Dear Mark: Rapid Fire Edition

Hello, everyone! I thought I’d give this “Dear Mark” format a try again. I literally get dozens of emails every day from readers. I try to respond to every last one of them, and the best questions (or at least those I want to rant in response to) get reserved for Monday’s “Dear Mark” posts in which I usually go into a good deal of detail. But sometimes it’s fun to just publish half a dozen short Q&A’s at once. Hit me up with you questions and comments in the comment board. Enjoy!



How many pounds can you lose doing cardio?

I have been thinking about this for a while and was hoping you might be able to shed some light on the subject.  Please help.  I really appreciate your help.

I say you can’t lose any.


How much weight can someone very heavy lose per week?

I am trying to figure out what is important.  I was hoping you might be able to give me some insight.

Any help would be appreciated.  Thanks.

2 pounds per week is comfortable and results in 100 lbs per year.


My husband LOVES bread.  Is there any bread that is good for you?  As he was eating his 3rd slice at dinner last night, I read aloud the long list of ingredients.  Any suggestions?

Thank you

In my opinion there are NO good breads. Period. Full stop.


Hi Mark,

As one of those people in the category of “endurance athletes who also want to go as primal as possible”, I’ve read with great interest all your blogs that address this conundrum.  I understand the reasons for going primal, but I also get so much out of training for triathlons and the like.  I don’t want to give either up.  I’ve read several times now your advice to this group to calculate as precisely as possible the number of carbs that one needs, on a daily basis, for replenishment from training loads.  I’ve been asking myself lately how exactly would I go about calculating this number….do you have any advice on this?  I understand that I could go and have a metabolic test done where they figure out the percentages of cho and fat burned at various intensities while biking/running, but the budget just doesnt allow for that right now.  Would there be a simpler, albeit less precise method?  Thanks for your help.  Also, I was thinking it would be really helpful if there was sort of a compendium or category for all your posts that have been addressed, more or less at the category of the “primal endurance” athlete.  Thanks again.

The only way to figure your needs is to start with 100 grams carbs a day as a baseline and then add more into the mix from there…but that depends on how hard you train. If you trained at <70% all the time, I might say you never needed to go above 150 grams a day. If you train at 80% for two hours a day, I’d say you need an extra 200-300 grams a day. It all boils down to how good you are at fat burning and how much high intensity stuff you plan to do. There’s no test for it. You need to experiment, trial and error.

I might do a separate program for you crazy endurance guys after the book comes out.
Hey Mark,

I’ve reread your piece on the effects of a carb-binge multiple times, but I guess there’s still something that I’m not quite “getting” about the whole insulin response process.  Just why is it that the more insulin-resistant folks who regularly eat hundreds of carbs every day don’t seem to be as acutely & negatively affected by their daily/hourly infusions of cereal, crackers and cookies, compared to my primal self on an increasingly-occasional off-plan over-‘indulgence’, which makes me feel like I’ve been sideswiped by a truck?  What’s happening (or not) in their systems compared to the way my body reacts to a sudden sugar/grain attack?

As always, thanks for your thoughts and time!

When you are insulin resistant, you generally have a lot of sugar in your bloodstream all the time. Even as sugar gets stored as fat, it takes longer to get rid of it all. So your body is used to having all this sugar and it almost never drops below a certain level. Since the brain runs on sugar, it has adequate fuel. Meanwhile the rest of your body has grown accustomed to the presence of sugar (not that it’s good – just that you’re used to it and it has no effect that you can feel).

Conversely, when you are insulin sensitive (healthy) and you eat a ton of carbs, your pancreas shoots out a ton of insulin and it very effectively and quickly removes all that sugar from your bloodstream (because it can so nicely store it inside muscle and liver cells…and fat cells). The result is that now there’s very little sugar in the bloodstream to fuel the brain. Your brain goes “Holy crap, I have no more fuel…I’m stressed…I gotta eat” and the roller coaster continues.

Make sense?


How’s your cholesterol? Do you have it checked? Your HDL, LDL, total triglycerides?


Last test I had (for life insurance, because I don’t have it tested normally), total was 180, HDL 80, Trigs 70.


How many lbs can you lose through exercise?

I am trying to figure out what is important.  I was hoping you might be able to give me some insight.  Please help.

I am very grateful for your help.  Thanks.

Trying to lose weight through exercise alone won’t work. 80% of your weight loss (or more) will come from how you eat.

Further Reading:

Dear Mark: Weight Loss and Workout Routine

Dear Mark: Fiber, Fat and Fasting

Dear Mark: Saturated Fat

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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41 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Rapid Fire Edition”

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  1. Nice light reading. I wouldn’t COMPLETELY dismiss cardio though. The kind of cardio most people may be very far from ideal, or effective, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely worthless.

  2. Question…How would my endurance change by only training HIIT and weight lifting (no more long jogs/rowing) and following the Primal Diet? Will I begin to fade earlier then before? I would still like to play hours of full-court basketball. Thanks.

  3. Chris, some cardio is OK, but the truth is, if you are using cardio (especially Chronic Cardio) to lose weight, you’re likely to fail. All it does is increase glucose throughput, increasing your appetite for more carbs – more than you need to replace the ones you just lost. Long slow aerobic stuff, coupled with intense short bursts is the way to combine the two effectively and transition to a more fat-based fueling system. The exception would be world class endurance athletes who train hard all the time…but that begets a whole new series of problems.

    Steven, your endurance won’t improve on HIIT alone if you are training for steady-state efforts like marathons. But I do believe that it will improve on short-burst stuff like B-ball, soccer, volleyball, etc. Of course, you can always improve on the HIIT by doing a one or two hour hike once in a while, too. For someone doing marathons, you can increase endurance by staying under 75% max HR for extended training sessions (and then doing HIIT on others) AND keeping a low carb diet.

  4. I agree with SoG. I would be happy to see this done more often! 🙂

    “Pick Mark’s Brain”… yum~

  5. LOL. As one of those “crazy endurance guys”, I look forward to any work you do in that direction.

    I’ve done well sticking to 100 grams/day, oftentimes less. The key for me has been making sure I get a good dose of quality carbs immediately after a long/hard workout. For the shorter/harder workouts, I’ll stick to healthy protein/fats (e.g. nuts, eggs).

    But I just need to figure out a good primal way to stay fueled during these 60K+ runs that I’ve really taken a fancy to.

  6. I will disagree somewhat with Mark about bread. You can make your own almond-flour or coconut-flour bread and make some fluffy pitas, or a breakfast coconut flour muffin. Just look for the Primal Pizza recipe and check out some of SOG’s creations on his website. I made a Primal Pizza the other day, and it was better than any bread-based pizza I’ve ever had, even authentic Italian Pizza!

  7. JE, semantics, man. When I say “bread” I am talking about that stuff made with grains. If you make some baked concoction with coconut flour or almond flour – and avoid grains – that falls outside my definition of bread. But I do agree that those variations are tasty and probably more healthy.

  8. “How many lbs can you lose through cardio”

    Just to qualify Mark’s response (which I agree with as a quick fire response!) I would say you can lose plenty of lbs through cardio if you have the willpower to ignore your body’s cries for calories generated by the cardio. So if you love making life hard for yourself and have a will of iron, use cardio to lose weight…

  9. Reid, my intake is very sporadic. Some days I get 700 calories and some days 3,000. I guess my average intake is around 2300 per day.

  10. Bill, when you train really long or actually do the 60k+ races, you can use carb gels in real time to help fuel muscles. That won’t affect fat usage, since there will be no appreciable insulin release when glucose goes right to working muscles. OTOH, in most shorter training, your best bet is to dial in that pace where you really burn fat the best and stay away from the gels as long as you can.

  11. Mark, you mentin in a post above that slow long aerobic, with intense short burst is the best way to burn fat…Ok, what is slow and what is long? What % in HR should i stick to? and for how long? for me 45 minutes is long, maybe for you 2 hours is long…so just so i get an idea…


  12. Mike, it all depends on current state of fitness. 55-75% of max HR is what I can thr true fat-burning aerobic zone (a little higher for top athletes). 45 minutes is long for some people at 75%, while 2 hours at 55% is “short” for Bill above training for Ultras. I say anything within that range counts toward aerobic efficiency…but it’s really the sprints and weight work that ramp up the fitness

  13. This is completely unrelated to any of the above questions, but it just came to my mind and now that we already are at this whole “queation and answer”-thingie I wanted to know whether one of you has an answer for me:

    Well, since eating primal I drastically consume more onions, garlic etc. and there is an obvious consequence to that: bad breath. Of course brushing teeth is he no.1 way to fight that, but it just seems to cut it all alone. Right now I ususally carry some mint dragees with me, but since they usually are full of sugar/artificial sweeteners, I don’t feel that good about it even though those are just very small amounts.

    Lemon juice seems to work quite nice too, but that could just have been my imagination.

    So any comments on that?

  14. Bread should be none, but if you must, the cinnamon raisin Ezekiel bread made with organic sprouted grains and no added wheat gluten is probably the best bet. The other ones you find in health food stores all have gluten added, stay away.

  15. Mark,

    Great post man! I am actually writing up a series of “the primal eating plan for endurance athletes” right now. For those who are interested (and if Mark is ok with it), I will post the link to it here when its done (within a week or so).

    Ryan Denner

  16. Meh, if people can´t stand my breath, that´s their problem! 😀 (Onion/garlic lover here! :D)

  17. Nah, it’s not like it’s such a great problem anyways. I mean, a mint every now and then certainly wont kill me. But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t just switch to healthier alternatives in case someone knows something better.

  18. in response to garlic breath, i have found that ginger counteracts it. like ginger candy, ginger snaps, fresh sliced ginger tea with lemon and honey, perhaps the pickled ginger served with sushi?

  19. madMUHHH – Google “mint oil”. Just a drop of that stuff on your tongue will get your mouth minty clean smelling…

  20. A lot of tough questions, with good answers.

    Dang! Where were you when I was in school having to wrestle with questions like “If a train leaves Chicago at 3 p.m. going 45 miles per hour and another train leaves Winnipeg going 45 kilometers per hour, who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?”

  21. Thanks for the great, brief explanation of insulin resistance.

    In the old days, I would diet by just eating sugar. Instead of eating actual food, I would just eat pie. I’m not kidding, I did this a few times and it usually worked for a while.

    I’ve been doing the under 100 grams of carbs thing for a while … I was trying to lose weight so I’d dipped even lower for a few weeks.

    I ate a bowl of fruit for breakfast at Disneyland, with nothing else. Why? Well, because I was enjoying myself, darn it!

    First off, I couldn’t even finish it. I put about 1/3 of it away for later. But still … WOW, did I feel bad coming off of that. Blah!

    I won’t be doing that again. But now I understand why! 🙂

  22. I like this Monday post!
    I see several questions on weight loss. I’ve already had someone come to me and asked can i “eat more” if i exercise more. My answer to that is when you want to lose weight burn up more calories than what you eat, and watch your calorie intake. Also, jot down everything you eat and the calories, keep a guideline.

  23. Mark et al.
    As a skeptic about the weight loss through exercise vs. diet, I dove in to CrossFit with intensity. After 3 months of adding some muscle and getting stronger, I weighed exactly the same as I did when I started. Five days a week of CF and I could not believe it. Our gym, CrossFitRx did a nutrition seminar one Saturday. Laura, the owner, presented the science behind Primal / Paleo.
    With everything to gain, my wife and I dug in and added the diet part of our training. Essentially Primal with a small piecee of cheese thrown in.
    8 weeks later, I’m down 18 lbs.
    I can’t believe how easy it has been. Giving up grains, sugar and legumes has been comparably easy…Thanks Mark!

  24. Mark,

    What are your thoughts on the raw food diet? I have met and read about many people who have felt better eating raw food and juicing, even though they have given up all animal protein. Personally, I do better with animal protein. But do you think it is possible that some people are healthier and feel better on this kind of diet?

  25. Mark – thanks for the response.

    That’s exactly what I do. I don’t touch the gels, etc., unless the run goes longer than two hours. Although I still quite enjoy fresh fruit in my drop bags.

    But I’m still adamant about refueling immediately after my workouts. The short ones get protein and fat with a bit of carbs, while the longer ones get a larger percentage of carbs.

    It’s worked quite well so far.

  26. Rad, way to go. Congrats on your progress. Send pics!

    Alina, the raw foodists I know that are healthiest also eat raw meats (and fish, and shellfish, etc).

    Bill, that’s exactly what I’d do if I were forced to run long distances 😉

  27. Hi Mark

    I’m partially on primal blueprint since last 2 months. I said partial because I’m a vegetarian (except for eggs). I have already lost 9lbs and I didn’t even exercise!! Other plus points are:

    I don’t feel hungry more often

    My concentration is certainly improving (I’m an engineering student, so it helps a lot :P)

    You WON’T believe it but I don’t FEEL sad (I guess has to do something with my eating habits!)

    Now I want to follow PB completely. Any suggestions on how to turn non-veg? (I hope PETA are not seeing this!)

  28. Agree on the bread. Many diabetics can handle Ezekiel bread – when the grains have been sprouted they are much lower carb and have gotten rid of some of their toxins. I also read good reports of this, but haven’t tried it yet:-

    This is a low carb bread I make once or twice a week. I hadn’t eaten bread for some time until I figured this out, but now it’s in danger of becoming a staple. There goes my reputation.

    You’ll need: wheat gluten, coarse wheat bran, golden flax seeds (linseed), soya flour, soya protein isolate powder, salt, olive oil and yeast. Once you’ve got all that, the rest is a doddle.

    Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl – 120g wheat gluten, 45g soya flour, 40g soya protein isolate powder, 30g linseeds, 60g coarse wheat bran, 1 level tsp of salt and 2x7g packets of dried yeast ( I find the Hovis stuff works well.) Add 3 tbsp of olive oil and 250ml warm water. Knead it for a minute or two, roll it into a sausage shape, about 10 inches long, put it in a baking tin, cover, and leave it somewhere warm for an hour. Then bake for 40 mins at 170 in a fan assisted oven.

    I find this loaf will stay fresh and moist for days, and everyone who has tried it tells me it’s great. Even my kids scoff it down, which gives me such a thrill. It works out at around 30g carbohydrate for the entire loaf.

  29. Hermant, you already eat eggs. That’s a good start. I’d be sure to get some protein powder (whey protein) if you don’t already. There’s no offical process to move off the vegetarian lifestyle. Anything will work, but I’d move to chicken and/or turkey first, then maybe some fish, and finally some grassfed beef.

  30. Hey Hemant!
    I BELIEVE IT! Oh yes, your good mood, great concentration, lower appetite, that does all come from eating Primal!
    I’d like to make a “suggestion”. Have you tried Mark’s Responsibly Slim Protein Powder. I think you’d really like it, it’s high protein, preserves muscle tone, increases energy, it’s totally awesome! AND Delicious.
    Mark gave you the perfect advice, you’re doing great, good for you!!!

  31. HI, love this section, as previous posters have said, please do this again! For the onions and garlic person, they just had a show on Food Detectives about the best bad breath fresheners, and they found that brushing, flossing, and tongue brushing worked the best, with fennel seeds and gum being next. Mints, parsley didn’t do anything. Just for your FYI.

  32. “Trinkwasser….Gluten, soy, bran and yeast? Today is April Fools day in the USA. You serious?”

    I have’t tried it personally but it IS very low carb. Not sure what it would do to my BG but it has been recommended. OK, not that Primal but the theory is it gets rid of the worst aspects of the wheat for those bread addicts among us.

    Better than this

    “Our Father Which art in Washington, give us this day our daily calcium propionate, sodium diacetate monoglyceride, potassium bromate, calcium phosphate, monobasic chloramine T, aluminium potassiumsulphate, sodium benzoate, butylated hydroxyanisole, mono-iso-propyl citrate, axerophthol and calciferol. Include with it a little flour and salt. Amen.”

    (John Brunner, The Sheep Look Up, 1972)

    Personally I use oatcakes, something you guys don’t seem to have access to

    one or two at a time seems to work, and oats do grow wild hereabouts.

  33. Actually that might be an idea for a future post: how Primal can you stay when other people are involved?

    I have my own priorities, principally keeping my BG in range which keeps my insulin level and insulin resistance in check, which knocks on to the lipids and my energy levels in general.

    Sometimes I have to eat Bad Things to manually tweak my BG, or my trick liver will take over and either drive me high or drop me low. In general a Primal type balance of macronutrients lets me run on ketones and provides enough glucose from protein that my BG doesn’t go Out Of Range very often. When I have to cheat I try to make it as healthy a cheat as possible.

    The BIG problem comes when other people are involved, among my friends and relatives are starchophiles, lipophobes and vegetarians. We have an excellent fish restaurant, a very good (but expensive) Thai restaurant and several pubs where we can find suitable compromises from what’s on offer to almost satisfy our varying demands (and much of which, like much of the stuff I buy, is locally produced, although some of it may come from the other side of the world, an acceptable compromise for the micronutrient content and the flavour)

    Sometimes it just doesn’t work though and I have to stuff myself with far too many carbs then walk them off afterwards purely for social and availability reasons.

    In that context “imitation” bread may not be as bad as the real thing, eh?

    Sometimes you can train them – a diabetic friend used to cook low carb meals and make carby side-dishes for her nondiabetic husband and kids and low-carb sides for herself, but over time she found they were tending to steal “her” food so has stopped bothering with the carby stuff for them. Which is a result.

    But too many of them suck down their Healthy Carbs and follow up with the statin and the ACE inhibitor and fail to see the connection. 🙁