The popular story of how low-carb diets work goes something like this: Reducing your carbohydrate...
Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...Tell Me More
Cold is really catching these days. Aubrey Marcus, whom I recently filmed a nice podcast with, was asked about his winning daily behaviors on another show. The very first thing he mentioned was “exposure to cold.” His practice is finishing his morning shower with a three-minute stint at full cold setting. He mentioned the hormonal benefits but also the mental edge he gets from psyching up and accepting the challenge instead of wimping out. He also cited research that people who engage in therapeutic cold exposure catch fewer upper respiratory infections. Hence, like many other elements of conventional wisdom, the old wives tale is backwards. Of course, we are talking about acute and optimal duration cold exposure, not prolonged exposure to elements that weaken your resistance and contribute to immune disturbances.
As with keto, there’s much more to be learned in this burgeoning field before we can operate in definitive (hence today’s title). Today, however, I’ll expose you (the first of more double entendrés to be on the lookout for) to important concepts and best practices so that you may enjoy the vaunted benefits and avoid some of the negative effects of going about cold exposure wrong.
Ah, chocolate. What a life.
According to the Aztecs, the great feathered serpent god of wisdom and creation known as Quetzalcoatl introduced the cocoa bean to mankind. It’s likelier that it originated in the Amazon rainforest and wound its way north to Mesoamerica, whose inhabitants figured out they could domesticate, ferment, roast, crush, and mix cocoa with water, chilies, and spices to produce a bitter, intoxicating drink. It then took a boat across the Atlantic, learning Spanish along the way. Europe wasn’t sure what to make of the bitterness until someone spilled a little sugar into the drink. Cocoa quickly swept across the continent, giving rise to large corporations that persist to this day, like Cadbury, Nestle, Hershey, and Lindt.
The main objective of following the Primal Blueprint is to extract the healthiest, happiest, longest and most productive life possible from our bodies – and to look and feel good in the process.
Our 10,000-year-old Primal genes expect us to emulate the way our ancestors ate and moved; and the Primal Blueprint says we should do exactly as they expect. While there are many things we can do (or eat) today that very closely approximate what Grok did to trigger positive gene expression, there are also a number of obstacles that can thwart our attempts to be as Primal as possible. Artificial light prompts us to stay up too late and sleep too little. Electronic entertainment competes for our time when we should be out walking and basking in sunlight. We don’t always have access to ideal foods. We shower too much in water that’s too hot. We use medicines to mask our symptoms instead of allowing our bodies to deal directly with the problem. You get my point. You can’t go back to the paleolithic.
One of my tasks is to find the shortcuts—the easy ways to get the same genetic expression benefits Grok got—but by using 21st century technology or just plain old common sense. Working out in Vibram Fivefingers to simulate going barefoot is an example. Or learning how to spend time in the sun without sunscreen AND without burning. Getting more from a 20-minute full-body exercise routine than from a 3-hour cardio workout is yet another example. And given the lack of certain critical nutrients in even the healthiest diets, finding the best supplements is another.
Here are a few of the best categories of supplements I can recommend to just about everyone:
I’ve been writing about bone broth for a long time. I’ve been drinking it even longer. I’m not sure you can get anything much more primal than a heap of bones cooked for hours into rich, gelatinous glory. Ritual and taste aside, however, I count quality bone broth as an important supplemental food. The copious health benefits are simply too substantial to pass up.
Some of you, I know, are bone broth fans—a few even connoisseurs. You’ve been making your own for decades, maybe with recipes you learned in your grandparents’ kitchen. But what does the average Primal type need to know about bone broth? What goes into making it? What are the distinct health advantages? Are there risks or downsides? What are the alternatives? Finally, what about some recipes? I’m glad you asked….
Feeding infants is quite simple. There’s a ton riding on you getting it right, of course—a developing immune system, the fact that the kid’s growing an inch a week, a permeable blood-brain barrier, synaptic pruning—but the answer is usually always “feed them more breastmilk.” Even if you can’t nurse, you’ve got formula, which, for all its limitations, is a decent proxy for breastmilk and getting better all the time. Feeding children, however, is a different ballgame altogether.
I’ve gotten a lot of requests for a post about children’s nutrition, so it’s long overdue. When it comes down to brass tacks, kids really are just small people. They aren’t a different species. They use the same nutrients their parents do. They need protein, fat, and glucose just like us. So in that sense, feeding kids is simple: Give them all the nutritious foods you already eat and know to be healthy.
But it’s not easy.
I use my Los Angeles surroundings as a barometer for changes in the mainstream approach to health, and it holds up quite well. Silicon Valley can claim to be the cradle of technology, but L.A. is definitely the cradle of diet and fitness trends; and the latest is most definitely keto. At the local cafe where every species of Malibu fitness enthusiast gathers to gossip and fuel up, I’m seeing fewer gels and energy bars, and way more butter coffees and discarded packets of the new powdered ketone supplement products.
For years, wine was my stress reliever at the end of a long day. Having given up grains and grain-based beverages over a decade ago, I swapped beer for wine. It was my frequent dinner companion. Grilled grass-fed ribeye wasn’t grilled grass-fed ribeye without a glass of California Cab. And then I suspected my 1-2 glass a night habit was impairing my gut health and affecting my sleep. I ran a quick experiment, determined that the nightly wine indeed was having bad effects, and stopped drinking altogether.
It worked. My gut health and sleep improved. Yet I still missed wine. I missed pitting the crunch of an aged Gouda’s tyrosine crystals against a big red, lingering over a glass with an old friend, clinking glasses, giving toasts. I missed what Hemingway called “one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things in the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection.” But I didn’t miss the poor sleep and gut disturbances.
Coffee is serious business. We Americans drink about 400 million cups of it per day and spend several billion dollars on it each year. It’s the most popular drug on earth, and certainly the most socially acceptable. In many ways, coffee’s the closest thing we’ve got to a universal, daily ritual, as just about every morning, billions of people across the planet prostrate themselves before the holy, energy-giving legume. It also hails from the same place the earliest members of our species do: East Africa (Ethiopia, to be exact). That the most industrious animal ever to walk the planet and the psychoactive legume that fuels said industry both hail from the same place on earth is pure poetry.
Coffee’s also delicious. I’d say you’d have to pry my coffee from my cold, dead fingers, only the ensuing struggle would slosh it all onto the floor, and that would be such a waste.
Go back 160,000 years and we all share a common ancestor: The emergence of the first Homo sapiens in East Africa. Since then, humans have spread across every environment imaginable and adapted to those environments. Much remains the same. We all breathe oxygen, require protein, produce insulin, oxidize fatty acids. But extended stays in unique environments have created genetic proclivities in different populations. For example, descendants of people who settled in high-altitude areas like the Himalayas, the Andes, and the Ethiopian highlands tend to show greater resistance to low-oxygen environments, while the Greenland Inuit show unique adaptations to cold environments, including increased activity of heat-stimulating brown fat. And among the island-dwellers of Sardinia, where the landscape constrained the amount of available food, there’s considerable evidence of positive selection for short stature.
What other differences exist, and how can we explore them to inform and improve our own diet and lifestyle choices?
Print this out. Bookmark it. Send it to friends who don’t quite get the Primal thing. Consider this a valuable resource for all-things Primal. It’s a nice, alphabetical encapsulation of what it means to lead a Primal lifestyle. It’s not everything, of course. You can always dig deeper into the details, but this summary gives a high-level look at just about everything.
Without further ado, I present The A-to-Z Guide to Leading a Primal Lifestyle.
Avoid chronic cardio. I spent about half my life running (and later, with triathlons, swimming and cycling) myself into the ground. I thought the more miles I could log, the healthier I’d be. That’s the mindset many people have, and it’s absolutely wrong. Running a ten-miler is different than running a ten-miler every day. We have the capacity to go long distances and even outlast wild animals upon which we’re preying. We don’t have the capacity to do that every single day without consequences to our health. Run long distances if you love it, compete if you love competing, but know the cost it incurs.