Dear Mark: Supplement Q and A

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering several questions from the comment section of a previous post about my training supplementation. There were some fantastic ones.

I explain my favorite dinners and the latest I’ll eat it. After that, I give a couple ways to test (or not) the effects of these supposedly beneficial foods, nutrients, and supplements we all like discussing. I also tell how often I eat oysters, liver, and seaweed. Finally, I discuss collagen dosage and supplementation for IBS and Crohn’s.

What’s some of your favorite dinner menu items? What’s the latest you like to eat dinner?

My dinners are straightforward.

Favorites include:

  • Medium rare ribeye cooked in cast iron with sautéd spinach.
  • Steamed giant shrimp with melted butter (for dipping), broccoli, and asparagus.

I’ve been eating those for years, and they haven’t gotten old.

Latest I like to eat is 7:30. That changes if it’s a special occasion as when I’m out with friends or I’m on vacation.

If I’m not that hungry, I might end my eating window well before evening. I’m doing some light experimenting with “early time restricted feeding” (eat breakfast, skip dinner) and “sleep low” (don’t fully replenish carbs or calories after a tough workout; sleep on it and let fat burning maximize).


What is the best way to test and experiment with different foods, nutrients, and supplements on an individual basis? I read a lot about different things that work, but how can I test that for my body to determine if it makes a significant difference? Thanks.

One way is to just trust the stats. If—based on research, nutrition data, and evolutionary perspectives—a particular food just seems really, really healthy, you can integrate it into your diet and rest assured that it’s doing good things for you. Foods that fall into this category include red meat, leafy greens, colorful berries and veggies, pastured eggs, wild caught fish, and cruciferous vegetables, where the totality of evidence that they contain very helpful nutrients is overwhelming.

Another way is to determine what biomarker or health outcome the particular food, nutrient, or supplement purports to influence, and then track that biomarker before, during, and after you take the food, nutrient, or supplement. This gives you a baseline value (before) and allows you to observe the trend.

I’d love to know how often you eat particular supplementary foods, such as oysters, liver, & seaweeds

Oysters: I like the smoked oysters in olive oil from Crown Prince. I’ll do a can every week or so. If I’m out at a restaurant that has oysters (and it’s reasonably reputable), I’ll usually order a half dozen as appetizers. Sometimes I’ll get a hankering for oysters and have the fish guy at Whole Foods or wherever I am shuck a few behind the counter and slurp ’em down in the store.

Liver: I try to eat some form of liver once a week. Maybe a quarter to a half pound, usually closer to a quarter.

Seaweed: I throw dried kombu into broths and soups. If I’m out for sushi, I’ll get seaweed salad. I snack on nori once or twice a week.

Does collagen supplementation halt, or even potentially reverse hair loss? Also, what are your thoughts on the appropriate dosage? Is a larger dosage more appropriate when recovering from an injury?

Though it’s an important factor in hair strength and durability, I don’t know about collagen helping with hair loss. Perhaps it could by balancing out our methionine (from muscle meat) intake to promote a more anti-inflammatory, homeostatic internal environment.

A good dosage depends on what you’re looking for.

To get the amount of glycine (3 grams) used in studies to improve sleep quality, you’d need about 13 grams of collagen protein, or a scoop and change of my Collagen Peptides.

For basic maintenance in a healthy body, we need 10 grams of glycine each day. Our bodies make roughly 3 grams each day, on average, so we need to get at least 7 grams from our diets. If you aren’t getting any collagen through your food (an unrealistic scenario, especially for a Primal eater), that means taking around 30 grams of collagen protein, or 3 scoops of my collagen.

1-2 scoops, or 10-20 grams of collagen is a good safe range for most people.

When you’re recovering from an injury, you’re rebuilding tissue. That means your baseline requirements discussed earlier go up, and it’d be a good idea to push supplementary collagen toward the 20-30 gram range.

I’d love your suggestions for the best supplements to help ease the pain & inflammation associated with chronic IBS & Crohn’s disease.

Dealing with IBs or Crohn’s isn’t quick or easy. There are no magic solutions or pills.

That said:

Curcumin (from turmeric) shows promise, inducing remission of ulcerative colitis combined with medication (mesalamine) and helping patients in remission maintain remission. Smaller doses (450 mg), however, don’t seem to work as well as larger doses (3 grams).

Dairy, particularly yogurt and milk, shows promise. Yogurt reduces inflammatory markers in inflammatory bowel disease patients and prevents intestinal inflammation in mice injected with an agent designed to inflame the intestines. And in a recent observational study among Europeans, those who ate the most dairy and drank the most milk had a lower risk of inflammatory bowel diseases.

The best bet, again, is a full shift away from the standard way of eating. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which greatly reduces fibrous foods and eliminates grains, sugar, dairy, and processed food, performed well in a recent study of kids with Crohn’s. Ketogenic and even carnivorous diets get a lot of anecdotal support online as well. The key appears to be the initial removal of fermentable and other types of fiber, if only until things heal and you’re able to incorporate more and more.

And of course, stress, sleep, and all that other good stuff play big roles in the severity of and our susceptibility to these digestive disorders. You have to address all areas of your life.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care, be well, and leave a comment, ask or answer a question, and have a great rest of the week.

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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21 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Supplement Q and A”

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  1. Someone say liver… I smelled this from 967 miles away. Can’t help meself. Our early ancestors consumed a whole lot more than just a measly couple of ounces a week… I’ve obsessively researched this topic which is why my tribe and I eat at least one full pound (each) of liver per week (usually on Sundays… usually raw… usually delicious). We also get plenty of complementary, and protective, vitamin D (from sunshine, wild fish eggs and blubber) and a good amount of vitamin K (from Bone Marrow, tallow and kimchi). If anyone’s interested in my recipe, I’m happy to share it… did I mention that it was delicious and that it takes just 10 minutes to make…

    Everyone’s heard about the importance of the fat soluble system (A, D & K, mainly) but what a lot of people miss is that our early ancestors consumed north of 20,000 IUs of vitamin A per day (Inuit > 50,000 IUs per day)… that’s a whole lot more than just a few ounces a’ liver per week. If ya love liver, don’t hold back! If ya don’t, load up on the stuff once a week and you’ll be good to go.

    “What is the best way to test and experiment with different foods…”

    When it comes to testing and experimenting with supplements and such, you’ll need to control for other variables… change just one thing at a time. For instance, I just read Primal Fat Burner (by Nora Gedgaudas) and Traditional Diets (by Sally Fallon). I was re-inspired to eat even more animal fat which is why I’m ingesting almost 200 grams of suet and tallow per day. That’s the only thing that I’m changing. I’ll give it 30 days or so and draw some conclusions from there.

    Love this stuff.

    1. Wow Liver King, that’s a hell of a lot of suet and tallow…let us know how you make out! Applied topically tallow is amazing for your skin.

    2. I’m one of few people I know who enjoys eating basically any type of offal (no problems with raw), but can’t handle spinach by itself. Any advice? Also, ever tried meditatin’?

    3. Oh, man… I hate to say it but your diet sounds disgusting. I eat almost everything, but I can’t handle raw liver. I’ll eat chicken liver and gizzards, but they have to be cooked. I love pate but probably don’t eat it very often.

      1. Seconded on the recipe! I always leave the liver packages from our grass-fed beef in the freezer and now I have to figure out something to do with them. I like the liver pate I make, but that’s about it. Would love to eat more liver like you do.

      2. You can see a few creative recipes here…

        The spicy kimchi juice is my personal favorite. It’s 1 pound of chopped (slightly frozen) grass fed / grass finished liver… 200 grams of spicy kimchi juice (enough to cover the liver cubes)… and a little bit of pink sea salt. Blend, gulp and wipe face.

        Hint: make sure that the liver has been frozen for at least 2 weeks prior.

        If ya’ll have other recipes that you love and use, please share them here.

  2. Great questions and answers! As far as the collagen goes, in my experience it can make your hair and nails stronger (and it’s made my skin soooo much firmer!) but I haven’t heard of it actually reversing hair loss. I use two scoops of collagen peptides every single day, plus I’m getting some from bone broth and some keto baked goods from time to time (I always throw in some collagen peptides when I’m coming up with new treat recipes.

    1. Hi Elizabeth – after reading your comment on the natural skin care I bought some collagen peptides too and have been taking them every day. Thanks for the recommendation!

  3. Great article. I am always interested in supplement details…especially when it helps ward off disease. I still have a full head of hair and its nice to know collagen supplements will help me maintain that as I age.

  4. I’ve always been fascinated by the potential to bio-hack oneself using supplements (with the emphasis on “supplement” as in to supplement your healthy diet and lifestyle) and have been doing so since the 1970’s. In some cases you need to take a long term perspective, and also many of the supplements I take is on faith based on research (like PQQ and Nicotinamide Riboside).

    In some cases I am able to notice the effects however. For example years ago I was diagnosed with MVP. I read that taking CoQ10 might mitigate this condition. Starting taking CoQ10 capsules and the heart “flutters” disappeared. Stopped taking the CoQ10 and they came back, so have been taking it daily for many years. A couple of years ago had some heart tests, everything looked good and there was no sign of MVP. So, if it’s a placebo it’s a darn good one for me LOL.

    Another example, used to have bad sinus problems, drainage and coughs that would persist for weeks. Doctors told me I would have to take antihistamines for the rest of my life along with prescription cough medicine as needed. I started taking quercetin capsules (a natural antihistamine, also supposedly helps with cell senescence and helps chelate excess iron). Took a couple of months to kick in, but did the trick without the awful side effects. So, I keep taking it daily.

    I could type ten pages of my humble opinion on what supplements in today’s world are worth looking into. Of course, we have vital, healthy centenarians out there that never took a supplement a day in their life, so if people contend they’re not necessary, I respect that opinion, but for me it is something I plan to continue. The latest edition to my supplement routine are some beef organs extracted capsules as I am very compliant about my Paleo AIP diet EXCEPT I do not eat offal / organ meat so that is a huge gap in my diet and I should be chastised severely. 🙂

  5. I’m curious about when Mark was supplementing heavily with collagen. Did he do that at breakfast as his only food, lunch in lieu of some other protein, a shake between lunch and dinner? What have other folks done?

    I’m wary of too much protein in one sitting.

  6. Great article. Just one caveat. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is all about taking out disaccharides that don’t get fully digested by some people and thus go on to feed the wrong bacteria in our intestines.
    Dairy is allowed, but only in the form of some cheeses and 24-hour homemade yogurt (virtually lactose-free)

  7. So, I can’t afford supplements so I try to get everything my babies and I need from food.
    I haven’t yet made bone broth (I am planning on getting an instant pot as soon as I get enough money). If I am using pork rinds as my main source of collagen, how much would I need per day? I also eat chicken with skin on but not every day. And I’m also wondering how much collagen is in ground beef.
    I also was wondering if collagen from different parts of the animals provided benefits to the corresponding parts on human bodies, or if it all benefits joints, nails, skin, etc the same.

    1. I think bone broth would be a great place for you to start! Look for a butcher in your area and you will find that bones can be very inexpensive, or even free. I know Alaska is unique, but during moose and caribou hunting season my friend visits the meat processors and they give her as many free bones as she can fit in her freezer. You can roast the bones for the delicious, decadent marrow and then simmer the bones in water on the stove or in the oven if you don’t have a slow cooker/Instant Pot.

  8. Thanks for sharing your fitness secrets. I would like to appreciate your QA post. It clears various doubts or questions about nutrition, healthy foods, and supplements.

  9. The elimination phase of the AutoImmune (Paleo) Protocol has been found to be effective against Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis:

    Before the study, participants received 2 books on AIP diet and recipes: “The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body” by Ballantyne, published 2014 and “The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook: An Allergen-Free Approach to Managing Chronic Illness” by Trescott, published 2014.

  10. I’ve suffered from IBS-C as long as I can remember. I finally got some relief when I stopped eating raw veg about a year ago. I started taking organic acacia powder in March for constipation and have recently been eating salads again without experiencing any bloating. I’ve also been keto since May so I’m not sure which one is responsible but I’m sure happy about it.

  11. In one mouse study abstract re: oral collagen after 6 months:

    ” collagen content and antioxidant enzyme (superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase) activities increased significantly (P < 0.05), . . .The color, luster and quantity of hair were obviously ameliorated."