Dear Mark: Rapid Fire Answers to Your Most Pressing Primal Questions

Last week I said “ask me anything” and you came back with nearly 300 comments! From funky-smelling Vibrams to Primal supplementation to training recovery, it was a mixed bag. Below you’ll find rapid fire responses to more than a dozen of them.

Check back later this week when I’ll be providing more solutions to your Primal predicaments.

Thanks for reading, everyone, and keep your questions coming!

Here’s my question: When you say not to count calories, is it because you believe that calories don’t matter? Or just that you won’t need to because a primal diet is so filling?

A little of both. See my Context of Calories post for the details. A Primal Blueprint eating style will definitely satisfy you on fewer calories once you have truly acclimated to it. Calories do matter if you are trying to lose weight, and you will want to create a bit of a deficit to accelerate your fat loss if you have a lot to lose, but it’s where those calories are coming from that makes all the difference. 1800 calories from protein and fat have a far greater impact on getting there comfortably and quickly than 1800 calories of carbs. And once you get to an optimum body composition, you can pretty much eat all you want of Primal foods and maintain that weight effortlessly. Of course, because it’s so satisfying AND by then you will have reprogrammed your genes to derive more energy from stored body fat, you won’t be so hungry all the time and you won’t “need” to eat so much so often.

I was checking out your Damage Control product and saw that it contains No Flush Niacin. I’d done some research recently concerning Niacin intake and it’s lowering effect on Triglycerides. All the information I could find said No Flush Niacin has very little positive effects and regular Niacin should only be taken. What are your feelings on this?

Not a fan of using Niacin (vitamin B3) to lower lipids. I recommend using your diet (the Primal eating strategy) as the main means of bringing your blood lipids into a healthy range. The amount of Niacin required to have a therapeutic effect on lowering LDL cholesterol – if that’s what you intend to do – is quite high (1500-6000 milligrams a day of flushing Niacin) and not without side-effects and possible dangers. It can make some people very uncomfortable. That’s the reason we use 500 mgs of non-flushing niacin in Damage Control Master Formula, which is plenty to provide all the other benefits of niacin.

What can an endurance athlete eat going out to train or compete more than 4 hours without carbs or gels? What can I eat during a long bike ride 3 hours or more?

This is a very complex equation. I have athletes who have gone fully Primal (eating 150 or fewer grams of carbs a day while training) and who now race well without much more than a high carb meal the night before a race and the carb gels they use regularly during the actual event. If you insist on doing long rides or runs while Primal and want to try this method, I suggest you stick to a fairly low carb regular eating routine and train at much lower heart rates for a few months as you reprogram your system to preferentially burn fats. It’s a long process (much more than the three weeks we suggest for “regular” conversion). On the other hand, if you are not training Primally (that is, you are engaging in Chronic Cardio) then at the very least try to limit your daily carb intake to only what you need (maybe 100 grams for every hour you’ll be on the road) and try to get them from non-grain sources (potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, veggies, fruit, etc.).

I have a question about recovery. I play competitive ultimate frisbee and most of our tournaments are two days long (Nationals is four days). What should I be eating/drinking to make sure that my body is ready for the next day of competition?

During multi-day events that require hours of sprinting, you will need to top off glycogen stores during and after competition, mostly to set you up well for the next day. In this case, eat your normal Primal fare when mealtime rolls around, but add in some starchy tubers and fruit, and certainly avail yourself of some of the standard maltodextrin/glucose replacement drinks.

Are you aware of any research programs that are specifically testing the benefits of a primal lifestyle vs. the stereotypical american lifestyle? Many of your posts include links to research articles that support the advice you give, but often the studies weren’t designed with the intent to test primal lifestyles specifically and the conclusions you draw are secondary inferences from their data.

I guess another way to ask this question is, are there any research publications that include an introduction along the lines of “…[primal law #] according to fitness afficionado Mark Sisson of – to test this, we devised a randomized controlled trial with double blind…”? If not, would you be interested in rigorously testing your interpretation of modern health? Thanks!

As you note, there are no real studies looking at a full Primal lifestyle. There are a few short-term studies that compare low-carb, Mediterranean and SAD diets and look at changes in weight and blood lipids, but no one to my knowledge has done a full-on Primal study that includes diet, exercise, sun exposure, play, sleep etc. I would love to do one as you suggest, but it’s impractical. First, the costs of doing these types of studies properly (for peer-reviewed, prestigious journals) are outrageously prohibitive unless you have a potentially lucrative patent at stake. Furthermore, you couldn’t possibly randomize or double-blind such a study (and forget placebos altogether). Ultimately, all I ever need to do is look at the hundreds, maybe by now thousands, of incredible life-altering testimonials and other success stories we have received on MDA to know that living and eating Primally is the best way to achieve optimal health and fitness.

In my previous Korg carb loading distance running life I balanced my glucose with distance running and 13.1 training and got into great (but burned out) shape. I coupled that with “downtime” by using P90X and Jillian Michaels. I was always tired and hungry and struggled with my weight and ITBS, arthritis in my joints and BURNED OUT.

Now that I am practicing my new and improved Grok lifestyle, I am struggling with hitting my target zone heart rate. I barely feel like I am moving when I jog (in my Vibram Five Fingers) and I am out of the 60-80% target heartrate range.
In Primal Blueprint, you mention “athletes” can work at an 80-90% maximum heartrate range. Could I consider myself an “athlete” or would I be working against myself?

Whereas I used to be a 8:30/mi gal, if I feel like I’m barely moving at 9:40/mi but am hitting the 85% range, am I negating the work? I’ve dropped my runs to 3-4 per week and between 4-6 miles.

First off, let’s reassess some goals here. “Great but burned out” shape is not my idea of in shape at all. Tired, hungry, ITBS and arthritis-ridden make it that much closer to insanity. No offense, but 8:30/mi is not an athlete pace, especially when it’s done at higher heart rates. I’d look at starting from scratch as a barefooter (or in your Fives). That means hiking, walking and easy jogging in the 55-75% range for a few weeks. Then your main strength and speed gains will come from your sprint sessions once a week (maybe once every five days if you can handle it). If your goal is better health, more energy and a leaner body, your lower mileage in the Vibrams will more than offset the stuff you used to do in shoes, meaning 20 miles a week in Fives is the strength equivalent of 40 miles a week in running shoes.

Do you plan on getting rid of the SOY protein and the artificial sweetener in your protein powders anytime soon? Soy is DEFINITELY not primal, as you said yourself on the “Underground Wellness” radio show so why use it in your formula?

Short answer: yes.

Responsibly Slim was formulated seven years ago as a great-tasting alternative to standard protein-rich meal replacement powders (MRPs). Thousands have used it as an assist in losing fat when they incorporate it into a daily plan that is based mostly on real foods. Designing these products is a real challenge because the major components generally taste horrible on their own. Even if it had the best nutrition profile imaginable, an MRP would fail if no one liked the taste. Understand that any meal replacement is a compromise over real food. But when real food is unavailable, I want people to have a viable alternative. The question is how much of a compromise should you make in the name of truly helping someone with a lot of weight to lose? In this case, per your question, 10% of the protein source is soy protein isolate (90% is whey). That’s 2.5 grams of an amino acid profile that had soy as its origin, but now bears little resemblance to actual soy. The use of sucralose was the choice over other artificial sweeteners or HFCS because there is still no credible research that would indicate it being harmful. I’d prefer not to use it, but for this product it was the best compromise.
Having said all this, I am nearing the completion of a two-year R&D project that will result in a radical new formulation that will blow your socks off. And I’ve found elegant (albeit costly) solutions to many of the compromises that the “old technology” required. The product should be available in a few months.

When your workout consists of
Swim 2500 yds.
5×5 Routine
1/4 mile sprintsx8, under 1:25 with a set of pullups or pushups between sprints.
6-10 mile run, 7-8min/miles
Is it necessary to include grains to keep up with the amount of energy your body is expending?

It’s never necessary to include grains to keep up. Even if you think you require more glucose/glycogen, there are far better alternatives.

How much Vitamin D will be in the new supplement? And will it be in an gel capsule with oil?

2,000 IU per capsule, 60 capsules per bottle. It will not be an oil gel. All you need to do is take it with or near any meal that includes fat (which, in the case of Primal, is just about any meal or snack).

Will the Primal Blueprint DVD and audio book be available separately from the Primal Leap Kit package?

The Audio Book will definitely be made available separate from the Primal Leap Kit. The DVD will not.

You’ve touched on this in the past, but could you explore Bodyweight Exercises more? I’d like to move beyond just pushups/burpees etc (even though your ‘Prison Workout’ post has been a Godsend!) but there’s a lot of weird information out there. I’d like to get some from a trusted source, and by that I mean you.

Stay tuned for Primal Blueprint Fitness, due out (for free) in early July. Bodyweight routines are the foundation of PBF Lift Heavy Things.

I would love to see some workouts for the less … buff among us. I’ve never managed a real pushup in my life. Can you give some of us ways to work up to pushups, pull-ups (also never managed one), etc, without a gym?

Progressions to master bodyweight movements will be provided in Primal Blueprint Fitness. You’ll be doing pushups and pull-ups in no time.

I’d like to see you address the primal lifestyle specifically as it relates to our children.

I’ll keep this request in mind for future articles. In the meantime, enjoy these archived posts:

Raising Healthy Seedlings Category

I’ve had my Five Fingers for a few years now and love them. But they stink. Badly. Any ideas? I tried washing them in the laundry and it didn’t help much.

In my experience just throwing my FiveFingers in the washing machine and then letting them air-dry does the trick. If that doesn’t fix the funk check out this article over at Birthday Shoes:

The Definitive Guide to Cleaning Vibram Five Fingers a.k.a. How to Get the Smell out of your Vibrams!

Thanks again for all your questions. Send me more and I’ll try to get to them all. Grok on!

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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