Dear Mark: Training Edition

I’m no stranger to spending the bulk of your time thinking about training, programming your training, planning your meals so that they support your training, modifying your training to affect your performance, and modifying your training to affect your body composition. I was an elite endurance athlete who dabbled extensively in strength training; I’ve been there. I’ve dug into the minutiae of it all. I’ve reveled in perfecting my post-workout and pre-workout nutrition. It’s fun, and a little addictive. And although I’m no longer concerned with that stuff for my own training, I know that many MDA readers care about it, so I try to keep up with the current research. Today’s edition of Dear Mark is all about training. Let’s dig in.

Hey Mark,

My husband and I are looking into joining the National Guard, and I was wondering what’s the best way to go about prepping myself to handle the endurance running and high count push-ups and pull-ups (especially as a woman!), etc. that NG demands. Would it be worth our while to try to eat Primally during training?


chez Bliss

To get into the NG (as I’m sure you know), you have to satisfy the Army Physical Fitness Test Standards. The requirements differ depending on age and gender, but you can take a look at this page to figure out what to expect for your particular situation. The test itself is just a 2 mile a run, a max set of pushups, and a max set of situps, and training for it should be pretty straightforward. Once you’re in, basic training involves more varied fitness, but nothing too out of the ordinary.

Here’s what I’d do:

Do a couple runs each week, mixing it up between “race-pace” (around 2+ miles) runs and higher-intensity intervals (alternating 400 meters and 800 meters every week; start with however many you can comfortably do at an intensity level of 7-8 on a scale of 10 with a couple minutes walking to recover; add one additional interval each week).

Go for “intense” walks or hikes a couple times a week, preferably with a heavy pack. Fill a hiking backpack with books or even rocks wrapped in towels. This will get you used to marching with your gear. Keep the pace up and try to maintain your normal stride length. Do about an hour, and try to improve the distance you’re able to cover over time.

Get a pullup bar in your house or office, and do pullups, pushups, and situps every time you get an opportunity. Going to the kitchen to grab a bite? Do a quick set of pullups. Commercial break? Drop down and do some pushups or situps. The key with these movements is to accumulate volume without ever going to failure. Get used to the movement – “grease the groove,” as many wise men have said – and do it as often as you can without straining or pushing too hard. If your max is 10 pullups in a row, do five crisp, easy reps every time you pass the pullup bar.

One day a week, test yourself. Do a 2 mile run, max pushups, and max situps. Make sure you’re hitting (and better yet, surpassing) the requirements.

Honestly, while Primal eating would certainly help your training, I’m not sure you should get too used to good, clean, Primal food. Once you’re in basic, you eat what they provide. It may make sense to loosen up a bit on the diet, just so your body isn’t shocked by a sudden and sustained dose of less-than-ideal food. Can any service members with experience in basic training for the National Guard help us out here?

Good luck with the National Guard!

To bulk up I increased my carb intake with sweet potatoes, pasture-raised/organic whole milk, white potatoes, and fruit. It has worked well, my lifts have increased as well as my lean mass. The only problem is that the carbs make me tired and lazy. How can I keep the energy I have with low-carb while bulking?



Great name.

That’s the thing with carbs (even Primal ones like those you mentioned, in sufficient amounts) – they really make you dependent on them. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if it suits your goals, but the constant see-sawing of energy levels can really be annoying. When I was pounding multiple hundreds of grams of carbs a day to support my training, I had to constantly eat, or else I’d crash. Sound familiar?

I haven’t thought about bulking for years, but if I were going to bulk using carbs, I’d probably take a cyclical approach to my carb intake. On workout days, I’d eat higher carb and lower fat, preferably getting most of my carbs after the workout. On rest days, I’d eat high fat and low carb. Protein would remain high throughout. This way, you’re not pounding the carbs all day, every day, instead keeping them mostly post-workout, when your muscles are highly insulin sensitive.

Another option is to do a periodic carb refeed. Basically, a carb refeed is a big whack of carbs taken in the space of a half a day to a day. It’s a way to replenish glycogen stores and up-regulate leptin levels (if you’ve been hypocaloric). Used correctly, this can actually jumpstart your metabolism and allow you to train fairly hard while mostly sticking to a lower-carb approach for the rest of your week. When you do a refeed, you want to keep fat low for that day. Try one or two refeeds a week.

Ultimately, a bulk comes down to getting enough calories, particularly protein, and providing enough stimulus to your body. Eating some carbs tends to stimulate the appetite, thereby making it easier to get hypercaloric. Low carb tends to reduce appetite and increase satiety, thereby making it more of a struggle to get hypercaloric. That’s why low carb is so effective for weight loss, but it’s also why low carb isn’t as easy for bulking. The two methods I outlined – cyclic low-carb and carb refeeds – should help you bulk without making you feel lazy and tired.

Dear Mark,

Training for strength versus training for hypertrophy — does one have to come at the expense of the other?

Ever since adopting the ancestral health lifestyle in September of 2010, I’ve made substantial strength gains and put on a good 20 pounds of lean muscle mass — from 5-foot-10, 155 pounds to 175 pounds.

My delts, upper back and chest have responded favorably to the compound movements I’ve adopted into my training routine — bench press, overhead press, deadlift, weighted pull-ups, weighted dips. In other words, none of that sissy isolation stuff that seemingly every gym-goer performs religiously. I’m a fan of the Stronglifts 5X5 protocol. That is, five sets of five reps with the heaviest load I can lift.

The squat rack at my local (insert big-name gym franchise here) is hardly ever used. Very rarely does anyone attempt to bench press more than 185 pounds. The bros tend to congregate around the EZ Bar rack, performing triceps extensions and bicep curls to their hearts’ content.

What troubles me is that while I’m pound-for-pound stronger than any other gym-goer I’ve encountered, most of the regulars are, to put it one way, far more jacked. Their arms are flat-out bigger. Yet they throw around a lot less weight, preferring higher reps and a lighter load.

These observations seem to run counter to your suggestions, which I’ve based my training philosophy on. Could there be some truth to the widely-held Broscience notions that favor volume lifting for muscle-building? Does that even make sense from an evolutionary perspective? Or am I just doing something wrong?



There actually is some truth to the “broscience.” A 2007 meta-analysis of the available literature found that lifting 60%-85% of your 1RM max for reps is probably the most effective way to stimulate hypertrophy. Reps-wise, that translates to about 6-12 reps per set. Since you’re currently doing 5 sets of 5, try reducing the weight and increasing the reps to between 6-8, which is a nice sweet spot for strength and size. To focus more on size, move the reps up to between 8-10. You may not even have to drop the weight as much as someone coming from a 3×5 program, because 5×5 has prepared you for a good amount of volume.

Another option is to vary your reps and sets over the week. Do a heavy day of lower reps one day, maybe sets of three, then do a day of high reps, maybe sets of eight or ten. Play around with it to find what works.

It sounds like you’re mainly concerned with the size of your arms. 5’10 and 175 is pretty solid, but heavy squats and deadlifts can famously steer weight toward the lower body while leaving the upper body somewhat T-rex-esque. Am I right? Don’t worry, and just throw in some barbell curls, weighted pullups/chinups, lying tricep extensions, and weighted dips once or twice a week. Most of these are compound exercises, so you won’t be giving up Primal cred. You may not even have to vary your rep scheme if you relent and throw in some arm-centric stuff.

The good news is that you’ve built an excellent base of strength, a foundation upon which you can begin adding volume and hypertrophy-centric training. By starting with strength and then worrying about hypertrophy, you’re doing things the right way, and I’d bet a large sum of money that, in a year’s time, you’ll be in a better spot – strengthwise and sizewise – than the guys at the gym who neglect the compound lifts.

As mentioned in the previous answer, hypertrophy also comes down to diet. What I find is that lifting heavy for moderate reps puts a person at their baseline hypertrophy. To put on more muscle than you already have lifting heavy, you’re going to have to eat a lot. Protein is important, of course, and fat provides energy, fat-soluble vitamins, and hormonal precursors for important anabolics, but you’ll probably need to incorporate some carbs. The carbs will allow you to get more calories in, and they’ll support a shift toward higher reps and more volume by replenishing glycogen.

I think it makes sense, evolutionarily. If you look at photos of hunter-gatherers (perhaps our likeliest Grok analogues), they can be lean, “cut,” and strong, but not bodybuilder big. Strong arms are useful, but eventually you reach a point of diminishing returns. Would having bigger arms really help this guy do what he needs to do – bag game, support his family, gather food? Walking around with a perma-pump and 18-inch biceps simply doesn’t make sense in his situation.

Whatever you do, don’t limit yourself based on ideology. If you want big muscles, get big muscles. Just realize that you may have hit your “limit,” and you’ll probably have to adopt some evolutionarily “novel” strategies, like stuffing yourself with food and lifting heavy things over and over again for more reps than you otherwise would.

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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123 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Training Edition”

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  1. Chez Bliss,
    Unless you have a burning desire to jeopardize your marriage, guard other nations, eat loads of health-deleting crap, and submit your life to the whims of politicians, please do not join any branch of the military. Rather, be all you can be in the private sector, peacefully engaging in mutually beneficial transactions.

      1. Double Amen! In addition to all the great reasons listed above and below describing why it would be ill-advised to join *any* branch of the ‘Collateral Damage Empire’, they would also have the power to force you to take any and all vaccines – many of which are DEADLY individually and more so in combination.

        1. 1. There is no clinical evidence that vaccines in combination are toxic in adults.

          2. Morbidity and mortality from tuberculosis, measles, mumps, polio, Japanese encephalitis, yellow fever, malaria, anthrax, hepatitis, smallpox etc. etc. are ALL primal/paleo. Very much so.

          One of the great aspects of MDA is Mark’s citations of the gold standard of clinically-proven science. The discussions here are most useful when we all follow suit.

          1. Literally zero percent of the links you shared are “scientific” or “evidence.” You know what is deadly? Measles, mumps, rubella, smallpox. NOT vaccines.

      2. My man is in the Guard. He has adopted to a Paleo lifestyle and is only required to serve 1 week end a month. He makes due. When he is called away, he does his best eating.

        I, for one, am honored he serves our country. He has been to Katrina, Rita, not to mention Iraq. His food isn’t always the best, but we Paleo-ites know how to hunt and gather, right? Even in a MRE. (Meal Ready to Eat)

    1. You can disregarded this comment if you know and understand the oath that you take when you join any branch of the military. Individuals who choose to serve do it for the right to protect their way of life. Not everyone can understand that.

      1. I don’t know the oath, but it must be pretty powerful if it can negate the well-documented deleterious effects of military life on a marriage, the high carb – high calorie processed food, the fact that NG units are used in foreign countries, and who the Commander in Chief is. I may think Obama/Romney is a terrific guy (neither are) but I’m not going to sign up to potentially kill or die for him. If you want to fine, I just wish I wasn’t forced to support that decision. Apparently Tim B is willing to send extra money on his 1040. Please don’t join. We need you working and producing the goods and services that actually create our way of life. If you want to protect the citizens of the country, become a lawyer and defend victims of the TSA.

        1. Boiled down, the oath is protect and uphold the constitution against all enemies both foreign and domestic. The constitution outlines what the federal government can and cannot do.

          No government on Earth gives people their basic rights they are born with; but they can take them away.

          So what is the point of government? Let a precursor to the U.S. Constitution explain. The preamble to the Declaration of Independence:

          We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable
          Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these rights,Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

          Perhaps Chez Bliss’ desire is to protect the constitution against domestic threats. Only Chez can speak for Chez. His path, which was made public, can be challenged. FYI: I happen to agree whole heartedly with Joshua.

        2. I can’t say it any better Joshua. You and I are looked at us unpatriotic for showing anything other than blind support for the pet projects of the leaders.

          And, if you DO join the military, make sure you say “NO” when they order you to take away American’s guns.

        3. “Taking away our guns” is one thing, but clearly guns aren’t always a good thing if you’ve been watching the news… And yes, guns don’t kill people, people kill people, but in that case:

          As for the National Guard, the advice may be useful if they were looking for advice on whether to join or not, but I believe Chez was asking about exercise and nutrition. Saying things like “the NG will ruin your marriage” and “you’ll be a government patsy” is quite unnecessary. Would you tell a couple not to get married while young because the divorce rates are higher? You could, but you’d be quite the jerk to do so. Some early marriages succeed, some national guard marriages succeed. If they know the possible risks, which as smart Primal-goers I’m sure they do, and are STRONG enough to consider joining a military service (as a couple!), I think they’ll be ok.

          Obviously, people considering military service recognize that they won’t get to choose their missions and such, but their commitment to providing help where necessary is commendable and should be encouraged. So soon you government haters forget the good that the military does, despite their flaws (remember Katrina? Remember who was deployed there? Guess not).

          While it may be true that some or even the majority of the NG operations are sub-optimal or wasteful, the way to fix that is with smarter leadership and reform of governmental policies/agendas (especially through the voting booths and major public opinion shifts), not lowering the number of new recruits by dissuading the willing and able from joining…

        4. The oath that a very small portion of our nation IS very powerful. We understand that we’ve signed up for something much bigger than ourselves. As National Guard officer I am extremely proud of my service and the people that I have the privilege to lead/serve with. Your comment displays a complete lack of any real understanding of what it is we do. The military has many programs geared towards healthy living, relationships, resiliency etc. I’m sure you will attempt to twist this to suit your argument but as a leader in the armed forces I see how it positively affects my soldiers lives. I wouldn’t trade one of my soldiers for 50 lawyers. I am a huge fan of this site but after seeing this comment section and the outrageous statements made by people on here due to one readers desire to join the National Guard, I doubt I will ever read through another comment section again. Continue to exercise your right to make ridiculous statements. I’ll continue to serve my country with my head held high knowing what I do is important.

        5. Let’s see, who was the last decent president, sure wasn’t a bush… Nor Reagon.. Can’t recall one that was.. I don’t know any in my 50 years that I would’ve died for.

    2. It is important to remember that the National Guard is organized at the state level. NG soldiers report to their Governors first, their President only when activated under federal orders. The federal NG missions you complain about – those outside of America’s borders – are winding down. These missions have left the NG exhausted, to a degree. The NG needs new volunteers ready to execute vital, shorter missions at home – disaster relief, homeland security, wildland firefighting, etc.

      1. Borders are a pretty funny subject. “Privately owned land” too. Nobody owns anything, it’s an illusion we accept as children.
        I was fined $61 for not paying $3 parking fee for my toddler to use the public conveniences for 3 minutes in a sparsely populated carpark. The guy who wrote up the ticket watched us arrive, waited till he’d seen us go in to the bathroom, wrote it up, told me it wasn’t his fault then drove away in his unmarked council car… as societies most celebrated member.

        I’m not suggesting the NG is like a parking or police officer per se, after all the guys running around putting their own countrymen, women and children into trains destined for concentration camps for example presumably needed the money for calories; survival seems to be the name of the game to many now too. I do think we’re still at war for what it’s worth, and the West in particular is in dire trouble. I’m rooting for the lot of us.

        Even those ticketing b***ards and the corrupted psychos involved with the gov., USDA, FDA, WHO etc.
        Can one fight for liberty while simultaneously forgiving the blackened souls of the freaks enslaving us?

    3. How rude. Good luck to you Chez Bliss and all the others out there trying to make a better life by eating healthily and working out more. Don’t listen to these people. The private sector, like banks, oil companies, mortgage companies, fast food chains, cosmetic companies, chemical companies.. you can find something wrong with anything. Again, regardless of your profession, way to go trying to make things better for yourself. Good luck.

    4. Hey Hippie… Keep your political beliefs out of it. If she wants to serve, then why are you trying to piss in her cereal??

      Just because you think that all military are war-mongers who rape and pilage other countries, doesn’t mean you need to stop someone from doing what they feel is right.

      Military service is honorable and to even consider it, she is a better person than you (and anyone else trying to stop her).

      To the OP: Focus on the PT test in the beginning. Once you can pass and get a good score on that, then work towards overall “functional” fitness. As a female, you will not be eligible for a Combat MOS (Infantry, etc) so physical fitness is not as critical.

      However, you should still focus on the PT test. Pull-ups are not critical, but its nice to be able to knock out 4-5 GOOD pullups. Focus on form with Push-ups and sit-ups. If you have bad form, they don’t count on the test. A recruiter or the NG website can give you more info.

      BTW, I’m in the Army and I love it. WE ARE THE 1%!! We choose to serve in a time of war while people like those on this site like to look down on us. You will improve in every aspect of life… more than Paloe or Primal eating will ever do. GOOD LUCK!

  2. Regarding Max’s self comparison at the gym – Alot of “bros” at the gym are also sold on the concept of “workout enhancers” one such being creatine.

    If I greatly increased the amount of water in my muscles, I would look bro big without the strength, but I prefer to train naturally and eat natural foods.

    No judgements either way (although I would encourage everyone to adopt a primal lifestyle), but make sure you are comparing sizes knowing that some others take “bulk enhancing” supplements. Be proud of what you have accomplished and I agree with Mark, go for your goals regardless of dogma or the opinions of others.

    1. I wouldn’t write creatine off. Creatine Monohydrate increases strength 5-10%, which allows you to lift more, stimulating further muscle growth. Plus you’d have more energy to do your lifts with, which helps, too. Your muscles looking bigger with the extra water retention is just a pleasant side effect, in my opinion, when you take the performance gains into consideration.

      Check out Mark McManus’ (another awesome Mark) the site,, if you’re looking for hypertrophy. He’s a self-proclaimed hard gainer and his arms are HUGE now. I’m a hard gainer myself and I put on 10 kilos of muscle with his program, although I wasn’t exactly paleo at the time.

  3. “The key with these movements is to accumulate volume without ever going to failure.”

    A. So unlike with other resistance exercises, you can do these every day or even multiple times a day?

    B. What about when you’re just starting out and can barely do any pull-ups, or just a few? Seems pretty difficult to keep from getting to failure.

    1. I wonder the same thing?

      I thought we’re suppose to train once or twice a week meaning giving our muscles chance to recover.

      Doing pushups or pullups many times a day doesn’t make sense?

      1. Is it because the movments are not done to failure at 100% effort? I’ve been wondering if I should follow up with pushups and plank movements on days off or if that would be of no benefit. Also, I was wondering if you can work your core by doing plank and back extentions as often as you like without rest? Any follow up would be greatly appreciated!

      2. By not going to failure and just doing a set here and there, you’re just “greasing the groove”, as Mark said. You’re not causing any major damage to your muscles and you’re training your central nervous system to handle more reps. Pavel Tsatsouline talks a lot about this in his books. I’ve done pull-ups multiple times a week this way (without going to failure) and it’s made me a lot stronger on this movement.

        1. Spot on. I am the same. I have quadrupled my total pull-up and chin-up reps in about 4-6 weeks based on this method, as well as making other substantial gains on pushups – feet up, weighted backpack, close grip pushups and pistol squats.
          If Mark wants big arms, I suggest ditching the curls and work on your pull-ups big time.

        2. I love Mark’s point about diminishing returns on trying to get big and bulky. I have quite a few male clients who have done P90X style workouts and got into fantastic shape. They’ll of course immediately want to get “bigger” and search for ways. It’s a big picture view that they shouldn’t care too. But we tend to not think in big picture and long-term ways.

      3. Look for pavel tsatsouline ‘grease the groove’ you can do up loads of pull ups a day for days but you stay well clear of going to failure. you wont bulk but you’ll get stronger. Or try this (rome spaces): h t t p://

        personally for me i couldnt care about uslesss hypertrophy. i’d like to see 95% guy in the gym do the 85 x 1 leg squats i did on my left and 70 i did on my right leg last week. they wouldn’t because they cant balance and their ligaments/tendons wouldnt be strong enough no matter how big their water filled muscles are.

  4. Two thoughts here. First, I was in the Army for four years and the whole time I was in I never once was asked to do a pull-up. I was in a noncombat unit and my job was in the communications field with support units. That being said I know that some units do perform pull-ups but they are usually combat units, made up of all males and that exercise is usually at the discretion of the PT trainer. I cannot even say the basic PT manual even covers that move, and if its not in the manual they usually don’t do it. However, other branches of the military, like the Marines, do perform pull-ups for PT.

    My other comment is in regards to strength and size. It is just my opinion but I would be much happier to toss around massive weight on a smaller frame. You see, I haven’t been small in a long time. I consistently roll in around 200LBs at about 5’10”. I’m not fat but I cannot get as strong as some of my friends who have the smaller frames. The issue I run into is that when you are bigger, everyone expects you to be stronger. So my advice to you would be to be happy being stronger. Strength will serve you better than big biceps. Oh, and women tend to be to say they are more attracted to men that are leaner and have abs more than hulks, if that is your concern.

    1. +1 on the women being attracted to leaner men. The big guys are fun/impressive to run around with, but as a general rule the women I know don’t really consider them sexy (most are completely turned off). From a purely aesthetic point of view, I’ll take Keanu Reeves ala The Matrix over Schwarzenegger’s Conan any day.

      1. +1 on leaner men as well. I know we all have preferences, but I don’t have a single girl friend who’d pick huge muscles over ‘naturally’ fit & strong.

        If beefy-puff is a guy’s aim, that’s completely fine. Just know that you are doing it for your own reasons, not necessarily to impress the majority of us gals. Strength is impressive enough, IMO. 🙂

  5. I’ve always thought people who willfully join the army are insane.

    1. LOL! Yep, I started to feel that way when I had a nearly-newborn baby in March of 2003 and watched “Shock and Awe” playing out on the TV. I had been out 3 years, but was worried they’d call me back.

      As for Army fitness, I went IN more fit than I came out, because I went in able to do pull-ups. (I thought they were required, even for females.) Once there, I had to exercise with the group of females, and they could barely do pushups, and we weren’t allowed anywhere near a pull-up bar. Runs were unbelievably slow. If you want to be very fit in the Army, that’s on your own initiative, it seems.

    2. It’s a good thing nobody asked you, nor is that even the topic. However, you have freedom of speech, and us Servicemembers, will continue to uphold that freedom of speech. Your welcome.

      1. *you’re.

        And it’s not a matter of not supporting troops – it’s that many people believe that those in charge are not utilizing our troops “to protect our freedom of speech” but to carry out lucrative and unconstitutional in abuse of our human resource.

        As a caring community, I think we only wish to express our concerns as would any friends or family members.

      2. And tell me, just how are you upholding our freedom of speech? Who out there is trying to squelch is? You must know something I do not.

  6. Heavy lifting with less reps is actually fabulous for us ladies. Do tons of reps with those pansy 5lb dumbbells actually left me a little bulky. Hitting the heavy weights and aiming for a 6 rep max with my husband has me way leaner, and remarkably stronger. But if I were a guy, I think I’d like a little more bulk. 😀

    1. Hooray, a women that gets it!! You didn’t wind up looking like a male bodybuilder by any chance?

  7. “By starting with strength and then worrying about hypertrophy, you’re doing things the right way…”

    Agreed. This is what every well-known bodybuilder / powerlifter does when developing their physique – even a legend like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold adopted this practice from his idol, Reg Park, who was quoted saying that he would build his size with heavy, compound lifts, and chisel himself down after the fact using smaller isolated movements to create symmetry and hypertrophy.

    Great article Mark!

  8. I am VERY thankful that people are willing to serve and fight for our country and freedom. You have my appriciation and gratitude!!!

  9. Mark, what are your thoughts as far as carbs being “required” for a bulk?

    I find that I get plenty of calories from fat (~65% calories) and protein (~200g daily), with only minimal carbs (~140g lifting days, ~80g off days). I’m eating about 3000-3200 cals per day.

    Do you think my bulk will be less successful with carbs as low as they are?

    1. I also want to know this, and how many grams of carb would be “a lot”.

      Right now I’m eating about 180-200g protein a day, and after workout, 400g carbs (I can hardly eat it all, TBH), and after a month, I’m already seeing results on a very minimalistic routine (deads, squats, pulldowns and bench, on a push-pull AxB split, 3×5 [3×8 on the pulldown[)

  10. Coming from an active duty Marine (7 years now) I think that Mark hit it pretty well as far as just increasing your volume. You have to do these movements every chance you get initially.

    Once in you won’t be able to rely on unit PT to keep you in shape because there is often little time depending on your MOS you may have regimented PT but in 7 years I have never had it and do it on my own. Despite popular belief, many service members are out of shape.

    As for the diet, during basic training you will be forced to eat what is placed in front of you, the same can be said for deployments. HOWEVER, when you are just operating day to day it isn’t any harder than anyone else’s job to eat properly, it just takes proactive planning and packing of food or bust out an unplanned fast.

    For those trying to talk you out of joining… Don’t listen to them and their propaganda, they can speak that nonsense because of the work that service members do. Committing yourself to something much larger than yourself will never be popular. For the record, my marriage is perfect, better than 90% of the civilians that I come across actually… You’ll never be rich but I guarantee that you will have a sense of pride that most people will never be able to understand.

    1. Thank you for your service! I, too, served in the past, and am amazed by the comments of those who disparage military service. They do so on the backs of those who protected their freedoms.

    2. Oh, yeah, we have a REAL problem with military service being “unpopular” and not given enough “due respect” in this country. That must be why suggesting cuts to “defense” spending (what a lovely euphemism) is a surefire way for any politician to get replaced in the next election…

      Willingly submitting yourself to slavery and agreeing to kill anyone your superiors point you at is not particularly noble, no matter how much propaganda tries to convince you otherwise–the fact that it’s very effective on most people doesn’t make it true. And make no mistake, the vast majority of propaganda concerning the military in this country is aimed squarely at glorifying the role of the killer-for-hire, aka the soldier.

      You can talk all you want about “defending freedom” but at the end of the day what active-duty soldiers are doing is going to other countries and shooting and bombing people who have done them no harm. If we were in a serious defensive war against an invading military, the moral equation would be very different. But the reality is that in recent decades the US has been the violent aggressor in nearly every conflict we’ve joined. And that makes us the bad guys.

      1. I should add that many of the “armed combatants” in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan are certainly formerly-peaceful civilians responding to a foreign invasion and trying to protect their homes and families. What would YOU do if an army rolled in and bombed YOUR hometown?

        The aggression creates the enemy that justifies the aggression.

        1. Do you suggest that no one volunteers to join the military? The day that happens is the day the draft is re-implemented.

        2. @Dan, the fact that the government would force people into armed service if no one volunteered is not an argument for the morality of armed service. It’s an argument for the immorality of government.

        3. Enough already, keep your comments limited to nutrition, exercise, and let’s keep politics out. Find another forum to protest. In this one we are talking about workouts.

          chez Bliss, thank you for your service!

        4. +1. Unfortunately a lot of Americans are blinded by patriotism, your government knows that and so they use it as a tool to beat you and to turn you against each other. No matter how much evidence to the contrary, citizens still think the wars are about freedom and democracy. They’re not, they’re about geo-political aims and securing more land and resources from Russia and China etc with a nice bit of billionaire making for the chosen few. It’s based on corruption and slavery not freedom and those who beleive otherwise are naïve and those who tell you it’s based on Freedom abuse your trust. Do not beleive presidents and prime minsiters are elcted, they are selected.

        5. @Uncephwhatever. Perhaps living with the peace loving civilians of beautiful Afghanistan would suit you better.

        6. @ Roger, perhaps Afghanistan would be a bit more peace loving if we hadn’t destroyed them over the last 10 years.

          Oh wait no, they’re all terrorists. Right, that’s right. The collective citizens of Afghanistan planned 9/11 and every single citizen there deserved to pay for it.

          And now they should thank us.

  11. I too have served in the military – 6 years as a commissioned officer in the Army. It is a privilege to serve and I encourage anyone with the calling to do so. As for your marriage, if you and your partner already have strong bonds and communicate openly and honestly, then the service won’t cause your breakup. However, the key is maintaining strong communication. The sometimes long hours and long deployments can be a strain on any partnership. But if your relationship is based on strong principles then you can overcome those stresses.

  12. Basic training.
    Good luck telling your Drill Instructor you’d rather not have the MRE’s, but would rather opt for the coconut water, goji berries and macadamia’s instead.
    Let me know how that works out for ya’.
    Just joking…but serious at the same time.
    You’ll do fine….just go with the flow of it for two months or so.
    Good Luck.

  13. Why would you want to join the National Guard…? I don’t understand some peoples’ mindset… A waste of part of your life.

    1. I found my 14 years of military service to be among the happiest, most rewarding years of my life (there were, to be sure, plenty of unhappy moments too – but that’s life).

      My sentiment is shared with the vast majority of America’s veterans, regardless of their political orientation conservative, libertarian, or liberal.

  14. Thank you for your service to our country. Yes, we have a lot of issues, but if you travel much, you’ll find we’re the best place on earth to live. Again, thank you.

  15. Trained and training are two of my least favorite words….for a lot of reasons.
    They demand way too much focus on themselves and many miss a lot of the bigger picture that surrounds their lives.
    :O) PG

  16. I’d like to tackle the second question if I can.

    There are two types of hypertrophy, myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic. Myofibrillar is the increasing density of the muscles themselves, which tends to happen under high weight, low rep sets -it contributes to strength gains and physical size. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy increases a certain fluid in the muscles, which adds mass but doesn’t contribute to force production – this tends to happen under high rep, lower weight sets.

    You’re seeing people get bigger than you but less strength gains because you’re seeing myofibrillar gains in your body. That’s why ancient warriors and such had similar bodies (see: Statue of David, paintings of Greek warriors). Ancient fighters built muscle by lifting a few heavy things or throwing around their opponents. What you’re doing is maximizing your strength per pound of body weight. And that’s awesome.

    1. Mmmm…Statue of David. Me likey. There’s a reason that they put a bench around the backside of that work of art. Just sayin. I’ll take buff over beefy-puff any day.

  17. A bit advice for Mark regarding carb intake: make sure that you’re getting enough water in your diet. Dense carbs pull a considerable amount of fluids from your system during digestion, and if you’re inadequately hydrated you’ll feel a sense of tired, laziness. These are classic signs of dehydration.

    You may be surprised at how much fluid is required to offset these, even if you’re consuming 100g of carbs daily (which may be conservative).

  18. Dumb question:
    how does one exercise effectively if running and squatting are out secondary to severe arthritis of both knees? Any suggestions?

    1. Commenting on a post probably isn’t the best place to get your question answered…but swimming, yoga, and lifting heavy things with your upper body would all be good places to start.

    2. I too suffer from these problems. My work as a missionary in the hills of Haiti has been greatly affected by my inability to get around on my feet. I have little problem on flat ground, but over loose rock on trails I get pains in my knees and my feet. I would so love to lose about fifteen pounds and be fit once more. I’m 50 and my first and only child is 3 years old. He needs me to be able to run around more. Where do I start?

      By the way, one does not need to join the military to find a sense of joy in the work they are doing.

      Note: most Haitian men eat poorly, high in rice, beans and oil. They work for many hours a day in their gardens swinging heavy hoes and pick axes. I sure wish I were in that shape!

    3. Yeah I’d second what bw wrote. If you find you’re capable of deadlifts, I would definitely recommend those, but using compound-style machine lifts may work better for you. Also, keep up the primal diet with lots of omega-3s and I would expect the inflammation to lessen over time (though it may not dissipate).

    1. I’m appalled at the posters here reaping the benefits of a free country paid for by an all volunteer military. If this guy shouldn’t go, and you & others won’t go, who will? By the way, I am a spoiled civilian who’s never worn the uniform. You’ve obviously never visited parts of this world where The Daily Apple could be dessert, not your favorite blog.

      1. What benefits have I recieved from the military since WW2? None that I can think of. Join the military if you have no other otions. Jobs are hard to find and university is expensive. Those are reasons to join if desperate enough.

        1. If you grew up in the US, you recieved the benefits of a safe, secure home. You were never worried about being invaded by another country because we were “over there” making sure they didnt come over here.

      2. It’s not an “all-volunteer” military. If they get paid, it’s a job. People do not volunteer to be a soldier no more than people “volunteer” to become accountants, electricians, or network engineers.

      3. Paid for by subjugating and killing brown people in far-away countries, you mean?

        Because that’s mostly what the military is for these days. That and bullying the rest of the world into whatever we want them to do, and swaggering around bragging about who has the longest guns.

        The US hasn’t been in a defensive war in decades. If we were being invaded I would join in heartbeat to protect my loved ones against violence. Joining to be one of the aggressors is not the same thing.

  19. Military folk, I’ve considered the Army. I’m 31 yo. Any suggestions? I planned on training for the youngest age group requirements and then talk to recruiters. Interested in the Corp of Engineers geo science. I’d love to gain credits for a geography degree.

    1. If you can pass the APFT at the 17-21 age range, you’re in good shape to get through basic. As far your MOS, your best bet is to see what you qualify for after taking the ASVAB and seeing what’s available. Then you need to decide if you want active or reserves. I chose reserve because of my age, family and the MOS I qualified for does well on the civilian side.
      Good luck!

  20. Also any Libertarians serving and how do you deal with what to be sure is a political personal conflict

    1. Taking the oath to support and defend our state and federal Constitutions is a politically-neutral act. The armed services are comprised of ordinary citizens holding an array of political beliefs, from right to left.

      All have reason to feel personally aggrieved from time to time, as is inevitable in such a complex, divided republic.

      But all agree to put aside their personal feelings when they submit to the authority of their citizenry they serve, through the orders of the citizenry’s elected representatives.

      This is “compromise”. It’s what what adults do in order to maintain a functioning, cohesive society.

    2. I’ve been in the Air Force for 6 years, before that I was a tree hugging full on hippie! Lived in the woods and worked as a snowboard instructor. The military offered me an oppotunity to experience the world on the gov’t dime! If you feel you’re not going place, join and you’ll go places. Doesn’t mean those places will be fun…but hey, if it was absolutely perfect, everyone would join.

      1. I looked at joining the Air Force because I wanted to fly but I’m too short by about 10cm 🙁

      2. It isn’t the government dime. It’s my dime. You want to travel? You pay for it. Just like I do.

    3. Libertarians don’t join the military. By definition, a libertarian accepts the non-aggression principle. Even if you sit at a desk and don’t ever murder anyone just because a politician told you to, you are still entirely dependent on stolen resources. That is initiation of violence.
      Serving your country means doing things for which your countrymen willingly pay you.

      1. Hey, that’s my conflict. I believe in defending freedom, and still young enough to do so. I also believe the skill I learn in the military could help my fellow countrymen even after I’m out. But I know I’m obligated to do what I’m told lest I forfeit even more freedom. Plus id be worried about staying primal in the army. I also heard they banned Vibrams from pt. I’m aware I’d have to reconcile political difference, just curious if anyone else has been there. I’m proud of the servicemen and women. The goal is not to usurp, but protect….and yeah I know we go on bogus missions but really just looking for helpful comments. I’m sure we’ve all played a part in a negative cycle of some sort. I’m more concerned about the good I will be doing, than the harm I may be doing….that’s an unavoidable part of life.

      2. Neolibertarianism:

        Neolibertarians are fiscal libertarians who support a strong military, and believe that the U.S. government should use that military to overthrow dangerous and oppressive regimes. It is their emphasis on military intervention that distinguishes them from paleolibertarians ,and gives them reason to make common cause with neoconservatives.

        I’m satisfied.

  21. Great advice on the pushups. I’ve hit a plateau and I’m looking to up my max before leaving for basic in three months.
    I’m 31 years old and ready for a new adventure and career. The Army is giving me and my family a chance to start a new and rewarding career.
    I’m really disappointed to see so many negative comments from a group of supposedly enlightened people. If it weren’t for the few that are willing to lay their life on the line you wouldn’t have the choice of eating Paleo or not.

      1. Check out SealGrinder PT. The workouts there will more than get you ready for any of the services entry PT tests.

  22. Anyone have anything to say about the effects of blood/plasma donation on your fitness or overall health for that matter?

    It doesn’t seem too Primal, but I’m a universal donor and feel bad not donating 🙁

    1. I was told by an athlete that it takes over a month to get back to full fitness after a blood donation. On the other hand you might get an overshoot once your body is geared up to make lots of red blood cells. Plasma is less of a problem.

  23. I do think, as far as the National Guard, people aren’t fully understanding the time commitment you will have the majority of the time. And like a lot of other people have mentioned, during bootcamp and deployments, you have to eat what’s in front of you. I can speak for shipboard life that breakfast is your best friend, hands down. You won’t be able to be perfectly primal but you can take on a serious caloric load at breakfast and be fine. Not the best quality necessarily, but better than what you’d get elsewhere.

    Also, components of the military ARE trying to improve health. When you report to your unit (AFTER bootcamp lol), just ask what other options they offer. Landside here in the states, there will be choices.

    And for the record, yes I am and will continue to be in the military… no I’m not a radical conservative… yes, I do live sustainably and eat great 99% of the time… And my relationship with my dog is extremely healthy (and it’s my choice not to be married at this point in my life). Thanks for considering the National Guard.

    1. It was with great sadness that I read so many negative comments about serving our country. My husband and I hold all current and past military folk in the highest regard. We thank you for your dedication, service, and sacrifice to our greater good. We fly our flag proudly.

      Since this has turned into a political forum…(WHAT!?) Please, people, please educate yourselves thoroughly on all of the issues that affect the quality of life we so richly enjoy…and vote intelligently in November.

      1. I wholeheartedly agree! Ignorance is planted at the root of these comments.

      2. Vote intelligently, it is voting for the lesser of two evils. As such, I’ll be voting for Obama. With him it is a given, with the other it is the unknown that scares me.

        I think most people go into the military now as they are no jobs and it pays for college. Why else would one join? We have not fought a war that was just since WW2.

  24. ”Ultimately, a bulk comes down to getting enough calories, particularly protein, and providing enough stimulus to your body”
    Hmmm. My question to that statement is why do the guys in prison get so big? They arent getting there 1g protein per ib of bodyweigt. They train lots and eat crap. I’m starting to beleive less and less the lots of protein to pack on muscle talk.

    1. Visit a prison. Probably not as many huge guys as it looks on television.

    1. If the comments challenge your pro-government paradigm, then don’t.

      1. I’m not here to get into an argument but when the comments stray from what the individual asked it kind of defeats the purpose of commenting. And with that how does my comment state that I am pro-government or not and does it really matter?

        1. The lovely thing about an open forum is the ideas can wander wherever they like. I for one appreciate the fact that Mark doesn’t try and stop that.

  25. Thanks to the military folks on here. I believe I can be a small government libertarian yet support the armed forces that protect our freedoms, even if I gold the political machine with much skepticism it takes courage to put that aside and defend so we can discuss this on MDA. I’m stopping on this subject now. I do believe I read somewhere where vibrams were banned from military PT …and I believe I read this correctly….due to unfair advantage. Barefoot runners getting better times or something. Anyone else aware of this?

    1. VFFs were banned by the Army due to their funky appearance. Other, more conventional-looking minimalist shoes are acceptable.

  26. It wasn’t until I started training every set to failure that I managed to bulk up at all – always had low body fat, but couldn’t really gain any mass. Annoying thing is that my wife preferred me with less muscle bulk ;-(

  27. for gaining size and strength check out brooks kubik he does pure strength lifting and is pretty big. he has a book called Dinosouar Training.

  28. If we didn’t have soldiers, we wouldn’t have war and senseless destruction. Walk away.

  29. Very interesting comments. I’m about to return to full time military (combat arms) and have concerns about all of the above… not fighting worthy causes, the stress I put on my other half and family, not being able to eat primal all of the time, risk of extreme injuries, vaccines, chronic cardio, little sleep, high stress (opposites of what Mark advices) etc etc. Yet at the same time I’m craving the unit cohesion, adventure, being in the field, the buddies, the competitiveness, kit, being paid to be fit, the free ammo, paid to learn fascinating lessons that may keep you alive (very primal instinct ;P) and to be fit… Deep in my heart I’m a soldier with green blood through my veins. In the end, it comes down to this:
    Is life worth living (even when enjoying extreme vitality) when you don’t follow you dream, heart and passion? Especially as current office job is just making me moody and depressed even while being promoted four months into it. That can’t be healthy either..

  30. Those who have served their country, as I have, have done it for those of you unwilling to. You’re welcome. Land of the free because of the brave.

    Chez Bliss, thank you for your service. I think Mark is right on the money with his exercise plan and advice about not eating primal too strictly before basic…you’ll get lots of crap to eat then with no other choices.

  31. Hi there, I discovered your blog by the use of Google even as looking for a similar matter, your site came up, it seems great. I have added to my favourites|added to my bookmarks.

  32. I know our military men and women want to believe that we are fighting for freedom. But the reality is our foreign policy is based on protecting Israel and keeping the oil flowing out of Saudi Arabia. Our unwavering support for Israel is a great source of tension between the U.S. and the Arabs states. We also support a lot of tyrannical dictatorships across the middle east that repress Arabs. How would we react if foreigners were overthrowing and installing governments that we don’t want and building military bases in our country; we wouldn’t take too kindly to that. By supporting Israel we give credence to the Muslim accusation that this a holy war against Islam. I know our politicians want to say that they hate us because we’re rich and free, but this really isn’t the case. Many Americans have very little knowledge of the Israeli Palestinian conflict, so this simple explanation is very easy to accept.

    Here’s a little background on the start of the conflict:
    The chronic Middle East crisis goes back – as do many crises – to World War I. The British, in return for mobilizing the Arab peoples against their oppressors of imperial Turkey, promised the Arabs their independence when the war was over. But, at the same time, the British government, with characteristic double-dealing, was promising Arab Palestine as a “National Home” for organized Zionism. These promises were not on the same moral plane: for in the former case, the Arabs were being promised their own land freed from Turkish domination; and in the latter, world Zionism was being promised a land most emphatically not its own. When World War I was over, the British unhesitatingly chose to keep the wrong promise, the one to world Zionism. Its choice was not difficult; if it had kept its promise to the Arabs, Great Britain would have had to pull gracefully out of the Middle East and turn that land over to its inhabitants; but, to fulfill its promise to Zionism, Britain had to remain as a conquering, imperial power ruling over Arab Palestine. That it chose the imperial course is hardly surprising.

    My opinion is, let the British defend Israel. Why should America pay with it’s blood and treasure. We should pull our troops out, and use letters of Marque and reprisals, along with special forces to get the terrorists; and there would be a lot less of them if we weren’t joined at the hip with Israel. We need to put America first.

    To all the brave men and women out there who are serving our country, I thank you; and by no means want to disrespect you. There are legitimate threats out there, but our politicians are not telling you the truth, and you guys deserve to know the truth. I apologize for the length, and for putting something that’s off topic on this site, but the conversation had already been started, and I felt compelled to intervene with the truth. I know it’s an emotional topic, and I hope that emotion doesn’t block you guys from hearing this.

  33. I believe that avoiding processed foods could be the first step to help lose weight. They will often taste great, but refined foods possess very little nutritional value, making you eat more to have enough power to get over the day. In case you are constantly having these foods, converting to cereals and other complex carbohydrates will let you have more vigor while eating less. Thanks alot : ) for your blog post.