How Much is Too Much? – Round 2

Last week’s post covering upper recommendations garnered so much interest – and additional questions – that I thought we’d give it another go around. While last week’s list took on basics like protein and fat as well as worthy indulgences like chocolate and – drum roll, please –BACON (break for rampant applause), this week I’ll take on a mix of specific foods and activity. Thanks for everyone’s great comments and questions last week, and be sure to weigh in on this week’s round.


Why not start off today with the typical morning ritual? Our society, many say, is fueled by coffee, and a number of us might think we’d barely be standing some days without it. For coffee lovers, a good cup of joe is a work of art. From a health standpoint, it’s not a bad deal at all. Ample antioxidants, potent anti-inflammatory powerhouse, protective factors against conditions like diabetes, certain cancers, Parkinson’s, yada, yada, yada.

Coffee’s controversy, of course, is rooted in the caffeine. Personally, I happen to like the taste, and I have one big cup every morning with a healthy splash of heavy whipping cream. But leaning on it a little bit isn’t the same as letting it become a regular crutch. Caffeine’s effect on people spans a wide spectrum. A half cup of decaf leaves some of us bouncing off the walls, animated with a manic fervor that scares small children. Others of us keep our local brew house in business with nary a hint of spastic energy. In the short term, unmistakable symptoms tell you when to put the coffee cup down: insomnia, jitteriness, anxiety, stomach issues. As far as the long term, I think the tipping point is relying on it for sustained energy levels. Caffeine can give us the occasional leg up, but if it’s keeping us upright day after day, it’s covering a larger problem. In both cases, the amount is unique to each person, although it’s known that we grow more sensitive to caffeine the older we get. For most folks, 200-300 mg of caffeine a day (100 mg being the typical content in a 6 oz. serving) – imbibed at least eight hours before bed – probably won’t cause significant problems. Once you’re downing a whole pot (500+ mg), however, you put yourself at risk for everything from heart palpitations to muscle tremors. My suggestion for upper limit: gauge your individual tolerance, but drink only what you need and keep it below 3 cups/300 mg of caffeine daily (generally when health benefits level out and negative symptoms increase). If you’re pregnant, I think there’s enough ample reason to avoid it period.


This one got people talking last week. I still stand by the Primal bacon, but there’s a good point to be made about sodium intake. Although I don’t consider myself part of the alarmist camp on sodium, I do think there’s reason to exercise moderation. Yes, salt is crucial for muscular and neurological function as well as the maintenance of extracellular volume. Salt intake around the world varies considerably, ranging from the .2 grams/day to more than 10.3 grams/day.

There is definitely a connection between higher sodium intake and higher blood pressure levels, but the impact is highly individualized. A portion of the population is genuinely salt sensitive, and they’re considerably more affected by their sodium intake than non-sensitive individuals.

Upper recommendations, as offered by medical organizations, vary between 1.5 grams and 2.3 grams per day. Sure, certain populations (like those of Northern Japan) seem to be fine with higher levels, and I don’t think it’s necessary to omit healthy sea vegetables (or to give up true delicacies such as bacon). Nonetheless, I’d suggest going with conventional current in this instance and limiting sodium to the recommended range. By the way, a good Primal diet devoid of processed foods slashes sodium automatically, given that more than 70% of the average American’s sodium intake comes from processed food. Furthermore, most Primal people find that their taste for salt tends to “self-regulate” (meaning they add salt when they sense they need it and avoid salty foods when they don’t). I don’t think it’s worth stressing over every grain of Na, but use it as a general benchmark, and keep up your potassium levels to keep the full picture in balance.


As regular readers know, I love my macadamias, and I do a small handful of nuts or nut butter equivalent a few times a week. They’re powerhouses of protein, fat and minerals, B-vitamins and the like. As I discussed in a post some weeks ago, some nuts do contain a fair amount of omega-6. Although I don’t think it’s reason to avoid nuts, it’s enough to suggest the concept of moderation and a mind to overall omega-6/omega-3 ratio. If you have no sensitivities to nuts and avoid chemically treated/high heat roasted or oiled nuts, I think you can generally base your intake on the omega-6 content of the specific nut variety you enjoy. For most nuts, a small handful a day is fine. However, if you have a penchant for pine nuts or walnuts – or if you’re eating more than a couple large fistfuls of most other nuts each day – you might want to scale back. Macadamias are by far the best because they have the highest saturated and mono-unsaturated fat content with relatively low O-6.


Yesterday’s seasonality post discussed angles of “excess” and moderation. Yolks: we love you. Egg whites? They’re the rationale for taking a break once in a while. As I mentioned yesterday, Grok likely gorged when he got the chance, but it wasn’t an everyday opportunity. My suggested “ceiling” on eggs has less to do with amount and more to do with frequency. (Although I don’t think anyone should go so overboard that eggs becomes their sole protein source or edge out variety in their overall diet.) Since some folks develop sensitivities to eggs (again, the whites and their natural antimicrobial powers specifically) over time, I recommend taking regular breaks (and cutting back if sensitivities begin to appear). Skip certain days each week or take a longer “vacation” now and then – especially if you notice yourself not feeling quite the same after those crustless Primal quiches.


Another common question. If you eat a well-balanced Primal diet, you should be getting more than enough fiber to leave you in good shape. Ample and various veggies and a reasonable intake of fruits will offer your body plenty of natural and healthful sources of fiber, and I don’t see any reason to restrict these. You certainly don’t need the fiber in grains, however, and I think commercial fiber supplementation is totally unnecessary and likely detrimental in the long run. Visit for more info.


As with a lot of things, upper limits on cardio vary from person to person. Obviously, there are a number of factors in play here, including regularity (how many days/week), duration (how long per session) and intensity (% of maximum heart rate). It also depends on your current fitness and whether your goals include competing. As my book suggests, low/moderate level cardio is great for anyone. Although I think 3-5 hours a week can work for most folks, I don’t think there’s much need to hold back here. (More IS better to a point, but that doesn’t mean you have to be moving every second of the day either.) As for intense cardio, I have said it’s unnecessary on a regular basis, although it’s OK to do once in a while. As I discuss in the book, even a single 30-minute session of intense cardio was enough to throw off subjects’ immune function as well as raise whole body inflammation levels for three full days. While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing a rigorous mountain trek every now and then (or a 10k race or whatever intense activity floats your boat), it’s not necessary to work this hard with any frequency to achieve all-around peak fitness. Do it as it serves your sense of fulfillment and adventure, but don’t force it just because CW tells you to run yourself ragged on the treadmill. Once every couple weeks is fine for longer (an hour+) intense sessions. For shorter bouts, I wouldn’t suggest more than twice a week. You’re better off working in an interval session, which leads me to…


I get the sprinting question now and then. How much is necessary? How much is too much? First off, I often do it once a week. If I’m really in the mood, I’ll do it twice (my Ultimate Frisbee game on Sunday involves a ton of sprinting, so I count that). Honestly I don’t think it’s necessary to do it more than that, and I wouldn’t recommend doing it more than twice a week. Primarily, your body wants to do its thing to recover sufficiently from the exertion. Just as significant, I think, is the unnecessary use of time. I’m all for shortcuts and efficiency. If sprinting more than twice a week doesn’t add much benefit beyond what 1-2 a week does, why waste the effort? Use the time for resistance training, some fun low level cardio/play or trying out new Primal recipes. Part of the PB’s beauty is its efficiency – using our time and efforts to give us the best return with less investment. Who’s really interested in high maintenance when there’s so much to do and so much fun to be had? Instead of “over-sweating” it, get out there and enjoy.

Have a great week everybody. Thanks for reading and for all the fantastic comments last time. I’ll look forward to reading your thoughts on this round.

TAGS:  coffee, nuts/seeds

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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104 thoughts on “How Much is Too Much? – Round 2”

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  1. Really enjoyed the last one of these aswell. When it comes to nuts, I don’t know how anyone just eats a handful! Once I start i don’t stop till the bag is gone 😛

    1. Brazil nuts are my crack. I can polish off a pretty substantial bag if I’m not careful. Worse than that, I really like them with raisins. I have to limit myself to once a week.

      1. Same love brazils and macadamias…and even some cashews… i just dont digest them well so i cut out a lot of them. PLus i tend to over do nuts and fruit. I try to not buy them…but eat them for free at the store when samples or out or from the bulk dept. Otherwise i try to stick to veges and meat.

        1. Put me down for a nutaholic, too. Can’t keep ’em in the house!

    2. I try to limit myself to a handful of raw nuts each day. On the eggs however, I disagree. I eat about 6 raw organic eggs each and every day and have for a couple of years now. I also eat fish. I have no problems with the raw eggs and I’m 64 years old.

  2. Mark, do you recommend switching meat sources? Two of my fav meats are Bison and Elk. Would eating them on a regular basis cause allergies?

  3. “If you eat a well-balanced Primal diet, you should be getting more than enough fiber to leave you in good shape.”

    I eat an essentially fiber free diet, and I have to say that I’m left in pretty good shape on that account. I don’t think any amount of fiber is technically necessary to accomplish natural human digestion, though I don’t see how it would hurt so I’m not against the idea of fiber in general. Along with these lists of maximums, it would be cool also to see a list of minimums. 🙂

  4. I love my coffee in the morning – it’s more of a flavour thing I think. Mine is always half-caff with milk & a little sweet. I also have problem with stopping at a handful of nuts! It’s so easy when the bag is in the desk drawer, tempting me. I’ve never been big on salt, but I love it on radishes and cooked cabbage.

  5. I love Eggs for breakfast usually 2 large pastured eggs and I could eat them every day, but I agree with Mark, taking a day or two off and having something else helps eliminate boredom and decreases the chances of sensitivity. I also think eating different foods with eggs helps, Bacon, Ham, Strawberries, and even a handful of nuts provides variety and seems to limit sensitivity.

  6. When I originally read that Mark has a big cup of coffee with cream and a hint of sugar every morning, I rejoiced. I could probably live without it, but I don’t want to find out.

  7. Re: coffee… I read recently that it can cause an insulin response and was thinking of cutting it out since I thought insulin was a fat storer and I am not keen on that. I didn’t notice whether 1 measly cup caused an insulin surge, but was wondering if anyone else had thoughts about coffe and insulin?

    1. I don’t know that there’s any truth to that, e. I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Having been a Type 1 diabetic for 16 years, my morning coffee (probably about 12 oz) with cream does not affect my blood sugar levels at all, so I cannot possibly imagine it producing a negative affect in someone with a regularly functioning pancreas.

  8. Mark – how about Ketosis? I know you talk about the benefits of it for weight loss and that you don’t recommend the “unnecessary deprivation of plant foods”. So how much Ketosis is too much? I started cycling my carbs in twice a week (150-250 grams) and I feel better then I did when I was steady under 50 grams/day…

    1. Keto- is the predominant metabolic state over gluco- for many, if not most, hunter-gatherers and would have been nearly constant for Euro-Grok outside of periods of relatively short and isolated fruit blooms. The metabolic mode you are most healthy operating within is probably ancestry dependent to a degree, but keto adaptation is common to us all.

      1. Why would you say most hunter gatherers were in ketosis? Remember we did not evolve in Europe but in Africa where the seasons are wet and dry (not summer/winter/…). During those wet and dry periods in Africa humans would have had enough fruits/roots/tubers to stay out of ketosis.

        1. Because access to fatty meats are less punctuated than fruits and vegetation, so even though equatorial hominins had greater access to non-animal sources of nutrition, they still spent the majority the time in ketosis when taken as an average over days, months and years. Even someone that theoretically eats a diet of 100% carbs will still spend part of the day in keto (during sleep, and between meals that occur at intervals longer than a few hours).

        2. Henry is obviously not talking about ketosis during sleep. Neither am I. I don’t see any support for your claims that most HG would be in ketosis as their “predominant” metabolic state (I am talking during day time, not while sleeping).

        3. Ketosis isn’t something that needs to be done with intent. Your body slips in and out of ketosis regularly without your input. Our African ancestors would need to eat metabolically significant levels of carbohydrates regularly throughout the day in order to not predominantly (> 50% of the time) be in a state of ketosis. I don’t think the archaeological record or common sense supports the notion that they were ingesting significant carbs every two to three hours. If they weren’t, then yes, they spend a predominant amount of time in keto.

  9. How about IFs? I’m not talking about a meal here & there, but more along the lines of “I’m not eating on this day & that day” every week?

    1. one 24 hr fast a week is optimal. two are too much. from my own experience.

  10. Love these lists you did…. simple, punchy reads!

    On a side note: I’m not really a coffee guy at all, but as a kid, my dad always called coffee with cream & sugar “Sissy Coffee”. :^)

  11. Great posts. I am really enjoying these posts with the upper limits on various things.

    Good to know about the nuts. I love my nuts but I have been able to maximize my intake to 1 serving a day or less. I loved this line…

    “Macadamias are by far the best because they have the highest saturated and mono-unsaturated fat content with relatively low O-6.”

    Macadamias are my favorite nut!! Hoooooray! I think it is time to celebrate. I had 6 macadamias about 2 hours ago to tie me over before this big ass salad I am eating with 2 applegate 100% grass fed beef hot dogs 🙂

    And sprinting… I LOVE sprint intervals. I do them once a week, but I shall go for twice a week now. I just love them too much to skip out.

    And, I love my 5K’s. I compete in 1-2 per month. Glad to know I am ok here!

      1. Hahahaha! Good laugh for the day! Thanks for that 🙂

        The odd shaped ones are excellent too 😉 Lol

        Walnuts, pecans…

      2. Hey. I’m with Todd. I love my nuts too. Only thing better is when they’re buttered 🙂

      1. Boys…. Here’s a joke my hubby likes to tell:

        Q: Why do dogs lick their “nuts”?

        A: Because they CAN!!!

        1. Niiiiiiice….ha…balls jokes…..this thread has achieved a new low.

          Welcome to Mark’s Daily Apple!

    1. i tried those hotdogs the grassfed?? thay taste persay just like hotdogsbut the belly trouble and saltiness of them was a turn off i threw the rest in the freezer…
      mac nuts raw are my abolute FAVORITE!!

      1. You really did not like those grass fed hot dogs? Are you sure you bought the right kind?

        Applegate farms, the great uncured organic grass fed hot dog.. I think is the name…

        I LOVE them. I add them to my big ass salads 🙂

  12. What about tea? I’m not a coffee drinker because the caffeine buzzes me around the room but I do drink tea, and tea does have caffeine.

    1. I think it’s prob a similar comparison. You may just have to research the amount of caffeine in the teas you drink. I do know that black teas carry more caffeine than green, or white.

    2. I personally drink one mug of green tea every morning. Green tea is very low in caffeine, yet it has the most antioxidants out of any other tea!

      I drink my green tea straight up – nothing added to it. It wasn’t the best for the first few days, but you easily get used to it.

      If you can afford it then go for Matcha Green Tea. This is by far the best for you. Loaded with antioxidants. Right now, I am cheap with my green tea. About $3 for 40 bags, ha!

    3. I’ve looked at different charts on caffeine content for coffee, tea, pop etc. and coffee normally contains about 100mg a cup, black tea is around 40 to 50mg a cup a cup, green tea is around 30mg a cup. Caffeine content with tea increases the longer you leave the bag in or if you squish it with a spoon and it would also be higher in matcha green tea than regular green tea because you ingest the leaves.
      Cold water absorbs less caffeine (and everything else) from the tea than hot water and apparently when using hot water most of the caffeine is in the water in about 20 seconds so if you want to drink caffeinated tea with the least amount of caffeine than steeping it for that long, dumping the water, and then steeping it again would achieve that purpose. So said the box of tea. If I wanted less potent tea I think I’d just add more water and not drink it all or take the bag out quickly though.. but I like potent tea so that’s not going to happen.

  13. I definitely think that you should have nuts in moderation as they are snacks that you can easily overdo. Like anything, it’s about finding your personal upper limit that works for you.

  14. Personally, when I am competing athletically (tennis, soccer, basketball, golf), I find that interval sprints lasting no more than 10 minutes for the entire sprint workout about two times per week keeps my metabolic conditioning great for performance and feeling well at the same time.

    Coffee, raw dairy, eggs, sprinting, cardio, et al. show the fun and interesting nutritional and exercise bricolage experiments that we can all engage safely to learn more about our own bodies. That’s what the Primal Blueprint has empowered me to do so nicely.



  15. I’m surprised that you didn’t speak at all about the difference between table salt and sea salt. I’m guessing that the upper limit is quite different, depending on which of those you’re consuming…

    I don’t bother restricting my intake of sea salt in my food (and can’t imagine I eat too much, because I don’t have much taste for super salty food, and don’t eat many salty snacks). I’d definitely feel wary though if I was using normal table salt (ick) for everything.

    1. I’ve read that quite a bit of normal table salt is fluoridated… as is a lot of the water used for store-bought drinks and food with added water.

    1. Yes!

      But, the RATIO is what is important right?

      Go to Type in any nut, click on the appropriate one and scroll down to the bottom. They provide the Omega 3 and omega 6 content…

      For example… I will enter walnuts. I clicked on this:

      Nuts, walnuts, english [Includes USDA commodity food A259, A257]

      ***Be sure to pick the right serving size. I always to 28 g (1 oz) for nuts.

      It says…

      Total Omega-3 fatty acids = 2542mg
      Total Omega-6 fatty acids = 10666mg

      So, the ratio of 1:4 is actually one of the best for nuts. But, that is quite a bit of omega 6’s!

      Macadamia nuts are this…

      Total Omega-3 fatty acids = 57.7mg
      Total Omega-6 fatty acids = 363mg

      That is a ratio of 1:6. But, the omega 6’s are so much lower that I prefer macadamias. And, the taste is better too 🙂

    2. Wo!!

      Pine nuts are absurd!!!!

      Total Omega-3 fatty acids = 31.4 mg
      Total Omega-6 fatty acids = 9410 mg

      Thoughts, anyone?!?!?!?!?

      This is according to nutritiondata of course…

      1. I quickly realized that there’s just no way around the O-6 content in nuts, So i recently decided to ditch them altogether, forcing me to rely on healthy sat fats(and once and for all let go of my subconscious belief in the lipid hypothesis)
        I don’t miss them much,especially when reading about O-6 dangers…

        1. 0-6 dangers?????????

          Yes, a 10:1 or 20:1 ratio in favor of 0-6 is terrible. But, a balanced ratio… that is great!

          I am getting slightly confused. Don’t we just want an even balance as much as possible?

        2. Right, Todd. A balance is ideal, but O-6 is EVERYWHERE. So, if you don’t have access to grassfed hotdogs, then ditching nuts would probably be wise 😉

  16. Great post! Love the emphasis on variation and moderation. An interesting aspect wrt cardio is that, once you learn to listen to your body, you pretty much know when to back off.

    My weakness is a love of cycling and running, but I find that most of the time it’s at a ‘fun’ and conversational pace, while the faster (LT and above) stuff only happens a couple times a week and usually when I meet up with friends.
    The resulting fatigue is a pretty good reminder not to do it that way every day, but it is fun to drop the hammer once in a while.

    Anyone here try chia as a recovery drink / snack? I’ve been using it for about a week and loving it, which also makes me guilty of buying into the ‘born to run’ mania. Great read too, btw.

    Thanks again Mark!

    1. I use the Chia Nutra seeds on my Big Salads, smoothies and yogurt. Haven’t tried the drink but the seeds are an easy way to get more Omega 3 in a variety of foods.

      Loved Born to Run – one of my favorite books!

      There’s nothing wrong with a ride or run (especially if it is on trails) here and there but when people get addicted to having to run each day for the same time that’s a problem. I had a house guest for 6 weeks and she hit the treadmill for minimum 1 hour 7 days a week and was even on the torture device in the evenings for 1-2 hours a couple days a week!

      She even passed on my wicked smelling waffles one day to make sure that she got her 60 minutes in for the day.

      I used to train for triathlons and many of my friends were frail, weak and/or overweight but could run marathons, bike for 6 hours. I quit because I wanted to be more well rounded with movement, strength and power…with some running & biking in the warmer months.

      I will have to check out the chia drink now, thanks Jesse.

  17. Mark- I want you to know what a wonderful and amazing effect you are having on me and the people in my life- my husband, my son, my sister, my nephew, myself- all of us are totally changing our diets, our mindsets, our way of eating- right down to our sense of joy, health, and our very sense of life. Thank you so much for your wonderful, positive work and influence.

  18. I love eggs but may be over doing it. I have a friend that has over 80 chickens. He keeps me supplied in free range eggs and I eat six at a time, sometimes twice a day! I love them sunny side up and a little runny but guess I may need to cut back 🙁

  19. I was gonna make the same point, Sarah.

    Naturally derived salt is a far cry from the typical, highly processed table salt usually heated to a very high temperature, than mixed with additives to prevent clumping and ensuring salt shakers won’t get clogged.

    Aside from that, being that a Primal diet is so heavily reliant on meat, worrying about salt would be ludicrous. Salt makes ALL meat taste better!

    Invest in a high quality salt grinder and buy natural sea salt and use it as liberally as you like in your cooking. I’ve been doing it for years, and I recently took my blood pressure…118/64.

    One other note: make sure your salt grinder has ceramic grinders with a wood or plastic body – metal will corrode from the salt exposure…I went through 2 metal grinders before finally buying a plastic housing one.

    1. Where do you get your salt grinders? I’ve gone through the ones from walmart and target but the sea salt I use ends up clumping because it doesn’t have the additives! Now I just use it straight from the jar…

      But it’s a little bit of a problem when I want to add it to eggs or something since they’re so big 🙁

      1. We got some cute little ones at Crate & Barrel that seem to be holding up OK. I imagine Macy’s or a similar department store might be a good source. (Most of our kitchen stuff came from stores in the UK, so I haven’t really shopped US stores to know what’s available.)

        Just be sure that the salt grinder and the pepper grinder are labeled as separate items and you should be OK. Pepper needs metal to grind it effectively, and as others have said, salt will corrode metal. If they know enough to make them different, chances are they’re made reasonably well.

        Good luck, I hope this helps.

      2. Some sea salt is packaged wet. I had the same problem until I started drying the salt in a pan before putting it in the grinder. No more clumping.

    2. I just use Kosher coarse salt. It’s big enough to grip and sprinkly easily, while small enough to disolve. We tried using a grinder, the dust trail it left every where was a buzz-kill for my wife and I.

  20. WRT Fiber: I’m reminded of that book “Alive” that chronicled the ~70 day ordeal endured by members of a South American rugby team when their plane crashed in the Andes. In order to stay alive they started eating flesh from the bodies of the dead. Each day, one person was in charge of melting fat for comsumption in order to assist with elimination.

    Also, our pediatrician, an old-fashioned soul who did some volunteer work in India and treated many cases of dysentery, was a firm believer in giving children as much butter or animal fat as possible. She said that fat did more for the intestinal lining (the villi) than fiber could possible do; that fiber might even do damage. People with motility problems are usually given fiber supplements to help regulate their BM’s. But apparently, fat will do the job better.

    1. Of course, if you go waaaay to the other end an ingest far too much fat, the results are not pretty. Phrases such as “oily spotting” come to mind. 🙁 Just more evidence that moderation is the key!

      1. “Oily Spotting”… Now that’s something I hadn’t thought of! But I guess you’d have to really be overdoing it.

  21. Great article Mark. I have a few contrary points to add about caffeine. I personally do not believe it to be nearly as innocuous as you do, and here’s why.

    First off, the 300 mg quantity is given as the quantity that a full grown male should be able to detoxify in a 24-hour period. Women, children, and smaller men cannot detoxify anywhere near that amount, and so it builds up in the body. Furthermore, any caffeine above the 300 mg will accumulate in the bodies of a most men as well.

    A venti cup of brewed coffee at Starbucks has 420 mg of caffeine in it!

    But the real issue is that most of the research on caffeine that is currently touting it’s ‘benefits’ are funded by corporations that create products with caffeine in them. A little bit of research reveals a different story.

    Just because the body can detoxify a certain quantity of a chemical over time doesn’t make it a beneficial, or even safe chemical to consume. In our society, stress is the single biggest killer that we know of.

    Consider how caffeine works. People tend to think caffeine “gives them energy.” Caffeine creates the illusion of increased energy, while destroying the bodies ability to effectively relax to the same depths that would make us resilient to stress. It in fact exacerbates stress significantly.

    Caffeine binds to adenosine receptors in the brain. These receptors are the trigger that the brain uses to determine when to damp down nerve firing. By short-circuiting this system, the brain doesn’t realize it needs to give these nerves a rest, and they keep firing and firing and firing, which can cause real damage to the nervous system over time.

    But the more insidious side effect is that this uncontrollable nerve firing puts the body into fight-or-flight. Depending on the quantity of caffeine you’ve ingested (though all quantities do this), epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine are released into the blood stream. The illusion of alertness is a by-product of this fight-or-flight mechanism being activated. Blood is reduced from the frontal lobes in favor of survival functions, decreasing overall creative and cognitive functions.

    Due to the sustained nature of this reaction, cortisol is released into the blood stream. So now, not only are your adrenal glands being gradually taxed, but the body can not hit the deepest restorative sleep while permeated with cortisol. You will wake up tired. Period.

    So long as you ingest caffeine, you will never have the natural levels of energy that are possible without it. You will never be able to relax as well as you could without it.

    And as you ingest higher levels, this marriage of increased levels of stress hormones with increased levels of fatigue are a major causal factor in the development of psychological disorders like depression. Many psychologists are now well aware that patients with psychotic symptoms can be helped tremendously by coming “off the bean.”

    Honestly, this is the tip of the iceberg. Our society needs to get in tune with stress management and healthy living. Not a chemical that allows them to keep “pushing through” until it burns them out completely.

    -Austin Jahner

    1. Ohhh no, Coffee can’t be bad, tell me I’m having a bad dream……please.

  22. If you are pregnant or nursing watch the Green Tea. It “sucks” folic acid out of you when you need it most.

  23. In regards to sodium, specifically table salt.
    Natural unrefined sea salt has numerous minerals that are nonexistent in refined salt.
    The whole salt with all it’s minerals likely has buffering properties and may explain why some cultures do better with higher sodium intakes.

    Just a thought.


    1. Dehydration causes cramps; Salt retains water. So, when there is a lot of salt in your system, you will retain water and it may not get to some muscles.

  24. Thanks for this Mark, very useful! How much cheese would you suggest as the maximum? I love my cheese but I am aiming for fat loss at the moment, so it would be helpful to know what people with fat loss in mind should avoid, eat more of and what the upper and lower limits of these foods should be to maximise healthy fat loss.

  25. WRT to Coffee/Caffeine, some historians believe that it was the catalyst for the “Enlightenment”. Prior to the existence of cafes, intellectuals were convening in pubs, drinking ale. But once the cafe culture took root, they gathered at coffee houses. Coffee, being a stimulant, likely helped a more active thought and exchange of ideas. So, yes. Although it is definitely not “primal”, I will continue to drink my daily cuppa in honor of those who changed the world for the better. Plus I really like it, and any “lifestyle” that requires me to avoid it is eventually going to be a failure for me.

    1. I’ve noticed that caffeine makes me feel more creative and generally stimulates my mind and aids with mental focus. In high school I did most of my best work (mainly writing assignments) when wired on caffeine (and simulataneously stoned) and a couple times I took caffeine pills or drank energy drinks before tests and exams, which I believed helped me stay on task. Unless I consume a huge amount of caffeine basically to the point where I’m Parkinson’s jittery, it also generally makes me better at videogames and makes them more fun to play.
      It’s definitely possible to overdo it with caffeine though… I had an overwhelming caffeine addiction for quite a while. I used to bike 10km to school in the morning, which I had physical energy for… but then as soon as I sat down in class I felt like I was on the verge of sleep and my mind was just not there unless I drank my regular home period huge energy drink that I’d pick up each morning from one of the convenience stores by the school before heading to class. The more energy drinks I drank, the more I became dependent on them, the more caffeine I ingested throughout the day, and the less quality sleep I got.
      For caffeinated things I’ve since cut back to regular coffee and tea and recently just to tea (with coffee very rarely) and I no longer feel like caffeine is required for me to be alert.

  26. Austin,

    That was a great read on caffeine. I’d like to read more on your side of the story so if you have any links to studies/research please post them.

    Thank you,

  27. Let personal experience be your guide on these matters. If consuming a certain amount of a certain thing makes you feel sub optimal, then you’re consuming too much. If not, then you’re fine. I drink my 4-5 cups of coffee a day, and have perfectly stable energy levels. Others may not be able to, of course, but I feel sorry for them.

    1. I drink about the same, but I make sure to give it up for several days once or twice a month to make sure I’m not reliant on it. The fact is, caffine doesn’t do much to me at all. Only if I drink past 5pm do I EVER see any effect on my sleep and relaxation.

  28. wow, thats some serious java man! I can totally do consume coffee like that as well but as for me I differ a bit. First couple days I’m fine but it is a slow process of throwing off my circadian rhythms. By the end of the week, I’m like WTF! Counting the sheep until the sunrises. No good. But I do think it’s personal. A doc told me once it’s a bladder irritant, I def pee a bunch, gets things “moving” in the morning proving it’s powerful stimulant capabilities. I am always on the line with coffee, once I quit if I start enjoying it here and there agian it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a daily habit. I usually fold and drink a cup or two and I’m perfectly fine with that.

  29. Well coffee is my primary passion in life, so I couldn’t stand giving it up. For me, it isn’t about the caffeine, but rather the flavor profiles. I could go on about the different ways in which different coffees can be savored, but I’ll spare everyone that. Suffice it to say, I work in coffee, and think of it it like a sommelier does wine. Each cup I drink is fresh ground, and prepared using the pour-over method. The whole experience is rather cathartic for me, in fact; not nerve inducing.

  30. Mark, on p125 of your book you write, “…[nuts] are filling and nutritious and may be consumed liberally in place of high-carbohydrate snacks.” This seems to go against what you write in this blog post about nuts. Can you clarify?

  31. I admit to having a horse in the race, that is, I am a coffee drinker (3-4 cups a day) who is addicted. I did quit once for 3 months and went back, I just plain missed my morning coffee. Some of the articles I have read regarding coffee being good for you are not all sponsored by the coffee industry. Here is something I saw at Life Extension:

    >> Wake up and smell the coffee

    A forthcoming article in the British Journal of Nutrition, published online on December 6, 2007, reported the finding of Finnish researchers that an increased intake of coffee is associated with lower mortality over a 14.5 year period.

    Dr Pertti Happonen and associates evaluated data from 311 men and 506 women born during or before 1920 who were part of a large study intended to evaluate falls in older individuals. Physical examinations were conducted upon enrollment between 1991 and 1992, and questionnaires were completed concerning smoking status, the presence of diabetes, amount of coffee intake, and other information. A second questionnaire was completed two to three years later. The participants were followed for mortality through 2005.

    Over the follow-up period, 251 deaths occurred among the men, and 372 among women. For total mortality from all causes, and mortality from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other or unknown causes, there was an association observed between the number of cups of coffee consumed and a decrease in the risk of death. Compared with drinking one to two cups coffee per day, each added cup lowered the risk of mortality by an average of 4 percent. When the follow-up period was divided into five year periods, the strength of coffee’s effect appeared to diminish during the final years of the study, although the researchers add that there was not enough evidence to conclude a constant linear decrease.

    In an attempt to provide possible mechanisms for the finding, the authors list several diseases shown to be inversely associated with coffee intake, including Alzheimer’s disease, breast and colorectal cancer, asthma, and diabetes. They note that increased antioxidant capacity is one of coffee’s potential mechanisms against disease, and remark that the polyphenols in coffee are the greatest source of antioxidants in the diet of the Nordic population studied in this research. The effects of caffeine, as well, may have an impact on total mortality.

    “The present study in a representative sample of older adults strengthens the findings in some previous studies among middle-aged individuals of a beneficial effect of moderate or heavy coffee consumption on the risk of death,” the authors conclude. “We expect results from more detailed studies in larger study populations to provide more insight about the advantages and disadvantages of coffee consumption, and to set critical recommendations of optimal consumption with regard to health.” <<

  32. For those of you who seem very concerned about your Omega-3/Omega-6 ratio, LEF has a test now for that:

    I am a member of LEF but not on the board or in any other way affiliated, this is merely a public service announcement for those who might want to know exactly where they are at with their blood fats.

    I get detailed bloodwork annually, that way, I know exactly where I am at with blood sugar, cholesterol, C-Reactive Protein, PSA, Homocysteine, testosterone, DHEA, etc. Without it, I would be just shooting in the dark when eating nutritionally & supplementing.

    The Omega3/Omega6 test is a new one which I intend to do this year. They also have a detailed VAP test for cholesterol (small LDLs, etc). I have never had the detailed test so I intend to do that one also.

  33. I love my eggs and I am in the situation that they are the only source of protein readily available to me(I am in college and eat in a vegetarian co-op for financial reasons). So most weeks I can only get meat 2 maybe 3 times a week! Plus being a college student and an active crossfitter I eat a good amount and end up going through probably about 60 eggs a week give or take. Do you think I will be able to lose body fat and gain lean muscle eating this way? The way I justify it to myself is that Grok would do the same thing in my situation….right?

  34. I like to drink a little coffee in the morning w a teaspoon of raw honey & fill the rest of the cup w whole milk.

  35. I eat 4 raw organic eggs every morning, maybe drink is a better word. And no coffee for me. I can drink a whole pot before bedtime and still sleep like a baby. I have more energy without drinking coffee and I turned 63 today.

  36. Austin,

    Thanks for the excellent post on caffeine! It’s insidious. You don’t know that it’s doing all those things to you. I used to drink a pot or more a day of coffee when I owned a bar. I did cut down from that when I no longer worked long strange hours.

    I’ve been off caffeine for years now. I drink only decaffeinated coffee and tea. (Get the good quality decaf.) Even half a cup of regular coffee will put me over the edge and actually make me feel sick. I don’t ever want my body to “get used to” something that makes my physically sick.

    As for energy, once you’re off of the caffeine and your body recuperates from it, you have plenty of energy and it’s not like a roller coaster, nor do you need caffeine in the morning to get you going. More energy, better sleep, less stress.

  37. @ Magouch:

    Funnily enough, Socrates, Plato and the ancient Greeks shaped thousands of years of Western thought with alcohol rather than coffee.

    To be more serious I’ve heard the enlightenment was the result of the rediscovery of the ancient Greek philosophers in Europe.

  38. My Mom & Grandma always put a few grains of rice inthe salt shaker to keep it from clumping.

    When I switched to sea, black & Himalayan salts I just put a few grains of uncooked rice in my salt shaker with them & they never clump. I haven’t been able to find a salt grinder yet that works well – I have 3 broken ones in the cupboard (full of salt rocks).

    BTW – I have three salts because I couldnt’ decide which salt was better & they were almost the same cost per pound so I bought one lb of each & mixed them together in my salt jar.

  39. For the past 30 years, I used to run and sometimes every day of the week. But then I developed knee problems. Then I started to walk and my knees are OK now. Then I learned how to race walk. I can go faster then when I used to jog. I only race walk about once or twice a week, but I really enjoy being able to walk faster than I can run.

  40. If I didn’t eat nuts I couldn’t eat Primally. Honestly, if we do so much other good stuff in our diets, eating nuts is fine.

    1. Me too. I don’t know how I’d manage to get enough fat if it wasn’t for nuts and nut butter, since I don’t want to live off cheese, my parents get mad when I eat “way too many” eggs, and due to financial reasons I haven’t been able to eat a whole lot of high quality fatty meat, mostly just lean canned tuna and salmon, but as of yesterday I’ll be eating tons of liver since I found out it sells cheap. About $2.50 – $3.00 for a big hearty meal!
      I think I’ve been eating a bit too much fat lately though since I’ve been eating primal a little over two months and after an initial decline in body fat and muscle in the first few weeks I started eating more protein and along with it a lot more fat to regain and maintain muscle mass and now I’m pretty sure I have a higher body fat percentage than before starting to eat primal.
      My foot is currently too injured to do any running and I’m too broke to afford a bike.. can’t wait until my parents buy me one or get new tires for one they’ve had just sitting in the garage. I need to do cardio, soon!

  41. I have been keeping a small bag of mixed nuts and dried fruit in my purse. When I run errands, I tend to skip lunch have some nuts and drink from the water bottle I always keep in my car. But, I have been eating 2-3 handfuls..with my intent to lose weight I will need to cut down. I will skip a meal if needed and keep the nuts as a treat for the weekends.

    As for eggs, since I volunteer at a CSA, I am getting farm fresh eggs, getting lots of sun and excercising Primal. I have been attending Zumba classes for 3 years, the dancing makes me feel sexy, but after all that chronic cardio, the weight was not coming off. So I am changing to strength/resistance and flexibility training.

    I am doing an IF, even thought I have a strange rash on my neck I have lost 5 lbs and feel detoxified. I look forward to reading many more posts. Oh yes, the coffee, only heavy cream and honey, use to add Coffee Mate creamer AND Splenda. My goal is to be strict paleo by next year.

  42. Dear Krishnaji,Thank you very much for sending brief news about Ghandruk, it cntariely has given us pleasure to know what is going on in Ghandruk.I was born and bred in Ghandruk but due to global migration, currently living in the global village in the UK. As such I am always endeavoring to keep myself up to date with the news and views about Ghandruk. The step you have taken is good for those people living abroad. If you would kindly send us such brief notes at least every six months would be great?Thank you so much.Warmest regards