Dear Mark: Wheat Germ Agglutinin and Leptin, Early Allergen Introduction, Fasted Training, Green Bananas, and Sunchokes

I can't wait to sink my teeth into...For today’s edition of Dear Mark, we’ve got a five-parter. First, I discuss wheat germ agglutinin’s potential interaction with the leptin receptor. Next, I explore the prospect of introducing gluten and peanuts (among other potential allergens) to youngsters as a way to prevent allergies from developing. I also discuss whether fasted workouts are a sound strategy to boost fat burning, if any good non-nightshade sources of resistant starch exist, and the nutritional benefits of sunchokes.

Let’s go:

Dear Mark,

This is one part question preceded by a brief story.

I am a science graduate student, and a couple years ago, I went to a seminar on leptin receptors in the brain. More specifically, the woman presenting had been trying to better understand projections of leptin receptors and leptin neurons beyond the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus. She had been using fluorescent wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) to figure out where the receptors are because WGA binds to leptin receptors. The thing that makes WGA so useful is that it sits on the leptin receptor for a really long time, though it doesn’t elicit the same downstream signaling effects as leptin. I was blown away, not by the intended presentation but by the clear depiction of WGA as a contributor to leptin resistance and other metabolic issues. I mean, the stuff crosses the blood brain barrier! (Also, leptin receptors exist beyond the arcuate nucleus).

Naturally, I waited for the research to come out about this. It never did. Maybe the leptin-resistance boat sailed a while ago and people don’t care as much. I guess my question is this: Why is the science community, of which I am a part, failing to make these connections? Why are we failing to get this critical information out there? What can we do to ask better questions?


Actually, a few people have noticed the WGA-leptin receptor connection. I wrote about it a few years back in my leptin post. Staffan Lindeberg, author of the Kitava study and noted ancestral health researcher, wondered the same thing in his paper discussing the differences between agrarian and non-agrarian (hunter-gatherer) diets. According to that paper, studies were in the works to examine whether dietary lectin interaction with leptin receptors occurred in vivo, but I haven’t heard much beyond that. Other studies do what the presenter at your seminar did, though.

It’s a great observation. I find myself doing the same thing when reading studies. Rather than focus on the stated intentions of the researchers in a given study, I’ll often be looking at the compound they use to reliably induce a disease state.

Take the diets they use to fatten up rodents. These are diets that are used whenever a scientist wants to study obesity – because they so reliably make rats and mice incredibly overweight. They call them high-fat diets, but anyone who knows much about fat knows that “fat” doesn’t tell us a whole lot. Fats are bioactive compounds with very different health effects depending on their level of saturation, chain length, and arrangement of the atoms along the chain. Both beef tallow and soybean oil will stain your clothes and prevent food from sticking to the pan – like all other fats – but the effects upon ingestion are very different.

The two most popular obesity-inducing “high-fat” diets use industrial lard as the primary fat. Lard. We love lard, right? It’s a traditional low-PUFA, low-omega-6 specifically animal-derived cooking fat. Except that industrial lard is no longer low in PUFAs because of the industrial diets used to feed the pigs. According to the manufacturers of the high-fat rodent diets themselves (PDF), the lard used is about 22-26% linoleic acid (compared to sub-10% in more traditional lard). Since dietary omega-6 is adipogenic, meaning it promotes the creation of new fat cells, we can see how a high-fat diet that’s actually a high-linoleic acid diet could be fattening. That’s never mentioned in the studies, though. Researchers are only interested in the effects of getting and being obese, not what’s causing the obesity. They take for granted that a “high-fat diet” causes obesity, because, well, that’s “settled science.”

Excellent sleuthing.

For a long time it was thought that one should avoid giving toddlers and children common allergens, such as peanuts, shellfish, dairy. Recently, pediatricians have changed their thinking and now say it is important to expose children to such foods as it helps them to build antibodies early in life and may diminish the risk of having an allergy later in life. My daughter is 11 months old and I have not fed her any peanuts or gluten, as we follow a paleo diet. I am not keen on giving her peanuts or gluten as I know they can be very irritating to the gut, but I also want to avoid any future allergies and so a part of me feels like a bit of exposure may be good for her. What do you think??


I think there’s something to it. Look, a hallmark of the Primal Blueprint and other ancestral health eating plans is avoidance of wheat. The fact remains, though, that your kids are going to come of age in a food environment where wheat and peanuts are extremely prominent. There will be birthday parties with cake, sleepovers with peanut butter sandwiches, pizza parties. It’s everywhere. They may want to include those foods in their diet (regardless of, or perhaps because of, your attempts to prevent it) when they get old enough to control what they eat, and you should prepare them.

I’m not saying you should give them cream of wheat every morning or peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. But a little bit probably won’t hurt, and it may help prime their immune system so that any future choices are theirs and theirs alone.

Here’s how I’d handle it, if you’re going to do it:

  • Introduce the potential allergens one at a time, with at least a couple days in between exposures. This will give you (and the immune system) enough time to note any reactions. Give organic peanut butter, maybe some well made sourdough bread. Look for telltale signs like rashes.
  • Maintain breastfeeding. Breast milk is extremely protective to infant guts and has been shown to reduce the risk of autoimmune responses to gluten in kids at risk for celiac disease. This will minimize any gut irritation from the peanuts and wheat. Breast milk also contains important probiotics for protection from allergies, like bifidobacterium infantis. If you’re not breastfeeding, or even if you are, you can add b. infantis supplements to your kid’s diet.
  • Eat a bit yourself at the same time (unless you’re sensitive or celiac). The antibodies you produce will be expressed through the milk, which may promote even more protection.

Unfortunately, optimal timing of gluten introduction is unknown. We do know that 3-4 months is way too early (PDF) and increases the risk of celiac. Some research claims that 4-6 months is the sweet spot, while noted gluten researcher Alessio Fasano has preliminary research suggesting that delaying gluten exposure to 1 year can delay the onset of celiac disease in vulnerable populations. It sounds like 6 months and onward might be the best bet, but I can’t say that with total confidence. Luckily, more research from Fasano’s group should be coming later this year.

Again, I may be inviting lightning bolts from the paleo gods, but so be it. We do what’s best for our kids, right?

Dear Mark,

I’m trying to do my workouts on an empty stomach to make my body tap into my fat reserves. However, I often find myself lacking the energy to do a workout on a completely empty stomach, so I often have a black coffee with a teaspoon of coconut oil before. Now I was wondering though whether that negates the whole idea of making my body tap into its fat stores because it just uses the coconut oil instead?

Thanks in advance!


The real beauty of a good workout is not the mechanical consumption of calories that occurs during the workout itself. It’s that your ability to oxidize fat for fuel is upregulated and enhanced. Your mitochondria become more adept at burning fuel, your muscles become more sensitive to the effect of insulin (thus requiring less of it), and the food you do consume gets partitioned as lean, rather than fat, mass. And, with regular workouts, that ability to oxidize body fat and preferentially store energy substrates stays elevated (or rather normalized).

The problem with insisting on fasted training is exactly what you’re experiencing – lack of energy is common. I recall one of our worker bees here who got really into fasted training and ended up feeling like working out with food in his stomach was a waste. Problem was he often ran out of energy – just like you – for workouts and his workout consistency and progress dropped off a cliff because he didn’t want to train with food in him. It wasn’t until he divested himself from the “fed training = wasted training” mindset that he was able to resume progress and get stronger and fitter.

It’s a tricky balance, because workouts on an empty stomach are effective in their own way, and fat oxidation is generally favored over glycogen oxidation since there’s not as much of the latter to go around, but you have to do the workouts. If you don’t have the energy to do them, you don’t get the benefit. Ironically, I bet if you made sure to fuel up before your workouts for the next month or so, your fat-burning machinery would be humming along enough that you could then do workouts in a fasted state without feeling depleted. Even though I don’t make it a point to work out in a fasted state, I can do it without much of an issue if I have to because my fat burning ability is optimized.

In my experience, the best activities to do in a fasted state are really low level movement type stuff, like walking, hiking, cycling, maybe some yoga or real short, real simple body weight exercise routines. The folks who try to consistently lift heavy, run intervals, or go for distance on an empty stomach every single workout tend to crash and burn in the long run, at least from what I’ve seen and heard (in emails and messages from readers). There are outliers, vocal ones, but you might not be one of them.

In short, eat whatever you have to eat to initiate and complete the workout! Try the fasted training again later when you’ve got more of your ducks in a row.

Hi Mark,

I have been reading all about resistant starch and am convinced of its benefits. However when I tried the raw potato starch I immediately had a flare up of my autoimmune skin condition (presumably from the nightshades). Is there any other source of resistant starch that you can recommend for a reactive hypoglycemic who doesn’t tolerate carbs such as white rice? We don’t get plantains here in Australia. Do you know whether tapioca flour is a good source of resistant starch, and is it likely to send my blood sugar souring? Should I deviate from the primal recommendations and add some properly prepared beans or lentils to my diet, or rather forget the whole resistant starch thing? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.



The safest bet for you would be unripe bananas. You can get those, right? A green banana can contain as much as 34 grams of resistant starch (PDF). You’ll know a banana is high in RS when you bite into it: it’s not very sweet and has a gritty, sandpaper-esque texture that dries your mouth out. It’s not delicious by any means, but it’s definitely edible and it blends well in smoothies. Plus, it’s real, whole food, full of vitamins and minerals and phytonutrients.

Properly prepared beans and lentils are another option, yes, but you may find the antinutrients they contain also give you autoimmune flare-ups. So be prepared for that. They’re also much higher in digestible carbs, which could be a problem depending on your normal carb intake and activity level (although the higher RS content can ameliorate that to some extent by improving insulin sensitivity and lowering the blood glucose response).

The good news is that eating resistant starch and other forms of prebiotics (see next question) may eventually improve your gut health to the point where nightshades no longer give you issues. It’s just a guess, but lots of food sensitivities are related to the health of our gut flora – which, as you may know, comprise most of our immune system. Might be an interesting experiment to try the potato starch (and other nightshades) after you’ve settled into a nice routine with prebiotics to see if your tolerance changes.

Potatoes bad, sweet potatoes good. Check.

What about things like parsnips, sunchokes, jicama? There are so many yummy veggies that don’t make it onto either the avoid or gorge list, usually I just go with moderation. But in the case of sunchokes, they are SO easy to grow in my neck of the woods, and the flowers so pretty, I’ve kinda let them take over the garden. Can I eat them with reckless abandon? I’d love if you could dig up (har har) some info on them (and whatever other less common edible roots too).


These foods are all good. Jicama is delicious with some lime, salt and chile powder. Parsnips make good fries and mashes. Sunchokes are a different beast entirely.

Tread lightly, Julia. Tread very lightly. Sunchokes, also known as jerusalem artichokes, are incredibly rich with inulin, one of the premier prebiotics and FODMAPs. They have the potential to bolster your gut flora, increase butyrate production, and improve your digestive health. They also have the near-certain potential to increase the breadth, depth, and hilarity of your farts.

That’s right. If you insist on availing yourself of all the sunchokes your garden can produce, expect the generation of reckless amounts of gas that will then abandon your body of their own volition. “Reckless abandon” indeed.

Jicama is also high in inulin, but less so than the sunchoke. I’ve noticed a distinct difference in my gut’s response to jicama – which I can eat quite freely – and the sunchoke – with which I have to exercise restraint.

That’s it for this week, folks. Thanks for reading and be sure to keep sending in questions!

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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71 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Wheat Germ Agglutinin and Leptin, Early Allergen Introduction, Fasted Training, Green Bananas, and Sunchokes”

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  1. I don’t understand why someone would want to make sure their kids can tolerate grain? If not exposing them to it as a child/infant guarantees an allergic reaction when exposed as they are older, then you won’t have to worry about them sneaking croissants because the first time they do, they’ll have a horrible reaction and will have learned their lesson! I feel like too many people, especially Celiacs, see the removal of gluten from their diets as this punishment. We should instead be grateful that we are no longer tied to consuming grains, and instead are able to allow our bodies to heal and be nourished by actual food! I don’t want my child growing up thinking that bread/grains are a food group.

    Six months ago, when we decided to make our entire family gluten-free/primal (we still have yogurt and cheese in our house, but no milk), my 2 1/2 year old pretty much only ate wheat and dairy. Now, he is excited when we put out a plate of raw veggies. He doesn’t ask for bread or milk ever. Both he and his 4 year old brother both recognize that if they eat gluten, their tummies hurt. (The 4-year old found out the hard way when he ate someone’s birthday cake.) I think this understanding is important for them to have and helps to make clear why we are doing this. Food is fuel.

    1. You sound like you’re doing a great job staying primal for your own children, but I think Mark’s point was that not every family is going to follow the same eating plan, and you child is inevitably going to encounter foods with wheat, peanuts, milk, etc. So giving them a little exposure to those foods will possibly keep them from having severe reactions to those foods when out in the world.

      1. And possibly not.
        I’m gluten intolerant due to untimely introduction of gluten into my diet at 3 months old. I had colics and some similar problems when I was a baby, but no digestive problems. So I continued to eat it (along with dairy), in those days finding a dietary cause of your health problem was inconceivable.
        I had skin problems, and later on severe hormonal problems. I was in pain.
        Everything went better when I removed in the order gluten, dairy and went paleo. I avoided surgery.
        I don’t have kids yet, but I would wish for them a bit of tummy ache when they eat gluten/dairy/whatever rather than years and years of no apparent symptoms, pain, emotional and physical suffering, countless fruitless doctors appointments, and in the end having to resort to very restricted diets in order to heal. And wonder (with a bit of anger) why nobody told you this years ago.

    2. Another point is that although in an ideal world children would listen to their parents and follow in their footsteps, but this is often not the case. I don’t think making a child allergic on purpose is the best solution. I don’t want my children to get diseases, so having them build up an immunity is a good solution. Keeping their immune system completely free of disease for the duration of their life is much less feasible. Exposing them to allergins and thus building up a tolerance is much the same idea. You don’t want them to suffer from allergens like wheat and peanuts, but wouldn’t you rather have them decide on their own to avoid foods containing these allergins. If they have no tolerance built up they run the risk of a severe allergic reaction due to incidental ingestion.

      1. and that severe allergic reaction will teach them a lesson. they will believe that papa and mama were were telling the truth and these foods must be avoided. they won’t touch them again. goal accomplished.

        1. Or Death accomplished if they don’t have their Epi-Pen with them. My wife is a food allergy research nurse, this is serious stuff. I was shocked to see some of the reactions myself, it’s not just a rash and runny nose, a severe allergic reaction can result in death.

        2. nobody gets severe allergic reaction from not being exposed to junk in childhood. this, I don’t believe. if they were that allergic, then the babies could possibly die fm exposure to these junkfoods even in limited quantities.

    3. I think deliberately wishing a food intolerance on your children shows a rather narrow view of their futures. Regardless of whether they choose to eat cake at a party when they are seven or eight (and I think it’s too bad to never ever have cake at parties), what about when they are eighteen, or twenty-eight? Maybe they will want to travel the world and sample local, non-paleo cuisine. Maybe they’ll live abroad for a year and not have complete control over their food intake. Maybe they’ll be stuck on the tarmac in Detroit with only a package of Saltines between them and a headache.

      Far better they should grow up with a solid, yet flexible understanding of nutrition and be free to make their own choices from the broadest array possible.

      1. I definitely do not WISH a food intolerance or allergy upon my children! And my kids get cake (grain-free), chocolate and candy (in moderation). I am not preventing my kids from enjoying their childhood, I am making sure that they are able to grow strong and healthy so they can enjoy their adulthood. I obviously don’t know enough about allergies, but I do know that after not eating red meat for over 10 years, I had no adverse reactions when I did reintroduce it. If a food is benign and good for you, then I don’t see how removing it from them would cause sickness/adverse reactions if they get it. I have come to believe that wheat is not good for anyone, but particularly for my family, where celiac and autoimmune is rampant, and where my children have had obvious improvements in mood, health and digestion by not eating wheat. How about someone with celiac or peanut allergies, should they eat small amounts? Of course not, and they can survive quite well without those foods. Thank you for not judging me for what works for me and my family.

        1. What you’re doing, Karen, and what Mark is suggesting, are two sides of the same dice (not coin, there’s more than two sides to this!) – doing what works for you and your family. One could think of introducing small amounts of foods from any food group as like a vaccine – and not every family vaccinates, so there you go. It’s your family, they’re your kids, it’s your choice.
          I don’t have a problem with peanuts so if there’s some in my paleo stir-fry at a restaurant where peanuts are common in other menu options I’m not going to die. I would like the same for my kids, and if one way to potentially help them with that is to eat a few peanuts while breastfeeding and give them a bit of peanut butter now and then while they’re growing, then I’m going to do that. If a friend of mine who goes into anaphylactic shock from breathing in peanut-dust had kids, then obviously she wouldn’t do that (because it would hurt her!).
          That of course doesn’t mean I’ll be feeding my kids peanut butter sandwiches – I’ll teach them, like you are teaching your children, what real food is, about anti-nutrients and why we don’t eat legumes or white potatoes. Maybe they wouldn’t have a reaction to peanuts (or gluten, or strawberries, or latex, or the billion other things on this planet different people get reactions from) anyway, but I hardly think feeding them a few peanuts when they’re too young to make food choices anyway is going to be a problem.

          It sounds like your children are going to grow up with a great environment for learning about and understanding food, which is the most important thing anyway.

        2. Thanks Clare – couldn’t reply directly to your message for some reason. I guess my confusion is that The Primal Blueprint, Wheat Belly, Grain Brain, Primal Body, Primal Mind, Perfect Health Diet and Paleo Diet Solution all say that grains and legumes are bad and should not be consumed. Some go so far as to say they are poisons. So, why should we be poisoning our children unnecessary? I think I would appreciate Mark’s response to that – but I do appreciate everyone’s views. I do think we’re all just struggling to do what we think is right with the information we’ve got. Cheers 🙂

    4. That is a scary way to think. What if your parents had done something similar and purposely aided an allergy to paleo foods, thinking that high grain, low fat diets were the only way you should ever want to eat due to current dietary thinking at the time.

      1. Well, I wasn’t breastfed because my mom had me at a time where everyone was told that formula was supposed to be better. Parents can make mistakes believing they’re doing what is best for their child, but I’ve got to believe that feeding my kids paleo (real, whole foods, no chemicals or preservatives) cannot be a bad thing!

        1. Obviously it isn’t…but since this a very unaffordable/impractical diet for a large majority of the population, it’s also not a bad idea to give them a little wheat so they don’t have a serious reaction later on in life (if that’s how it even works).

  2. I’m an enthusiastic but cautious user of sunchokes. 🙂 The only time i got a HUGE flatus “problem” was the first time i ate them — and ate a little RAW. Cooking seems to improve the situation (for me), but i also limit myself on quantity. A half-cup of oven-fries doesn’t give me any issues.

  3. Green bananas can also be steamed (skin on). They then peel easily and are delicious with butter and salt and pepper. That’s the way the locals eat them often.

    1. I’m afraid that cooking green bananas might convert the resistant starch. I’ve been told to dehydrate green plantains at a lower temperature to avoid losing the RS.

      In the U.S., green bananas can be hard to find. I’ve found them at Asian specialty grocery stores.

      1. I just checked my notes. I dehydrate plantains at 125 deg F. I’m pretty sure I’m getting some RS, but, I’m going to dial it back to 115 for the next batch. They only take about 5 hours at 125, sliced with a mandolin slicer on a thicker setting.

        Tim Steele (aka Tatertot) has done a lot of experimenting with different foods. He’s shared his blood glucose readings at intervals after eating different things. He has a wealth of information on resistant starch, and is very willing to experiment.

        1. Check into the banana slicer available on amazon. The reviews say it’s FABULOUS!!

      1. . Eat Green Bananas

        Green bananas contain less sugar, more fiber and healthful resistant starch than ripened yellow bananas. Prepare green bananas by boiling them in their skin so they are easier to peel. Mash, cool and season them with salt, pepper and a little butter. Serve as you would a side dish. Eat two servings of green bananas every week. If you regularly eat yellow bananas, eat no more than 1 or 2 of them a week.

        1. Green bananas are readily available at most gas stations, and speaking of that… most green bananas ARE gas stations. My sons affectionately refer to them as ‘rocket fuel’ in reference to their highly entertaining ability to induce mach 3 level farts. I’d try them out on a weekend before having your first one Monday morning before work and having to hide in the file room all day.

  4. I’m one of those that do all my bodyweight exercises fasted. Wake up, have a coffee and cream, wait about an hour and then get to it. Have never crashed and burned. I never fast and sprint though.

  5. As a parent of allergic kids and as someone who has tree nut allergies herself, I think it’s not the best practice to give kids known allergens as a way to build immunity. They are probably allergic or they are not, and there’s really only one way to find out. The first time my son ate a pistachio he threw up for 20 minutes and he was 18 months old. It was one little nut. Same with the 1/8 tsp. of peanut butter my younger son ate when he was about a year. He also threw up immediately but for a few hours. I developed tree nut allergies in my 30s, after I’d been eating almond butter, cashews and other nuts for years. You’d think after all that time I would have become immune to tree nuts, but exactly the opposite happened. So, allergies and immunity is not as simple as adding small doses. People might have a threshold as to what they can handle before they have a reaction, but why tinker around to find it, especially with children?

    1. “They are probably allergic or they are not”

      That is not what the research is showing. There may be a sweet spot for introducing these foods that lead to a lower chance of allergy. You introduced pistachios at 18 months, you don’t know what would’ve happened if you did it at 9 months instead. Thats what these studies are about.

      “Allergies and immunity is not as simple as adding small doses.”

      Or is it?

      1. But if I developed allergies in my 30s, that throws out the whole notion of introducing a little at a time, doesn’t it? Since I’d been eating them for years and then suddenly I can’t anymore. If it worked the way they said then I should be fine, but that’s not what happened. The “sweet spot” may exist, but it may not be the same age for everyone, which makes it too risky. I’ll let the researchers test on their own kids.

        1. There’s also more to it than simply “building up an immunity”, though. Coeliac disease can appear at any age too, though the researchers aren’t sure exactly why people lose their gluten tolerance after even 50 or 60 years of eating it without incident.
          This is purely my speculation, but I would wager it is linked closely to gut health (as many things seem to be) – your body hits a point where it throws its hands up and says “Nope!” and you get a reaction to something that never bothered you before.
          This is why autoimmune diseases can sometimes be treated effectively with gut health-promoting diets like GAPS, and (very) simply speaking, allergic reactions are similar to autoimmune disease, in that your body completely overreacts to something that isn’t a true threat. Like I said, simplistic, but the whole issue isn’t as simple as “Apply X at Y time and Z will happen.” for any of us.

    2. While there appears to be research that there is a great window for gluten / wheat exposure I’ve never seen anything along those lines for peanuts. The food allergy story for Peanuts is very different (anaphylaxis, can worsen with exposure, very few outgrow it, etc). My unscientific opinion is give some wheat when the research suggests. Different story for peanuts. Have family history of peanut or severe food allergies? then wait on peanuts till a bit older, give their immune system a chance to mature first. (We have three generations of peanut allergies.) Hey, none of that runs in your family, then don’t sweat the timing on when to try peanuts (yes do give them a little when you are ready. remember a lot of nut items are shelled and packaged on shared equipment with peanuts so they will be exposed someday and wouldn’t you like that to be when you are there?). Totally agree to give only one new item at a time, it can take several exposures to know if there is some type of reaction for a new food.

      1. There’s great research out of Israel incorporating peanut into teething biscuits for 9-month-olds. The peanut-exposed kids still developed peanut allergies later at an equal proportion to their non-peanut counterparts, but the size of the allergic response was much, much, much smaller.

        1. Cool I’ll check that out. I do know personally when young I would start wheezing if within 5 ft of shelled peanut barrel at grocery store but by teen only an issue if accidental ingestion. Everyone’s different of course but I do believe in the case of an infant with known severe allergies to ease into things. Small amounts of items preferably cooked or baked with other ingredients – Giving these weakened forms can help teach the body its not a foreign object/enemy. Most kids don’t have severe allergies though so exposure may be good.

  6. Let the petitions for sunchokes in school cafeterias nationwide begin.

  7. Great post, Mark.

    So, I’ve been experimenting with HIIT and weight training in a fasted state for about 6 months, largely based on advice given in a well-known blog that taught many of us about daily IF. I haven’t really noticed feeling like I don’t have enough energy to do a workout, but I have noticed that all of my major lifts (deads, squats, bench press, overhead press) have gotten stuck at plateaus that are below my strength goals.

    Yet another blog that I’ve looked at suggests that athletes and trainees should ingest the (limited and non-wheat) carbohydrates in their diets at night so as to raise glycogen stores. I think the idea is to have fuel available for an intense workout, but to still get the benefits of working out in a fasted state. Just wondering if you had any thoughts on this idea.

    1. HIIT in a fasted state definitely works for me but since I do it early in the morning it makes me a little more hungry than usual. I’ll carry the fast until lunch so as to combine intermittent fast and HIIT. I tend to be unable to lift on a full stomach so I try to time any food intake to around 4 hours prior to a lift. However, I do a version of carb-back loading from John Kiefer and rarely have issues with being tired during a workout.

  8. I personally do as many workouts fasted as possible with roughly 12 oz coffee, 10g BCAA, 5g creatine, 5g beta-alanine and I actually feel like my performance is much better without. If strength/circuit/CrossFitting, I would try this out (especially with BCAAs) and see how you feel?

    1. Thanks for the ideas, guys. I’ll look into the Kiefer “back loading” and I already drink plenty of black coffee in the morning before fasted workouts and then chug down 10g BCAA about 30 mins before workouts. I might consider adding in the creatine, but the last time I took it I gained tons of water weight immediately and got right off. That said, I was “loading” with about 25g spread throughout the day. Do you think I should try just a 5g dose before workouts?

      1. From all the research I’ve seen, loading phases don’t really do much and a general dose over 5g/daily doesn’t do much either.

        Lifting plateaus are usually due to lifting problems, however. Your training is probably what is limiting here. There is a possibility that you’re not eating enough, but then again, that is a different story and dependent on personal goals.

        1. Thanks once again for the thoughts, AG. I think I might, indeed, not be eating enough and I am stuck between trying to reduce body fat and gain strength and muscle mass. At 5’11” 205 at 36 years old, I’ve been working with a high-protein, low carbohydrate (50-100g, no grain) diet of about 2000 calories per day. I’ve thought of ditching the calorie counts, but with the low carb diet I usually struggle to REACH that 2000 mark, not to limit myself to it.

          My worst plateau seems to be with bench press which has been stuck at a top set of about 5×205 for four months or so. (I then decrease the poundage to 185 for a set of 8-10, then 165 for 10-12).

          Okay, sorry for giving my whole life story, but I just wanted to follow up with some great advice. I also think I will try creatine at 5g.

  9. My kids are athletic and lean. They eat meat and broccoli a plenty. So when they eat ice cream, sugary cereals at times, I don’t sweat it. They have the rest of their adult lives to avoid this and that.

  10. No comment to moderate the “potatoes bad; sweet potatoes good; check?” C’mon.

    1. Agree–potatoes very, very good! Sweet potatoes too–I’ll be enjoying one as sson as I’m done lifting…

  11. I suspect Mark (Sisson) is eating his sunchokes raw or (relatively) lightly cooked…. There’s a trick to reducing the inulin – if you cook them a very long time (2 to 6 hours), the inulin will break down into simple sugars, and hence no issues with gas. There’s also more inulin in the fall tubers than in the winter and spring tubers (hence the variation of cooking times I just listed). So, perhaps sunchokes have a specialty role as crock-pot veggies for those day-long, slow cook dishes.

  12. Interesting about the fasting workouts–I’ve actually found I don’t have as much energy if I eat before a workout–I perform markedly better on an empty stomach unless I’m just famished (which rarely happens now that I live Primally.) I’m very much fat adapted and I’m guessing that the food intake before releases enough insulin to down-grade my fat oxidation and therefore my ability to utilize my fat stores for energy during a workout

    My workouts consist of hour long Parkour classes (which can vary from moderately to extremely intense), 20 HIIT calesthenic workouts and 15 minute sprint sessions. Maybe if I was doing Olympic lifts, I’d encounter more difficulty with fasted workouts?

    At any rate, I’m not complaining–it feels great to have the energy of an 18 year old at 42 years of age, and I love the convenience of not having to eat before exercise.

    1. same here. i perform much better if training in a fasted state. i do a slow cycling warmup and then keep the workout short but very intense. follow it up with a protein/carb combination meal and I can already see the veins popping up my shoulder and chest (not to mention arms or bicep). long live free HGH! and thanks to martin berkhan and brad pilon for the tips 🙂 btw. I used to be chubby all my life. not anymore, not anymore… 🙂

  13. We’ve been Primal since I got pregnant with my daughter. She’s never had wheat or gluten (that I know of), she eats 99% Primal and was exclusively breasftfed until almost one and is still breastfeeding at 28 months.

    But, on Halloween last year, when she was just two I decided to let her have a few Reese’s Pieces as a treat. Well, we found out the hard way she is allergic and landed in the ER. I sometimes wish I had introduced peanuts earlier but also fear how much scarier and more severe the reaction may have been had she been 6 months old. Her pediatrician is super crunchy and likes our diet but suggested introducing wheat. I still haven’t but I’m debating handling this with my next baby due in May. I don’t want her to also have to deal with a life threatening allergy, but testing it is scary. Some pediatricians will let you test in office so medication is there if a bad reaction arises.

  14. Vicky,
    Check out Mt. Uncle’s Banana Flour. That is proberly an alternative for your

  15. adding savory to the cooking water of sunchockes should reduce flatulence as well. i have not tried it yet myself, but i bought a savory plant at the nursery last week, so when i dig up some more sunchokes from the garden i’ll definitely give it a shot.

  16. Regarding leptin receptors and WGA, didn’t Dr. David Perlmutter write an entire book about it (Grain Brain)? In it, he says gluten makes our blood-brain barrier leaky just like a leaky gut. To me, this is exactly how enough sugar makes it into the brain to form Alzheimer’s, especially when we tend to lose that most greedy of sugar customers in older age–the brain. It alone consumes up to 40% of our sugar intake, but when the blood-brain barrier narrows after menopause, we end up with elevated blood sugar whether we like it or not. The sugar can no longer pass through the barrier because it lost the necessary estrogen wrapper that let it pass through.

    This narrowing must be a natural defense against brain sugar overload and Alzheimer’s, but what if you override it by continuing to eat wheat and gluten? I’m assuming dementia and Alzheimer’s.

  17. Mmmmm sliced frozen green bananas topped with a little maple syrup is my favorite dessert. And you can definitely tell when they’re rich in RS.

  18. I have Hidradenitis Suppurtiva so using potato starch for resistant starch is out of the question for me. I do use Tapioca flour instead and I haven’t seen it destroy my blood sugar at all. I would recommend that you get a blood glucose meter and see how the Tapioca flour affects you personally. That’s what I did. Another source is plantain flour which I have found on

    I also do as Mark suggests here and eat green bananas sometimes.

  19. One of the current thoughts on how we become allergic to certain proteins is how we first come into contact with them. The thinking goes that if we first encounter a protein via the GI tract, we think that it’s food and conclude that we shouldn’t make anti-bodies for it. However, if we first encounter a protein through the skin, we think that it’s invading us and become sensitive to it (like a cockroach is trying to burrogh into your skin or something). So the idea is that kids who eat peanuts first wouldn’t become allergic, but if peanut oil was used on the skin first (say in diaper rash cream), that you would become sensitized. Don’t think the evidence is conclusive, nor would it be the only potential allergic mechanism, but it does make evolutionary sense.

  20. I train in a fasted state and have been doing so for over a year and a half. I can attest to the low energy feeling during really grueling workouts that have lots of heavy reps. I would not say that I fail to progress in this state but rather progress comes a lot slower and have been forced to reconsidered what fitness really means. To be able to go all out without energy substrates flowing in the bloodstream from digesting food is itself a trait of fitness.

    I find fasted training is easier with low intensity cardio type stuff (I like to bike and go for long walks) and really heavy, low rep training. I find the benefit of improved concentration from fasting is more important than being fed for lifting near 1RM.

  21. I had a quick question when I read about lard. Would the bacon fat of pastured pork have a similar fatty acid profile to lard?

    1. It’s lard, just flavored by the salt, smoke, and whatever else it’s got on it, so yeah. I’ve seasoned my cast iron with nothing but Benton’s bacon fat for 2 yrs now—pretty great!

  22. Hmm, interesting theory John, but I’m very careful with reading labels and I’m pretty sure my daughter never encountered peanut oil in her skin care products. She suffered from eczema and we cloth diaper so I was extremely vigilant about making sure I knew what was in any diaper rash cream or lotion we used. And as far as I know just from reading labels on cosmetics, peanut oil is not used often. I don’t think I have ever seen it on a label.

    Our pediatrician thinks introducing peanuts earlier could have helped, and that possibly since I don’t eat peanuts she didn’t get the normal exposure though breastmilk other babies would. Although she was surprised that a breastfed, unvaccinated baby had any allergies at all.

  23. I have been raising my toddler primal but I have done exactly what mark suggests – Every now and then introduce him to gluten and other allergins in small quantities. I also breastfeed and I totally agree that once a child gets old enough to make their own choices you can’t (and shouldn’t) control everything he or she puts in her mouth. So it’s best to prepare.

  24. Ha! If I didn’t control what she puts in her mouth she would eat nothing but ice cream, chocolate and lollipops.

  25. Great set of questions and answers. I’ve been pondering resistant starch lately. I probably cheat too much for it to be of great concern but if I didn’t cheat there’s something about the idea of raw potato starch that bothers me. It doesn’t SEEM very primal to take a dried out, pulverized, raw form of a food you wouldn’t eat in its natural raw state and make a regular practice of supplementing it into your diet. I’m not saying Mark is wrong by any stretch. Shit, what do I know. But still, it doesn’t sit right and I have my doubts, for whatever that’s worth. I prefer the idea of green bananas much more, maybe because I can envision our ancestors not always having the luxury of waiting until they were ripe and eating them green on the reg. On top of that, I think I would also prefer to go the cooled, white rice route. Yeah, it’s a blood sugar spike but in my low sugar world, I’m not sure that’s such a big deal.

  26. And my banana sensitivity bites me in the butt again. I’m planning to try the AIP protocol here in a bit, and I’m currently using potato starch for the resistant starch, but bananas, green or not, are a definite no go for me. My digestion just doesn’t tolerate them at all.