Mark Sisson, 56 years young
Mark Sisson is a former world class triathlete, runs the excellent blog www.marksdailyapple.com, is the author of the Primal Blueprint, has a company called Primal Nutrition, and is basically a damn smart guy who practices what he preaches. He goes against “conventional wisdom”, as he calls it, and recommends a lifestyle and diet that our ancestors evolved on. A true scientist, he has no agenda when it comes to finding the truth and delivering it. Mark was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, so read on!!!
1. Many readers may not know anything about the Primal Blueprint and what your philosophies are about diet, exercise, and lifestyle. What are some of the basic principles?
Mark Sisson : Basically, most of us have gotten it all wrong. We eat the wrong foods, exercise the wrong way and most of us who are trying to do the right thing are messing it up. The idea behind the Primal Blueprint is that we can literally reprogram our genes to lose weight, have more energy and get sick less often. Our genes today are essentially the same as those of our hunter-gatherer ancestors 10,000 years ago who ate lots of plants and animals, exercised frequently, got regular sun exposure, slept well, and played. But our genes have not adapted to our lack of sleep and sun, our couch-potato ways or our eating modern foods like grains, legumes, high amounts of sugar, processed oils and other things we find commonly in today’s diets. As a result, we have sent signals to our genes to make us overweight or obese, diabetic, arthritic, depressed and susceptible to heart disease and cancer. The Primal Blueprint is about eating, exercising and otherwise living the way our genes expect us to live. Our genes want us to be healthy and happy.
2. You have created quite a following at your site(www.marksdailyapple.com) and with your book, the Primal Blueprint. How exactly did you get turned on to the Primal lifestyle?
Mark Sisson: I was a top endurance athlete doing “all the right things”. I was logging many miles in training, eating a complex high-carb diet and basically following Conventional Wisdom. I could race fast and was considered extremely fit, but I was actually falling apart on the inside. Tendonitis, osteoarthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic upper respiratory tract infections and seasonal allergies eventually forced me to quit competing at a young age. I started researching what went wrong with me and how the human body was really designed by evolution to eat and move. I started playing around with this Primal lifestyle at a time when modern genetic science and evolutionary biology were converging to give us all the answers that modern drug-based medicine couldn’t. The secrets to health lay in giving our genes the right signals, and the clues were in emulating what our ancestors did over two million years of human evolution. In a twenty-first century context, of course.
3. What do you feel is the number one problem with most American’s diets?
Mark Sisson: Too much sugar and too many grains. If most people were to simply eliminate grains and sugars completely, they would normalize blood sugar and energy levels, start to burn off stored body fat, have more energy throughout the day, get sick less often, reduce their risk of virtually every major disease and most likely live longer. There is no reason at all to include any kind of grains in anyone’s diet (except as a cheap source of calories that immediately converts to sugar in the bloodstream).
4. You talk about the need of certain athletes (soccer, triathlons, MMA) to include some starchy carbohydrates for fuel. Arthur DeVany, a colleague of yours, expresses the opinion that athletes will adapt over time to a very low carbohydrate diet (no starch, no grain), even during high intensity bouts. What’s the deal, do athletes actually need carbohydrate for fuel?
Mark Sisson: Actually, I agree with Art that most of these athletes don’t need starchy carbs in their diets if they are able to train “Primally” and eventually adapt to deriving more energy from stored and dietary fats. It’s just that most of these athletes aren’t willing to slow their long days down and make their hard days even more intense. It’s not an easy transition for athletes who have depended on carbs for fuel their entire lives, but it is possible, and it has the potential to create a more efficient athlete. Until they can adopt true Primal training methods, they will probably need to depend on added carbs.
5. A lot of people seem to be suffering from some form of anxiety these days. Anxiety is the cause of many problems including OCD, depression, anxiety attacks etc. What role do you feel today’s diet plays in producing and combating anxiety?
Mark Sisson: Diet is most likely the proximate cause of most of what you list above. I have seen miraculous turnarounds in people eating Primally in as little as two weeks. Something as simple as increasing the amount of healthy Omega 3 fats and cutting out the sugars has been shown to have a profound effect at mitigating depression – more so that many or most of the powerful anti-depressant drugs. Add in some exercise, sunlight, good Primal sleeping habits and you have a universal prescription for reversing many of the mood-related issues people suffer from.
Mark, thank for you for an exceptional interview and the great insight� about eating like our ancestors.