Dear Mark: Steak Satiety vs Ground Beef Satiety; Maca and Cacao During Fasts; Nut Butters, and Post-work Workouts

inline_steak or hamburgerFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering four questions from readers. First, why might a pound of ground beef induce less satiation than a pound of steak? Second, can you take maca root and cacao powder during a fast without breaking it? Third, what’s my take on nut butters? Good kitchen allies or too much of a good thing—or both? And finally, I give a few tips for someone who wants to train more regularly but can’t find the energy required after work.

Let’s go:

Hi Mark,

Is there a reason for there to be different satiety from whole cuts of meat vs ground meat? I notice for me ground meat is a lot less satiating. I eat two meals a day. If breakfast is a pound of steak, I’m good until later in the afternoon. However if breakfast instead involves a pound of ground beef, I’m usually ravenous again just a few hours later.


I can think of three reasons. They are not mutually exclusive. All three could be, and likely are, correct.

  1. Ground meat travels fast. Like other types of processed food, pre-processed/ground beef spends less time in transit in the gut. It speeds on through. A common treatment for people with gastroparesis (characterized by severely slow transit time) is choosing pureed meat over chunks of it because it speeds up transit. Ground beef should function similarly.
  2. You have to chew steak. And since you don’t have to chew ground beef as long (until it forms an amorphous mass of amino acids), you miss an important aspect of the eating ritual that informs appetite. Chewing primes our body to expect food. It tells our body we’re actually eating something. It causes the secretion of digestive enzymes, so we can actually digest and absorb the nutrients we consume.
  3. Your steak might be higher in protein than your ground beef, and protein is the most satiating macronutrient. Ground beef is often much higher in fat and lower in protein than steak. That’s not a bad thing, but it might not help induce as much satiety.

Been playing a bit with intermittent fasting and drinking bulletproof coffee in the morning. If I add supplements such as maca or cacao powder does that counteract the effects of consuming only fat for breakfast and will it throw me out of ketosis?

Nope, shouldn’t be a problem. Both have negligible amounts of carbs, with the bulk of cacao’s coming as fiber.

The cacao especially will only enhance your fast by increasing AMPK and improving mitochondrial function. You’ll recall that one of the primary benefits of fasting—and the thing responsible for many of its benefits—is the induction of AMPK activation.

What’s your view on nut butters pertaining to attempting to “reboot” one’s view towards food?

They can be nutrient dense, full of healthy fat soluble nutrients, and filling. But they can also displace other meals. And can be addictive.

Grok certainly didn’t have access to a jar of almond butter…..

Psychologically, nut butters seem to invite cheat meals. And train your brain to expect a certain level of taste. By simple nature that they are easy to eat and can be combined with other foods (ie: fruits) in ways that really overstimulate the senses (are almost too delicious for their profile). Something that should be reserved for standard american diet desserts.


I share your concerns. I’m not super enthusiastic about nut butters, especially if you already find them addicting. I’ve seen too many people derail their progress by repeatedly plunging a greasy spoon into a jar of concentrated nut slurry. It’s way too easy to add 600 or 700 calories in a day just from “random” spoonfuls.

That said, they are nutrient-dense, they do go great on sliced apples and bananas, you can incorporate them into your cooking, you can use them to make incredible dipping sauces. Sounds like you’re a big fan, which is why you might want to lay off them for awhile.

Hi Mark, how do you motivate yourself to get out and exercise after getting home from work exhausted and all you feel like doing is curling up and sleeping? I know 90% of the time I will feel better for moving but when exhaustion hits it is oh so hard to physically follow through on what my mind knows will benefit me. Thanks.

I don’t. I’m serious. I very rarely, if ever, try to motivate myself to train after a long day working. I use those times to rest, hang out with my family, make dinner, read, and generally keep things very mellow. That post-work workout is fool’s gold. It’s so tempting, so inviting, so within reach—yet most people fail at it.

You’re at your most vulnerable at the end of the day, far more likely to give into the junk food waiting just a pantry door away. Moreover, consistently telling yourself that “this’ll be the day” you start training after work and consistently failing to follow through will establish a terrible relationship between you and exercise. Don’t feel wedded to the idea of a post-work workout (if a nighttime workout happens, it happens) if you have better options.  Instead:

Wake up 30 minutes earlier to train. If you try this, don’t accrue any sleep debt. Go to bed 30 minutes before you normally would.

Make your mornings more efficient so you have enough free time to add a workout. Instead of deciding what to wear in the morning, decide the night before and lay the clothing out. Instead of spending ten minutes conducting an internal debate about how you should cook your eggs, you can decide the night before—and maybe have them hardboiled and ready to go.

Train at lunch. I like a midday session. Strength is highest then, and after I get the workout in, I’m happy, I feel great, and my productivity skyrockets. The workout is “done” for the day! An afternoon training session leaves me feeling optimistic about the rest of the day.

Play. Exercise doesn’t have to be grueling work under the bar or on the spin bike. It can be fun. It can take the form of play—aimless movement without a goal in sight. You’re probably more willing to play after work than submit to a regimented bout in the gym.

Or some/all of the above. A few brief spells of activity might feel more doable than one continuous session. That works, too.

That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading, and take care!

Oh, and help out today’s round of questioners with your own answers down below!


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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23 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Steak Satiety vs Ground Beef Satiety; Maca and Cacao During Fasts; Nut Butters, and Post-work Workouts”

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  1. Mark I appreciate your answer to the last question pertaining to motivation. It is so refreshing to hear! I definitely think the stress we give ourselves along with the high expectations we put on ourselves is more the culprit than the missed workouts 🙂

    1. I agree. Back in the days when I was a frequent gym rat, I would usually go after getting off work, when I was tired, unmotivated, and usually low on sleep. Invariably I’d quit after a few months because my routine became unsustainable. The thing is, I hate working out, period, any time of the day. Always have. Somewhere along the line I wised up and realized that exercise for the sake of exercise doesn’t work well for everyone. Instead I found ways to effectively incorporate extra movement into my daily life. This might not do it for everyone, but it sure works for me.

  2. Instead of stressing myself out and forcing myself to workout after a long work day, when I truly don’t want to, what I sometimes do is go to my gym strictly for the use of the sauna. It refreshes me, relaxes me, relieves me of any stresses, rejuvenates me, and feels absolutely wonderful. It is also a great time to stretch, meditate, plan meals, make decisions, or socialize / converse with others, some of whom I’ve developed great friendships with over the years. We even have a name for days when we just use the sauna in lieu of a workout – the executive workout. Listen to your body – don’t force anything and over train. Sometimes an “executive” order is exactly what the doctor ordered

  3. Great stuff here! Totally agree with the am workout thing. And after a long day I’ll take my dog for a walk, but that’s play. I know I feel more full after steak too…I always thought it was the chewing. And so happy the cacao I through in my am coffee is still “fasting” but what about collagen? Is that too much protein? Love nut butters but think of them as a gateway food!

    1. Elizabeth from what I’ve read collagen type I and III should be taken separately from other proteins to ensure optimal absorption. So I think you are doing it the right way, in the morning in a fasted state take your type I & III powder in your coffee then later once you “break your fast” eat your meals, do your protein drink, or eat your collagen bar, bone broth etc. I also take a UC-II supplement at night, but then again I take a ridiculous amount of supplements, I’ve been n=1 biohacking myself for about 40 years now. 🙂

  4. Totally agree on the morning thing, not just for exercise, but also for habits you seem to be unable to integrate in the evening. Personally it helped me not only gain excellent morning habits (I now wake up two hours before the time I used to), but helped with the end of day habits as well. Sort of a routine motivator. An old monk expression sounded like (unsure on original): “Do not wait for the day to meet you, go ahead and meet the day”. Some think the best time to mediate or do yoga is between 3-6am, not that I think one should wake at 3am…

    Dark chocolate squares dipped in almond butter are one of my current habit issues, wonder why…

  5. I love the midday training idea. I’m always too tired by the evening, so even good intentions often fall by the wayside.

    And I’m into intermittent fasting too – will have to start adding cocoa for the AMPK like you suggested. Thanks Mark!

  6. I LOVE these questions today, especially the last 2! I’ve realized recently (or rather, have come out of denial) that I am one of those people who should not buy or keep nut butter in the house. ever. I consistently overeat the entire jar within days of having it and then feel pretty awful about myself – which isn’t typically the case anymore. Usually I have a pretty solid relationship with food/self/body. I think its important that we all recognize the importance of bio-individuality. We all have different bodies and what works for one person may be poison for the other. For me, nut butters are one of those foods that may work for other people but is absolute poison to me. I don’t buy them anymore and its better that way.

    Now Cacao might be the next thing I might need to reconsider in my diet….

    1. For me cacao is a very strong stimulant. Great if I have a late night exam, but not good for an average day when I want to sleep restfully. That acts as a built-in regulating mechanism.

  7. Best scheduling change I ever made as a stay at home mom was to leave the house, the kids, the tempting snacks in the evening and go workout. I work now during the day but still work out at night. I make better food choices at night when I’m tired if I’ve had the evening workout. So surprised to read evening workouts don’t work for a lot of people.

  8. I have tried working out in the morning and my body just doesn’t like it, so I have exercised in the evening after work for years. It’s a habit just like brushing my teeth, so I just do it without thinking now. Sometimes, though, even I am tired and unmotivated. My apartment’s second bedroom is my gym, so on those nights that I’m tired, the temptation to skip can be strong and convenient. That is when it is important to remember the following…do not sit down! Put the lunchbox away, go straight into the bedroom to change clothes, then immediately go into the “gym”. Do not sit down because then the cat will be on your lap, and he’s so cute and missed you so much all day and you’d be so mean to kick him off, and wait is that an episode of “Friends” on TV?, and you haven’t checked your e-mail for awhile, and then you play “Angry Birds” because you deserve it after a long day, and before you know it you have sat on your duff for an hour and not done anything. Or maybe all that is just me! 😉 So just don’t sit down and you can avoid all of that.

  9. My favorite way to exercise at the end of the day is a walk with the dog and then a dance party with my little boy, it tires him out before bed and gets us both moving.

  10. I’m a type A who likes to workout regularly. But my body doesn’t always want to or have energy. So I decided on a bare minimum workout for those days when I don’t feel like it or don’t have the time. It’s simply 50 push-ups and 50 air squats. Takes about 3 minutes to do. And I get the satisfaction of telling my type A self that I worked out even though I didn’t feel like it.

  11. Mark, recently on an episode of the Joe Rogan Experience, Dr Rhonda Patrick mentioned recent research has show anything consumed that is not water will activate enzymes and therefore break your fast. Have you read anything on this?

  12. I think the key to staying fit is to just find something you love to do. I love to surf. I’ve shaped my entire life to maximize surf time. I surf every day and sometimes twice a day if it’s firing. Find that type of passion and you’ll never feel a lack of motivation. And the days you don’t feel motivated it will be for a very good reason (sickness, overworked muscles, etc)

  13. If I don’t feel like exercising at the end of the day, I’ll just put on some music and dance for a song or two – it’s a small thing but gets me moving and often I’ll keep on going for another few songs.

  14. Working out in the mornings is kind of hard when you get up at 1:30 AM and start work at 3 AM. I had to adjust many things after starting to work the early shifts, but I found that I still have a lot of energy after the early shift as opposed to starting work at 6 or 7 AM. I also have more energy at work when I start at 2 or 3 AM, my concentration seems to be better at night.

  15. I find it pretty mandatory to do some kind of movement “workout” after sitting in the office all day. As others have mentioned, it doesn’t need to be a cross fit session, but I find 20-30 mins of yoga/bodyweight/jump rope type of activities and a quick cold shower gives me the ability to be much more engaged with my family, which is after all the number one priority. And after those really rough days at the office, HIIT training works way better than alcohol…

  16. Reading that last question, I couldn’t help but think, that if they are coming home from work exhausted more times than not, it might be their daily diet that needs looking at, content and timing, rather than their exercise. Thoughts?

    1. that’s very interesting because i have thought the same thing. i’m starting to change my eating and sleeping habits (again) and have quickly noticed a change in how i feel already. granted, i may need an afternoon pick me up snack at work to fuel my brain again before i go home for the day, but i tend to feel a bit better when i’m eating better during the day. when it gets closer to the end of my shift, my brain is exhausted from all the activity and ready to leave (i’m also highly introverted), but then once i get a workout in, i feel better again and exhausted in a good way.
      it’s very interesting how people differ.

  17. Anyone have input on around how many calories it takes to break a fast? Female 5’6 160lbs, eating 1200-1500 cals a day, depending on activity level. I like to eat from around 9:30am – 3:30pm but enjoy coffee or tea later in the day with heavy cream or maybe a hardboiled egg after work or post workout.