wild and sometimes whacky theories everything you say is tempered with good old-fashioned reason and common sense. Don’t stuff yourself past the point of feeling well, don’t spend 10 hours on a cold bath, eat safe starches as and when your body feels the need. Clear, sound, sensible stuff.

  31. I’m not sure about the “leptin reset” part of the “Big Ass Breakfast” as Kruse calls it, but I will say that since I started eating a breakfast with “plenty” of protein and fat, within 1 hour of waking, I rarely need to eat again before dinner. Don’t know if my leptin has been reset, but I have definite hunger signals now on a much more predictable basis. It’s helped tremendously in my self-control and eating habits, and it also gives me something to really look forward to after rising – that yummy breakfast. For years I skipped breakfast, reading my low-blood-sugar hunger signals as morning nausea, making things worse. Without the carbs in the morning, I’m able to really feel the hunger now and respond appropriately. Somehow, Dr. Kruse enabled me to make sense of this concept and implement it.

    1. have a similar experience – i can’t eat first thing but if i do a serious bfast at 11, no more food is necessary till dinner –
      i too find Kruse a bit extreme but his explanations did help me make sense of what seemed to be right for my body/metabolism.

  32. Good to hear some sensible (non-extreme) advice about eating safe starches. A lot of my clients and students I teach jump from extreme health view to extreme health view, letting a set of rigid guidelines dictate their eating.
    It really highlights the importance of knowing the facts so that you can adapt to the changes in your environment…rather than having to rely on some unwavering guidelines from apparent ‘health’ professionals.

  33. thanks for the starch advice. i’m on day 21 of balanced bite’s 21-day sugar detox, and while i like what it’s done for me physically, there’s no way i’m giving up fruit and root veg (and wine! and chocolate!) for the rest of my life. i’m trying to figure out how to reintroduce those foods in a way that doesn’t make me count, measure, estimate, or tally. i should have know the best advice would be “follow your gut.” literally.

  34. Mark

    Lifelong swimmer with subcutaneous fat to lose.

    Yes or no on cold water for me for weight loss?


  35. When I first found MDA, a lot of things didn’t make sense. I decided to try anyway and now, after a year, I see the results and everything makes sense. My point is that using common sense should not be an argument against what Jack K says because common sense changes when you learn and understand things differently. If you try it and know the results, or have the biological reasons to say Jack is nuts then say so, if not just say “I don’t know”. It’s ok to not know. Jack keeps telling people to prove him wrong. Can somebody please do that before I go through all that shaking?

  36. Sea Tangle..noodles made from kelp seaweed. in your local Japanese/Korean grocer. Most brands are made in the USA.
    very low carbs.

  37. I started trying the cold thermogenesis. I never got to the ice baths but did immersion into cold water. I do find it helps to sleep. Cools my body down before going to bed. Which is great because I’m working nights so trying to sleep during the day is a bugger.

    I’m not really into losing weight with it. I’m slim as it is. However, I do like the idea of taking cold showers for recovery. And also the water pressure in my apartment sucks. So this helps me to have to worry about burning my skin because I only get hot water all of a sudden.

  38. Thanks for the Sea Tangle tip, Rik! I had never heard of kelp noodles – I am going to try these
    as soon as I can get some.

  39. Mark, thanks for finally addressing the leptin issue that I emailed you about a few times.

  40. Aaah… cold immersion. I’ve tried, but I can’t even stand a cold shower for a few seconds. I also hibernate in winter. Not going to happen. u.u

  41. Doing the LeanGains routine and find eating carbs just doesn’t seem necessary. When I do I feel like, in the eight hours I have, it’s almost hard to get over 100 grams with all the protein and fats I get.

  42. I dumped all grain even so called healthy whole grain, from my diet and I have never felt better, and people still cant believe that you do not need to eat grain to be healthy.

  43. This conversation reminds me of an old (I think Japanese martial) tradition of alternating hot and cold water showers(dips). The point wasn’t to soak but to essentially ‘shock’ or task the body for tolerance sake – so you don’t get too comfortable. Just take your usual shower, then count to whatever, (5-10 worked for me) and swap to cold for the same count and switch back and forth about three or four times.

    I used to do this somewhat regularly and I always felt refreshed afterwards. Perfect for a wake me up in the morning or after a long workout/hard day.

    Perhaps longer stretches work for therapeutic or these ‘dietetic’ reasons, but I don’t see a reason for it myself unless there’s a medical issue/imbalance.

  44. You have no idea how long it took me to write this! Or even to drag myself into saying anything at all. But here:

    Leptin Reset: I have been carb addicted for more than half of my life, and have trouble giving them up on stressful days. I find that having a breakfast that is at least 30g of protein absolutely KILLS my carb cravings, and actually does have some impact on my appetite during the day.

    Cold Showers: Ugh! The only point of a shower is the HOT water! However, I will say that a cold RINSE after a hot shower leaves my skin and hair feeling cleaner, somehow, and I find I sleep better after it.

    Migraine story! I don’t know if there are people who might find this useful, but I get terrible, terrible migraines with aura — one of the worst ones came up a few days ago, and I had nothing on hand. I usually use an OTC painkiller that will knock me out for a couple of hours and try to sleep it off for a couple of hours somewhere warm. This time, I had no time for that and no OTC painkillers. What I DID have was pure coconut water. I drank it– and ended up with no headache after a few hours! Who knew, right?

  45. Today The Doctors advised against cold plunges into water less than 70 degrees. They laid out some dangerous consequences.

  46. Mark, thank you for covering this in a thoughtful and rational way. I have been reading some blogs, some for and some strenuously opposed to CT and leptin reset. All were quite opinionated without really having any studies or science to back it up. More like reading about an uncomfortable high school bitter rivalry. I also first heard of it in The 4 Hour Body.

  47. All this talk of cold showers made me think of two things:

    race horses get their legs rinsed with cold water post race.


    in Australia (at least where I was born and bred) the local government sent us out shower timers in the mail to make sure we have showers less than 4 mins long. My mother in law, and she’s not alone, keeps buckets in the shower cubicle and uses the water she catches for other things around the house.

    For a while there, it was forbidden to wash your car, even just the windows with a hose. You can only wash the car windows with a bucket of water.

    You cannot water the garden. Or the grass. You cannot run the outside hose at all.

    So all this talk of having 10 min showers made my mind boggle!


  48. Some feedback on Dr Kruse:

    I followed his prinicples for 6 months (Feb 1 – Jul 31) EXACTLY without a single mouthful of cheating. Here’s what I found:

    1. Good physiological results in that energy and weight lifting improved
    2. Bad leptin srum levels. Levels, which were regularly tested previously, went through the roof and stayed there.

    I have a number of auto-immune diseases inc. MS and the re-current neck wobble got much better so yay!!

    I was interested in the rising serum leptin levels. I asked Dr Kruse about it but got his typical brush-off (when results to conform to his theory).

    I’ve never been much of a carb junkie and have been paleo-ish for about ten years. I’ve really struggled to maintain weight despite exercise and paleo and believe that LR is the problem.

    Interested if any of you might have a theory as to why my serum leptin levels went upupup!!

    Many thanks.

    1. I think it comes down to self education. You do what works for you. Sometimes medication is required, sometimes it’s building a medical solution for yourself. Sometimes the answer is how to implement your medical research into your daily life and start to feel better.

      Unfortunately, Doctor’s are not trained to provide a total – WHOLE BODY network solution– how everything works together, to prevent and cure people.

      I read NIH, MAYO Clinic, City of Hope research, Marks Daily Apple, Dr. Jack Kruse blogs and realized each person is responsible for their own recovery, own health. Optimal health comes down to your knowledge about yourself and working with your doctors to find a solution for you. Doctors are only as educated about you as you are about yourself. Doctor’s do not provide cures.

      From a Wife of a Aplastic Anemia husband.

  49. I asked Dr Kruse about it but got his typical brush-off (when results FAIL to conform to his theory).

    Woops, sorry about that.

  50. For the most part, do CT gradually over years.
    Step jump CT. My body is slightly different in that I fell ill with high temperature in Russia, survived, and oddly adapted to -20 degrees Celsius from what was comfortable of UK 12-16 degrees celsius. In T-shirt and shorts. Everthing worked fine, except when entering a warmer environment, felt either colder or much warmer. Outside temperatures and wind fine.
    Upon returning to humid tropics, I was constantly burning for about 7 years until recently. Reduced exercise, under trained, ate a lot more greens, coupled with Omega 3-6-9. Live with Ghurkas. Unfortunately, with humid tropics, illnesses creep back.

  51. I’ve been reading NIH studies, Marks Daily Apple Blog and Dr. Jack Kruse Blogs and it all comes down to each individuals age, medical situation, body type, life style, daily habits and food battles. There is no one-stop-shop that works for everyone. I have to read and look-up medical terms and acronyms to fully comprehend what I’m reading, but over all it’s enough information to tailor something for myself.

    I would have to say no-one-doctor or nutritionist has the answer or cure for being at our optimal health. The body is more complicated than opening a can of paint to change a room. The body is all linked, all dependent on something else functioning properly. If one thing is out-of-wack, sick, weak or broken there is physical out-ward signs of the imbalance.

    The MYTH is WEIGHT LOSS the truth is balance. The body needs a balance of Omega6 to Omega3, needs a balance of vitamins and minerals, needs a balance of idle time and movement, and it needs a balance based on an individuals age, medical situation, body type, life style, daily habits and food battles.

    Anything out-of-moderation is extreme and can cause damage. So for me the goal is personal, the obstacle is SUGAR, the out-come is to feel really good everyday, every time I eat and every time I wake-up.

  52. My question is about the exercise and snacking I teach water aerobics and am in the water from 7-11am on Tues & thus and 9:30-12 and 1-2 on m-w-f. This totally contradicts the no exercise before 5 pm. My doctor has me eating breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner since I am insulin resistant and wants to keep my blood sugars level. This too seams to be a contradiction. What am I supposed to do?

    1. my email was wrong in the original post and I forgot to mention that I also make sure I have something available during the long hours in the pool in case I get hungry.

  53. I have finally dialed I in to the paleo pescatarian lifestyle. I eat 1 piece of salmon with skin every 3-4 hours. I coat with ginger, onion powder, cayenne, lemon juice, white pepper. I slowly cook on indoor grill next to me. I break of small pieces and chew very well. My salad is a small portion of cilantro, spring mix, sauerkraut, onion flakes, tblsp coconut oil, and chia seed too. I say too because it is important to keep the seeds thick not milk like in my e patience. Plus it tastes better. This is my main staple. I maintain ketosis very well. I found that if I limit workout to no more than 15-20 mins 2-3x day high intensity I can eat this and re over well and keep blood sugar levels very steady. I use a blood glucose meter to monitor be and urs-10 urine sticks mostly monitoring pH, blood, ketone, gravity. This visibility has really helped me eliminate many foods I thought were OK. Lemon juice and green juice can cause huge spikes if used alone. Using a small amount with meals is OK. Keeping myself in ketosis and suuplementing glutamine, ginko, b vitamins, acetyl l carnitine, c, ginseng, calcium and some others like NCAA and amino complex tabs really help. When I don’t supp amino I don’t recover as quick. Key is regulating how much since derived from dairy. No fruit no nuts no carbs or sugars. Only fats are fish, coconut oil, chia seeds, hemp, flax, some fish oils dha pills. Learning to reduce stress as much as possible in all daily activities makes a huge difference in hormone balance and adrenal health. Knowing when to explode like a lion takes extreme patience and having everything in balance.

  54. Two quick points about the leptin reset. You’re right on, it shouldn’t be a long term diet, which is pointed out in the protocol. Also, the large amount of protein in the morning isn’t to keep satiated and lose weight, although that’s a benefit, it is to restore circadian rhythms. At least, that’s what JK says in the protocol.

  55. I’ve had several weeks of the best (deepest + most consistent i.e. every night) sleep in years since starting the leptin reset (big chicken breast every breakfast along with bacon and eggs, far from stuffing myself i gulp it down), but this week I had two nights of bad sleep. As far as I can tell the only thing that changed was that I didn’t have much meat in my evening meal (just veg-and-bit-of-meat stir fry). It seems that to sleep well I need the protein before bed too. I am presuming this is temporary and the leptin reset temporary diet will correct my leptin levels (I have always had a huge apetite but have never been overweight) and then I won’t *need* all this protein to sleep well. Has anyone had similar experiences?

    (my exercise levels right now are moderate – plenty of move at a slow pace, a job where I stand a lot (teaching), and I surf or do lightish movnat 2-4 times a week)

  56. Doctor k’s work originated from him being obese from leptin sensitivity. His work started with Calorie restricted optimal nutrient eating (cron diet) Then progressed to HCG hormone treatment and finally he added cold theromogenics in what he calls the magic trinity. It’s extremely over simplified to frame his self study as ‘can cold showers make you lose weight”. The focus of what he is showing is that gradual and increased cold thermogenics re set leptin sensitivity Which ultimately helps to remiss metabolically challenged conditions. It doesn’t happen right away but he did his thermogenics in an increasing manner over 18 months and was able to repair his insulin resistence. This is why he has so many fans. If you dont struggle w a metabolic condition It might be hard to appreciate the full scope of his work. In my personal experience, I was always 5’10 and 125 to 130 pounds. I could eat anything and never gained anything. My metabolism was great. I thought fat people were lazy. This lasted until i was expecting my child at age 36. I was gaining 10 plus pounds a mo in pregnancy. I shot up the scale to 200 pounds in 7 months and by the time i had an emergency c section at 8 mo pregnant, i weighed 220 pounds. I didn’t know it but I had gestational diabetes for my entire pregnancy. After the baby I quickly lost the weight and got back down to 148..But over the years my stomach grew huge and I could not understand what was going on. I was diagnosed with a thyroid condition and then later pre diabetes. By the time i was in my mid 40s i looked great in clothes–i still looked ‘skinny’ but my waist was 37 inches when standing and 40 when sitting! I knew something was wrong and I had felt like the past handful of years I had been aging so much more quickly. I found answers in dr. Ks work. If you take the time to read it, you’re going to learn about what is happening in insulin resistance and with leptin sensitivity. You can exercise and eat right and even do HCG injections for the pituitary reset and to lose some weight but until you fix the leptin sensitivity issue, the crux of your metabolic downward spirial, You’ll be doing little more than rearranging the chairs on the deck of a sinking ship. In doctor k’s work he is super clear and repetitively clear about how important it is to gradually do the cold therapy. He writes of 1st doing just your face in some cold water in the sink and doing that each day as you get used to it. Im following his plan and feeling better. I do a calorie reduced optimal nutrient diet, hcg injections 28 days on (500 calories when on hgc) 6 weeks off and am building my thermogenics tolerance slowly. Dr. Ks work is really tailored to those of us who are desperate to reclaim our metabolic health to remiss all of the health issues it causes–not just extra fat. His leaning toward higher grams of protein is connected to cron method of eating. If one is doing cron and trying to stay under a certain calorie amount they are going to make best use of those calories in high protein foods–hard boiled eggs, crab shrimp and fish, fage yougurt w 23 g protein per cup. I eat like this and i feel better. Im currently not eating more than 600 calories day of nutriant dense foods.