Against The Grain: Exposing Conventional Health Wisdom | Mark Sisson | Better Man Podcast Ep. 077

Against The Grain: Exposing Conventional Health Wisdom | Mark Sisson | Better Man Podcast Ep. 077

We’ve been told conventional health wisdom so much that most people believe it blindly. Things like you need to do cardio to lose weight. Eating fat makes you fat. And you need to eat at least 3 servings of grains to be healthy. 

The trouble is, these conventional health wisdoms aren’t true. And today’s guest, Mark Sisson—founder of Primal Nutrition and Primal Kitchen, best-selling author, and publisher of MarksDailyApple.com—has been exposing false conventional thought about health his entire career. 

In this episode, we tackle some of the most insidious “truths” that have derailed Mark’s health (and will derail yours too). Some of these topics include: 

  • Why eating grains riddle your body with low-grade inflammation (the worst kind) 
  • Why losing weight is more of a hormonal equation than an exercise and caloric restriction one 
  • How to eat less without getting as hungry 
  • Why nothing changed Mark’s life quite like switching to an anti-inflammatory diet 

And so much more. Mark has been a long time hero of mine for his unconventional wisdoms about health and fitness. My hope is that after listening to this episode, you start challenging your own beliefs about health and fitness that may be subtly stifling your progress.

Listen Now.

The Better Man Podcast is an exploration of our health and well-being outside of our physical fitness, exploring and redefining what it means to be better as a man; being the best version of ourselves we can be, while adopting a more comprehensive understanding of our total health and wellness. I hope it inspires you to be better!

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Show Highlights with Mark Sisson

  • How running sabotages your muscle mass: A lesson from a former weightlifting marathon runner (6:06) 
  • 3 of the biggest inflammatory foods (and how cutting them out makes your inflammation subside) (11:49) 
  • Why one of the most influential “carb loading” experts recanted his entire career when he realized THIS… (15:40) 
  • How eating more healthy fats in your diet actually increases your fat-burning rate (18:09) 
  • Why exercising is a terrible way to lose weight (and what actually makes you leaner) (19:02) 
  • How giving up grains for 30 days made Mark’s IBS, arthritis, GERD, and sinus congestion disappear (19:53) 
  • The “Metabolic Flexibility” secret for retraining your body to burn fat instead of carbs for energy (24:28) 
  • The “no longer hungry” cue from your body that stops you from overeating (34:42) 
  • The insidious “Systemic Inflammation” which can cause leaky gut syndrome, diabetes, and other major health problems (38:06) 
  • Why taking antioxidants after a workout can deprive your muscles of the benefits of exercise (43:39) 
  • How mixing fats with carbs drives insulin into your fat cells and cripples your metabolic flexibility (49:49) 
  • Do you wish you had a faster metabolism? Here’s the counterintuitive reason you should want a slower one… (51:19) 
  • Does your knees or lower back hurt after walking? Mark’s new 5-toe shoes will eliminate your pain (1:06:44) 
  • The one mindset shift required to transform your deepest holes in your life into growing experiences (1:18:12)

Resources mentioned in this episode: 

  1. Save 15% on Mark’s barefoot Peluva Shoes with code ManFlowYoga: If you have lower back pain, hip pain, or knee pain, the problem may be your shoes. Not only are they more comfortable than the first-generation barefoot shoes (they even feel like a foot massage every time you walk!), but they’re also critical for eliminating knee, hip, and lower back pain. Try Mark’s Peluva barefoot shoes and save 15% on your order with code ManFlowYoga here: https://peluva.com/ 
  2. Mark’s Daily Apple: Mark’s been publishing the #1 health and fitness blog, Mark’s Daily Apple, for over a decade. Check out Mark’s Daily Apple to hear his daily musings on health, nutrition, fitness, the health industry and the low-carb, paleo, Primal lifestyle here: https://www.marksdailyapple.com/ 
  3. Follow Mark on Instagram: Keep in touch with Mark and what he’s up to by giving him a follow on Instagram @marksissonprimal or here: https://www.instagram.com/marksissonprimal/
Episode 077: Against The Grain: Exposing Conventional Health Wisdom – Mark Sisson – Transcript

Dean Pohlman: Hey, guys, it’s Dean. Welcome back to the Better Man Podcast. Today I am joined by Mark Sisson, who is a legend in the fitness world. He started the idea of the primal blueprint. He started a company called Primal Kitchen. He originally started all of this with Mark’s daily Apple, and now I’m going to ask him all of the questions that I can think of when it comes to healthy longevity, when it comes to being successful in fitness industry.

Dean Pohlman: And I think you guys are really going enjoy it. So, Mark, thanks for joining me for the call.

Mark Sisson: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Dean Pohlman: Dean Yeah. So I first learned of you. You were one of the first the first fitness books that I ever read. I started mental yoga in 2012 and I really started getting into it full time in 2014. And you were one of the first fitness books I read. I remember meeting you at a health and wellness conference. I was like, Whoa, there’s there’s Mark.

Dean Pohlman: He’s just walking around in his jeans and his barefoot shoes and just talking with people. And, you know, you were totally down to earth and it was. Anyway, so that’s how how I met you. And I think I handed off my book to you. And I remember one time I saw you, I made a post on your, you know, one of your post sometimes.

Dean Pohlman: And you in your reply to that and say, yeah, you know, and I also make sure I do my man for yoga. I was like, Yeah, Mark does man for yoga. He posted it right here. So anyway, so that’s my story of, you know, how I met you. But I love to learn. And just so viewers can understand, why did you originally start Mark’s daily Apple?

Dean Pohlman: You know what? What what was the motivation there?

Mark Sisson: Well, it goes way back. I mean, I was always interested in health and fitness from a very early age. I was reading literally anti-aging books when I was like 13, 14 years old. Wow. I think my mother was into that. Adele Davis was the big writer in those days. And so she had all of the Dell Davises books and and in concert with that, I was I lived a mile and a half from school.

Mark Sisson: And so I found myself running to and from school each each day, just as a means of transportation. I didn’t want to take the bus. Took too long to take the bus. I could actually get home much quicker and get on with the rest of my life after school. If I ran home and based on the experience I had running, I was too sort of small to play football, basketball, baseball, hockey.

Mark Sisson: You know, the the the the sports that we played in the small fishing village in Maine where I grew up. So when spring track rolled around, I went out for the track team and it found I could win the mile and the two mile just about every meet. So it gave me a lot of credibility. I was fit enough to to do that, and I just rolled that into a high school and college career of being a track athlete and running cross-country and running road races in the summertime and eventually running marathons and then graduating from college and deciding not to go to med school, but in fact, to train for a couple of years

Mark Sisson: for the Olympic trials. And and so my life became that of an endurance athlete, an elite endurance athlete. And I became a a fairly strong, fairly accomplished runner marathoner. But all through those years of performance, I was always interested in things that I could do to improve my performance, whether it was supplements or dietary intervention or different ways of training.

Mark Sisson: I was really involved in weightlifting as a as a marathoner in the early days, and that was like considered antithetical to, yeah, distance running.

Dean Pohlman: I can only imagine how weird that must have been at the time for people who were running. Like, why are you trying to add all this muscle mass? You just need to run more.

Mark Sisson: Yeah, well, the irony was I couldn’t add muscle mass because I ran it all off, right? I was marathon running. It’s such a catabolic activity at the end of the day that I got strong and I was very strong for my for my body type and size. But you know I’m 510 today I weigh £171 and I’m probably the same body that I was when I was a runner.

Mark Sisson: And I weighed £140. Wow. Literally £30 less. And the funny part there is that at £140, I probably weighed £10 more than I should have for a marathoner. So that was the effect of the weight lifting was I carried an extra £10 of upper body anyway. So I was interested in all of these different modalities and ways of training and ways of of improving my performance.

Mark Sisson: Ultimately, I had to quit running because I got injured. I was found out years later I was at the effect of a highly inflammatory diet, and that certainly informed a lot of my research over the years. So when I had to quit competing, I basically sat down and just said, Look, I want to be strong. I want to be lean and fit and happy and healthy, but I don’t want to have to put in the horrible miles and endure all of the pain and suffering and sacrifice.

Mark Sisson: Is there a easier way of becoming fit and healthy? And so that led me down this path of doing investigations for years and years. And I wrote several books before I wrote The blueprint. I wrote books on training for triathlons and training for running and how to lose fat and how to how to have a a lean fit body as a just a general person in the world.

Mark Sisson: One of my first books was the ultimate lean routine. So over the years, I accomplished or I’d compiled these not just these studies that sort of informed my thinking process, but started to create a template for living my own life and a template that I could use as a coach because I was coaching other people and I was training other people as a template to better outcomes like how can I be that strong, lean, fit, happy, healthy, productive person?

Mark Sisson: And and I call upon my background as a pre-med candidate at Williams College, and I had a degree in biology. I specialized in evolutionary biology. So I had a real affinity for looking for the clues in evolutionary biology, like what is it about our evolution over 2 million years as a human that arrived, that got us to this point today where we have this recipe that wants to be fit and healthy, but somehow doesn’t manifest that in 80% of people that we see.

Mark Sisson: So the that that the main thrust of Mark’s daily Apple, which started in 2006, was to take all of this information that I had gathered and compile it and disseminate it in a way that was entertaining and that was understandable for the average person. So how could I take these somewhat intricate concepts out of the laboratory or out of research and put them in a way that’s meaningful to the average person so the average person can go, I see that if I chose to change my behavior in this way, I might wind up with a better result.

Mark Sisson: Well, part of what came from that was the recognition that people need a lot more background information, especially in health and fitness. So you can’t just go out to somebody and say, Hey, here’s something you need to be doing. Like your doctor says, you need to eat better and exercise more. By the way, you’re typically fat. Doctor says you need to eat right and exercise more.

Mark Sisson: So I think I realized pretty early that people needed some sort of a template, some sort of background information. And so what I did was I put together this story of how humans came to be, and I called it the Primal Blueprint, and it was a template based around human activities and behaviors that we all shared for millions of years, for thousands of millennia and generations that got us to this to this point today, that got us to the point where we have this genetic recipe that wants us to be strong and lean and fit, but we don’t know what the inputs are.

Mark Sisson: So genes, we all have these genes that are human and we all build muscle the same way we all burn fat, the same way we all create immune systems the same way. It’s just the degree to which we do it that differs from individual to individual. So I was looking for these hidden genetic switches that we all have.

Mark Sisson: Like like, what is it that I could do that would turn on the genes, burn fat, turn off the genes, store fat, turn on the genes, build muscle, turn off the genes that cause metabolic syndrome. And through through these years, I’ve made it my mission to inform people as to what these behaviors, these choices might be that would allow them, if they decided that was something they wanted to pursue, gave them maybe a better chance at the outcome.

Mark Sisson: They decided. So I don’t have the right way to do things. I just have a way that’s based in science that says, look, if you cut out the industrial seed oils, it’s likely that the information that you’re experiencing will subside. If you cut out the sugars and processed grains, it’s likely that that you’re swelling will go down, that your inflammation will subside.

Mark Sisson: If you increase the amount of of the quality protein that you take in and you do some weight training, it’s likely that you put on some muscle burn more fat. And it’s in the context of the history of human evolution that I was able to kind of tell a story about this prototypical ancestral human that I called rock and what his life was like, that people are now able to say, based on that template, I understand why when Mark says, try this way of eating or try this way of exercising or, you know, don’t worry about going out in the sunlight as much as they tell you to, There’s a basis for it, right?

Mark Sisson: There’s a ground of there’s a ground of understanding that precedes my general advice. Does that make sense?

Dean Pohlman: Yeah, totally. That yeah, totally came up with you came up with a story to help give. I mean, honestly, the well, I can’t say what I’m thinking right now because I’ll make I make too many people mad, but I understand the idea of coming up with a, with a story to help, you know, help to get the point across a little, you know, humans, we like stories.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah. You know, that’s how we you can’t just go up to someone and say, Hey, you should lift weights. Right? Well, why.

Mark Sisson: Is it.

Dean Pohlman: Tell me the myth of.

Mark Sisson: Exactly how.

Dean Pohlman: Did it how did humans start lifting weights. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Cool story to come up with. You know, something that I was thinking of as you were talking about that is, you know, as I was reading your book for the first time, it was interesting to me how much information in there is is directly contrary to a lot of normal health advice that you hear and that you still hear even you know in the book.

Dean Pohlman: When was that? When was that book published?

Mark Sisson: 2000.

Dean Pohlman: 10,000, ten, I think I read it in 2014. But there’s I’m still hearing people repeat, you know, the misconceptions that are. Yeah. The exact opposite of what you put in that book. Things like we need to stop eating fat, you know, because we’ll get fat if you eat more fat or things like the best. The best way to lose weight is to you’ve got to do cardio, got to go and lots of running.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah, that’s the only way to lose weight, you know? And there are things that that are still being repeated and in, you know, in my community as well. And it’s people just don’t they’re I don’t know what it is. You probably are much more familiar with this and I but people are just this information just being repeated, repeated, repeated.

Dean Pohlman: And it seems like these things have been repeated for decades and decades. And as somebody who is kind of the the leader of this community of men who are in their 40 or 50 or 6070s, you know, I’m curious about your experience, you know, with realizing that you had an inflammatory diet. And I’m just wondering when you realize this, what were some of the norms or what were some of the general advice being given about dieting when you were an endurance athlete and what did you start to do?

Dean Pohlman: Contrary to that?

Mark Sisson: Yeah, Yeah. So when I was running and doing triathlons, I was doing all I could to get a thousand grams of carbs a day because the dietary advice from not just the scientific community but the running community, was that a fats are bad and fats and cholesterol together are the cause of heart disease. So stay away from those carbs.

Mark Sisson: You know, the muscle runs on carbs. So you have to always be providing carbs. And if you don’t provide carbs every couple of hours a day, your body will go into a cannibal mode and will start to cannibalize your muscle tissue. So for the longest time, I was a slave to carbohydrate loading. And, you know, there’s a guy in this industry named Tim Noakes who wrote a book called The Lure of Running, and Tim was famous for being the most knowledgeable guy on carbohydrate loading in the world.

Mark Sisson: And and all of his research was on the work that was done in the laboratory that sort of proved at the time that carb loading was the way to enhance your performances as a endurance athlete. Years later, it turns out Noakes was one of the few scientists brave enough to recap his entire career. Wow. And said, You know what?

Mark Sisson: I was wrong. I was dreadfully wrong. But but it’s basically a low fat diet that’s killing people. And it’s it’s a low carb diet that we need to embrace. And he switched his his his whole reason for being away from carb management and carb intake to carb restriction and a low carb, high healthy fat diet. So that was just one example of the sort of advice that we’d been given that I started to I started to question as I was coming out of my endurance phase.

Mark Sisson: And I will tell you that after I quit running, after I had had to quit competing, I didn’t stop training. I trained for another a decade as if I was an athlete. I just couldn’t compete because of the injuries I had that I trained as if I was an athlete. I trained as a I was a coach to professional triathletes, for instance, and I would train with them and sometimes I’d just do the same ride they did the same run they did.

Mark Sisson: I just couldn’t do it every day. But I could I could do it once in a while because I had this this notion that I that I needed to keep doing this kind of work. It was in my psyche that I had to do that. But I realized that I was suffering from the diet. I realized that that the inflammation that I continued to experience and the injuries, it continued to prevent me from competing even at that age group level were quite likely diet related.

Mark Sisson: And so that’s when I really started to kind of question the whole carbohydrate theory of endurance exercise. I started to increase the fats in my diet. I knew for the longest time that fats were a better fuel than they were made out to be by the endurance community. I suspected that we could train the body to burn fat at a much higher rate than the laboratory.

Mark Sisson: Evidence up until then had proven. And so I started looking at at fat and healthy fats in the diet long before I think other people were doing. I started to question the use of statins. And I was I was considered heretical for jumping on the anti statin bandwagon. And for 20 years I’ve said that I think statins are probably the greatest single pharmaceutical hoax ever perpetrated on the on the public.

Mark Sisson: And you know, and we could go on about all of the different like again as you said the did not the notion that that that exercise is way is a great way to lose weight. You know it’s it’s not it’s actually a bad way to lose weight that yeah reconfiguring your diet and training your body how to again upregulate the genes that burn fat and want to burn fat.

Mark Sisson: It’s more of a a hormonal experience than it is an exercise and caloric restriction phenomenon. So but that really the moment for me didn’t come until probably 2000. I was studying, I was 47 years old and I’d been writing about grains and how antithetical they were to health. And I read all the research and I was, you know, writing about fighting acid, fatty acid and, and lectins and, and all this stuff about grains.

Mark Sisson: And then my wife one day said, Mark, you’re writing about grains as if they’re not good for you. Why are you continuing to eat grains in your own diet? I’m like, Well, I’m not celiac and I’m and I’ve just my whole life’s bit about eating grains. That’s how I get my carbs. And she said, Well, why don’t you try giving them up for 30 days and see what happens?

Mark Sisson: My wife has no science background. She’s very observant in life. I gave up grains for 30 days. The irritable bowel syndrome that I had my whole life went away.

Dean Pohlman: Wow.

Mark Sisson: The the arthritis that I’d felt in my fingers that I thought was going to prevent me from ever playing a racket sport or golf and would have me cringe if I met you in the hallway and had to shake your hand and you tried to out Bro shake me the GERD that I had the gastroesophageal reflux, the sinus congestion that I that I dealt with all the time.

Mark Sisson: All of that went away in 30 days. And I’m like, geez, this is this is revelatory. Like if if I’m a person who has the knowledge and I’ve been writing about this and I’m defending my right to eat grains and I haven’t given them up and I’m having these sorts of results, how many tens of millions of people are experiencing the same sort of inflammation and arthritic issues and IBS and gout, So gastric issues, sinus congestion and and again, the the list of of symptoms could go on and on that were cleared up in my case.

Mark Sisson: I mean, if that happened with me, how many tens of millions of people is must this be happening to? So that was really my moment that led me to write the primal blueprint and say, Look, I have to put this on paper and I have to get this out there that the government is telling us we need 6 to 11 servings of grains a day to be engaged in a healthy diet.

Mark Sisson: And my elimination of grains completely cleared up every issue I had and changed my health forever. So that was another example of what conventional wisdom was telling us was the way to live your life. But I was discovering was not just not a good way, a bad way.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah, well, I remember, you know, and you can guys, you can think about when you were in school, you can think of the food pyramid, right. And right at the bottom, you’ve got, what, 6 to 12? Great. Yeah, 6 to 11 or 6 to 12 servings of grains. And then you have you know, dairy is dairy still pretty high up there.

Dean Pohlman: And I just saw your tweet this morning that said humans did not evolve to or humans did not evolve to, you know, to take dairy. We made it. So, yeah, yeah. You know, and so so that’s all I, you know, that’s like really cool to hear that because you were probably instrumental in what year was it when the government put out the food plate instead of the food pyramid?

Mark Sisson: I get those years mixed up because I’m so I don’t pay attention to them anymore. But the plate was supposed to be the big shift and not much happened. Yeah, she’s.

Dean Pohlman: Not as many grains at least. And also note to myself, I really want to try out a third or try to 30 days. No grain challenge for myself. What do you what did you replace? What how did you replace? Because, you know, grains have a lot of calories. So you’re going to be pretty hungry if you don’t have grains.

Mark Sisson: What is your I mean, do you think so? You would think so. But you just replace it with more meat, more more protein and more fat. Okay. And so so years into this, as as I evolved in my way of thinking, you know, I wrote The Primal Blueprint and and I got great results from my own adherence to that way of eating.

Mark Sisson: And then I started thinking, well, you know, maybe there’s a next level stuff. And that’s when I started to get into Quito. It’s over a bunch of years. I, I was, I was on a Quito ish way of eating. I wrote the Quito Reset Diet, which became a New York Times bestseller. And I discovered that through Quito I was having I had more energy throughout the day.

Mark Sisson: And I kept I kept what’s what’s next level after this? Well, next level after Quito was Quito plus two meals a day, not three meals a day. So I wrote a book called Two Meals a Day, and that did very well. And what I realized was that when you reconfigure your diet in an optimal way, in a way that creates what we call metabolic flexibility.

Mark Sisson: So metabolic flexibility describes the body’s ability to derive energy from whatever substrate happens to be available. Most people can only burn carbs. They really are not good at burning fat because they never, you know, if their insulin levels are high from their carbon take all day long, that locks the fat in the fat cells. So even if the body’s starving for energy, if the insulin level is high, it can’t get the fat out of the fat cells to to combust it.

Mark Sisson: So it’s this vicious cycle that people have where they have to have carbs every two or 3 hours throughout the day with with a ketogenic reconfiguration, with some some carb restriction, with some restricted eating, with some intermittent fasting, you can create a body that is metabolically flexible so that you can derive energy from the fat stored in your fat cells, the fat storing your muscles, the fat on your plate of food, the carbohydrates on your plate of food, the glycogen in your muscles, the glucose in your bloodstream, ketones that your liver makes.

Mark Sisson: In the absence of its this metabolic flexibility is the perfect human condition, and it doesn’t require one particular way of eating. You can get there through a number of different ways of eating, through carb restriction, but also through calorie restriction. If you if you skip meals and you eat like one or two meals a day and it’s this this renewed metabolic flexibility that comes with metabolic efficiency and with metabolic efficiency, you start to realize, Jesus, I was eating like way more calories than I ever needed.

Mark Sisson: I didn’t need 3200 calories a day. I need like 1800 calories a day. And that’s all I need if I’m efficient with my food. So grains are a very inefficient form of food and grains, become calories for a lot of people that even in the best of circumstances, if they get burned off, they’re still inflammatory and they may create the need for a higher level of micronutrient supplementation.

Mark Sisson: So it may be that when you cut out the grains, you don’t need to supplement with vitamins and minerals and in other supplements. That’s sort of the premise of Paul Saladino and the carnivore diet. I don’t know if you’re familiar with with Paul’s work. So when you realize that, that you can create this metabolic flexibility and that your body really only needs, but maybe certainly needs a lot fewer calories to thrive than you thought it needed.

Mark Sisson: Then you realize, well, I didn’t need to eat the grains ever and so I can eat, you know, if I get 120 or 140 grams of protein a day, that’s really only about 600 calories. And there’ll be some fat that comes with that protein because it’s usually going to be in the form of meat or fish or chicken.

Mark Sisson: Maybe that’s another 100 grams of fat. So now we’ve got another 900 calories. Now we’re only at 1500 calories. And if the rest of it is vegetables and fruit, you maybe get up to 2000 calories, 2200 calories. And that’s really all your body needs. Unless you’re in some sort of a metabolic, you know, deficit and, you know, you have some sort of a disease state you don’t need.

Mark Sisson: If you break the macros down that way, you don’t need a lot of calories to fry throughout the day.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah, that’s interesting. I had a I just had a lunch with a guy last week and he is a former, you know, former former badass. Did a bunch of bunch of behind enemy lines, special, you know, special Forces type stuff. You know, like living in that world undercover for months and months at a time. And now he’s like, 100 and and he told me he wants a couple of decades ago he rode from Canada to Mexico in 15 days on a bike.

Dean Pohlman: It’s like 200, 200 plus miles a day, something crazy like that. And and I ask him, well, what do you what do you weigh now? And he’s like, well, I’m I’m 100. I think he said £185. Now he’s six one. I’m like, how many calories do you today? He’s like, I had 1200 to 1500 calories a day and he still lifts weights.

Dean Pohlman: You know, he’s still in fantastic shape. He’s 50 something years old, 5053 years old. He sounds and looks like he’s in his forties, but he’s only having like 1200, you know, 50 calories a day. And I’m like, if I have, I have to eat a lot of food for me. I’m five, ten and £180. And my goal is building muscle and getting bigger right now.

Dean Pohlman: So like for me, I feel like it’s almost like a chore to eat food. Like if I’m hungry. Michael Crap, I need to go get some food right now. So, you know, shifting that perspective to going, okay, maybe I need a lot fewer carbs, a lot fewer calories in general than I think I do is a really it’s a it’s a baffling synopsis.

Mark Sisson: It’s a novel concept for a lot of people. And yeah, because most people would go through this life because we live in a world of abundance. Most people go through life going, what’s the most amount of food I could eat? Not gain weight. You know, that’s like, what’s the biggest portion of this I can have? What’s the biggest meal I can eat and not feel like a glutton and not what a lot of.

Mark Sisson: Yeah. What’s the most amount of food? What’s the biggest piece of cheesecake I could have?

Dean Pohlman: And true, because most people are trying to lose weight. They’re not like me and.

Mark Sisson: They’re still working at it from from this perspective. But what’s the most amount of things of of this hedonistic experience that I can undertake and not feel the consequences? Well, I did the reverse thought experiment and I said, Well, okay, what’s let’s look at it this way. What’s the least amount of food I can eat? Maintain or build mass.

Mark Sisson: Have all the energy I want all day long, not get sick, and most importantly, not be hungry. And so if people were to experiment that way and not be concerned about the thought that that if I don’t eat, I’ll lose muscle. But. But what is the least amount of food I can eat, maintain muscle, have all the energy I want, never not get sick because immune system important and most importantly, not be hungry.

Mark Sisson: Hungry. Hunger sort of ruins everything. It takes everything off the rails. And so many people that are in the keto community or that are in the intermittent fasting community, they will tell me that that if there is a lot of meat one meal a day, mostly because they’re not hungry, right? They just they’ve refined their metabolism to the point that they’re just not hungry.

Mark Sisson: And the concept is if I’m not hungry, why should I eat? It’s like, it’s like my body is comfortable, I’ve got energy, I’m not getting sick. I’m just not hungry. Why would I cram food down my my gullet? And so what they will tell me is I have to be really conscious of that one meal I eat every day.

Mark Sisson: And of course, the thought the brain goes to. Yeah, you mean you have to be conscious that you don’t overeat and that you stop? no, no, no. I have to be conscious that I eat enough at that one. Wow. You know, so it’s a it’s an incredibly empowering state to be in when you are not at the effect of hunger.

Dean Pohlman: So I have a question of fats. So people you know, a lot of people we eat for more reasons, just for nourishment, right? Or we eat for emotional support too. So when people start eating less and maybe, you know, what was your personal experience with this when you start eating less, you said that you it sounds like you just don’t have the inclination to eat more.

Dean Pohlman: But I’m wondering if there are other things that you realize in this process, Like what are some other reasons that you were using food and what did you know? Did you have to deal with anything emotionally or mentally when you’re like, I’m not eating food for comfort? Okay, what’s coming up for me to do? People have that experience for sure.

Mark Sisson: Look, when I was in college, which was a long time ago, I’ve got a big reunion coming up in a couple of years. But my name, my nickname to all my best friends in college is Arnold. They never knew me. They don’t know me as Mark. I was Arnold, Arnold, Ziff. So for the people in my generation, it was TV show called Green Acres.

Mark Sisson: And one of the it was about a gentleman who left in New York City to become a gentleman farmer in upstate New York with his with his society wife, high society wife was a comedy, but one of the characters on the show was this big pig that was the child of a couple next door because they couldn’t have their own kids.

Mark Sisson: And the pig was named Arnold. It was Arnold Ziff and my buddies nicknamed me Arnold Ziff because I could eat more than anybody in the college that I went to, like more than the football team. I would literally sit down and eat, you know, ten burgers at a time. And then and then grab their ice creams. And what it was it was it was gluttony at its finest.

Mark Sisson: And this is when I weighed £138 and I was running, you know, 100 miles a week. And I had a wickedly fast metabolism. I could get away with it. Right. And it was also it was also clearly highly inflammatory, but I could get away with it. I didn’t I didn’t I didn’t gain weight. I didn’t you know, I didn’t put on any weight.

Mark Sisson: It was just, I don’t know, a skill that I had like Joey Chestnut, you know, winning the hot dog eating contest at Coney Island. Now, it wasn’t the fact that I could get away with it doesn’t mean it was good for me. It just means stuff. Probably caught up to me later. The inflammation of all of that now.

Mark Sisson: People in general tend to have lots of reasons for eating. Mine was because I could and maybe I had some emotional crap going on that that, you know, I, I endowed myself with superpowers that I could eat more than anybody else. I don’t I don’t know what what was behind that. But certainly one of the skills that you develop later on in life is the ability to recognize not when you’re full because that’s kind of too late, but when you’re no longer hungry for the next bite.

Mark Sisson: And that’s that’s a critical kind of thing. Like you’re sitting there talking to your friends at dinner or your family or whatever, and your plate is full of food. Well, there’s that whole thing about, well, nobody gets dessert until your plate is finished tonight to finish your plate whether or not you’re having dessert. So there’s that. So this skill that you develop about being able to recognize when you’re no longer hungry for another bite and that it’s okay to leave food on a plate.

Mark Sisson: And if you’re in a restaurant, it’s okay to either have the have the waiter take it away or to have them box it up and take it home. Those are little just little recognitions, little moments that people have that can change your life because it goes from I mean, I know sometimes I will consciously think to myself, yeah, I remember your advice.

Mark Sisson: I’m not hungry for the next bite of food, and if I finish the plate, I will literally regret it in 3 hours when I go to bed. Right. I will lie there thinking, God, I was at a restaurant and it was an expensive meal, so I didn’t want to not finish it. But I wish. I wish I hadn’t finished it.

Mark Sisson: I’d gladly give up that 75 bucks for the cost of the prime rib just to not feel like this right now, you know? Yeah. So.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah, that’s a that’s a good point. I think that’s a really good, I think about it in the comparison I’m making is, you know, when you’re in college and you go to a Big Ten university, drinking is very, you know, normal. And there’s this idea of like, you know, don’t leave any empty, you know, don’t leave any soldiers left behind, you know, finish your beer.

Dean Pohlman: And I think even when in my training, I was like, no, I’m not going to I don’t need to finish that beer. Yeah, like, I think I’m good. So I think, you know, weird comparison, but yeah, I think no.

Mark Sisson: No, it’s the same thing. It’s it’s part of it is societal pressure. Peer pressure, for sure. Yeah.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah. So the question that came up for me is what is you know, we’re seeing inflammatory diet, but I don’t know if everybody knows what that means. So what is an inflammatory diet and what are some really comic examples of that and why is it bad?

Mark Sisson: Well, I mean, inflammation is a general term. Typically, it’s used to describe a local infection. So you you you touch your ankle running in the woods or something like that and it swells up. That’s a local inflammation. You cut yourself and, you know, you put up you hope it’s going to heal and it hurts a couple of days while it’s healing.

Mark Sisson: That’s because there’s an inflammation going on, a local inflammation, and that’s a good thing. It’s actually these are your immune system fighting off bacteria that want to get inside the cut or they are their white blood cells that are in the case of a twisted ankle, say, clearing out, damaged, you know, cells that were got that were compromised in the in the twisting of the ankle.

Mark Sisson: That’s inflammation in general is part of an inflammatory part of an immune response to something that’s going on in the body and assault to the body. where it becomes problematic is when you have what we would call a systemic inflammation, which is an inflammation in the bloodstream, it says something’s going on. One of the examples I would give is if you have a leaky gut, which a lot of people who eat grains have leaky gut syndrome in the gut, that that leak in the gut means cell walls open up and allow undigested particles of food into the bloodstream.

Mark Sisson: Normally the blood will only the bloodstream will only accept or the cell lining. The gut will only allow through simple sugars, free fatty acids, simple amino acids and peptides, things like that. Occasionally, when you have a leaky gut, larger, undigested protein molecules get in there, get inside and the if the body’s immune system sees these as foreign invaders, thinks that they might be virus or other antigens from the outside and they mount an immune response to them and they so these they, they call upon this immune response which may cause swelling like you get edema, like people who have an inflammatory diet this way will gain £20 of water weight because they’re swelling up as

Mark Sisson: a result of this inflammation, this systemic inflammation.

Dean Pohlman: So your body literally thinks that it’s under attack as a result of. Yeah. Wow.

Mark Sisson: So that’s that’s the whole the the immune response in the category of inflammation can be either beneficial because of a wound or some other, you know, acute insult, or it can be because of a bad diet which would include sugars, processed grains, industrial seed oils like corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, canola. And these are the elements of the diet that that become insidious over time because people don’t realize that the inflammation that they’re experiencing is so largely it’s not all a result of their dietary choices.

Mark Sisson: So that’s why we talk about a low inflammation diet or a, you know, an inflammatory resistive diet. We start looking at what those inflammatory foods are. We get rid of them, we eliminate them, and then we we clean the diet up and hopefully the inflammation subsides and the leaky gut heals. And, you know, anything else that’s that’s that’s been out of whack gets resolved.

Mark Sisson: But it also, you know, you can you can talk about metabolic syndrome and type two diabetes and this inability to manage blood sugar, having a an inflammatory response in the body which can, you know, can cause issues that are related to blood flow in the extremities. So people will ultimately get their limbs amputated because of diabetes. There’s an inflammatory response at work there.

Mark Sisson: So we want to do whatever we can to have to reduce the inflammatory foods in our diet.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah So that’s that’s I think it’s worth mentioning. This goes beyond just your this goes beyond just overall general physical health. But it can also go into it can also make it harder to recover from workouts or it can make it harder to recover from, you know, localized injuries. So whenever I’m you know, whenever I’m under the weather or when I’m you know, when I’ve got some sort of, you know, localized inflammation like a muscle strain, like an excessive muscle tear or something going on, my my coach will remind me.

Dean Pohlman: He’s like, okay, I want you to cut out dairy for, you know, make sure you’re not eating dairy over the next couple of days. Like if you you know, because sometimes I’ll have I’ll have cheese. Yeah. And not have it just as I’m not going to, you know, sit there and eat an entire block of cheese. But I’ll have it with pasta or I’ll have it with, you know, with some tacos or something.

Dean Pohlman: And at those times I’m like, okay, I need to, I need to cut out dairy for, you know, these next couple of days while I’m while I’m dealing with this. Can you can you speak to that, too?

Mark Sisson: Yeah. I mean, that’s it’s an interesting short term approach. Cut out dairy while I recovering from a muscle tear and by the way a every workout has has an inflammatory effect. So when you do an appropriate workout in the gym, you’re trying to find the right amount of muscle damage. Yeah, it causes that causes an inflammatory response, a positive inflammatory response.

Mark Sisson: So the muscle heals slightly stronger than it was before you do the workout, right?

Dean Pohlman: It’s called calculated stress. Correct. Don’t do too much. Don’t do too.

Mark Sisson: Little. And that’s the that’s really the you know, that’s the benefit of a coach. You can sort of identify where that point is for you. A lot of people don’t do enough work and so they don’t they don’t progress in their strength or in their endurance or whatever it is they’re looking to achieve because they haven’t found that sweet spot where it’s just enough stress to induce an inflammatory response.

Mark Sisson: And that is, again, upregulation of certain genes that are going to build muscle and and improve capillary perfusion throughout the muscle cell. But based on inflammatory signals and markers that are created as a result of the workout. It’s also it’s interesting that for the long for the longest time there were people and I was one of them who promoted this idea that we should, after a workout, we should take antioxidants.

Mark Sisson: So to prevent the oxidative damage done in the workout, well, it turns out that taking antioxidant post-workout is not a good thing if you want to improve because you want the oxidative damage to prompt the kinds of repairs and the improvements that you’re seeking. And if you take antioxidants, it denies the benefits of that activity. It’s one of the reasons why people stopped saying, you know, do a cold plunge, for instance, after a hard workout.

Dean Pohlman: And I was I was guilty of that idea for a while.

Mark Sisson: For decades, you know, coaches in locker rooms were guilty of that. After you do the workout, get in the cold plunge. Now that’s they’re saying, no, you want to you want to suffer the consequences of the inflammation. Yeah. For a while to allow to allow the adaptation to take place fully.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah. Which is really interesting because you know, we hear the word and I’m glad I asked about, you know, what is an inflammatory diet. I mean, because you hear information and you automatically assume like, inflammation is bad, I want to avoid inflammation. It also got me thinking about people who take ibuprofen after a workout, you know, or they’re like, I’m just really feeling it today.

Dean Pohlman: So I took an ibuprofen and I always want to, you know, for lack of a better term, I want to jump on those people and say like, no, no, no, don’t do that. You know, like there’s there’s better things to do. So what’s the what’s the alternative to because ibuprofen after a workout or ibuprofen after you know, what it maybe be, it’s particularly difficult, but I think it’s also somewhat normalized for some people.

Dean Pohlman: So what’s the alternative to doing to doing ibuprofen?

Mark Sisson: Well, look, the alternative is the alternative is to not do ibuprofen. But the the other the real question is if you if you did that amount of damage, A, did you overdo it, in which case ibuprofen is is not a bad idea or is this just a good workout and you want to derive the greatest amount of benefits from it?

Mark Sisson: And if the answer to that is yes and yes, then I would say don’t do the ibuprofen, but don’t do the same damn workout again tomorrow. In other words, you can take the ibuprofen tomorrow or the next day if you still heard from this workout, because most of the benefits you’re going to accrue in the first 12 hours post-workout it’s like a half life.

Mark Sisson: And so if you wake up the next morning and you’re achy and stiff from the workout, I’d say, go ahead then. Then you can take some ibuprofen. But the idea of taking it right after a workout is again sort of antithetical to the purpose of the workout, which is to do a little bit of damage, allow a little bit of time rest and recovery and nutrition.

Mark Sisson: And and with the with the idea that you’re going to improve, that your strength improve or your joints will approve or whatever it is you’re looking range of motion as a result of the minimal amount of micro tearing damage that you did there to allow the inflict that particular inflammation to to continue on. Now, right now, you and I are talking about a very small subset of people.

Mark Sisson: Most people are dealing a systemic inflammation from a diet that is full of of of highly inflammatory omega six fats and oils, rancid oils, processed sugars, processed grains and all of the other, you know, alcohol, all the other things that go along with that.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah, that’s a whole, that’s a whole nother conversation that that I know that you’ve explored for countless hours that I won’t get into right now. But I think one also important question to ask is I’ve, I think back in, you know, when I first started learning about, you know, your work, but also in general, this idea that Fats are good, certain fats are good.

Dean Pohlman: I had a guy who had he messaged me and he said, hey, I gained like £20 and I’m just terrified of eating fats because, you know, I gained so much weight and now I need to lose weight. And I don’t I want to you know, I really want to lose weight. So what would you say to people who are, you know, who are still scared of eating fat and they think that like, okay, I have to avoid eating fats or I’ll keep getting bigger?

Mark Sisson: Well, one of the things that we’ve realized just in the last, again, five or ten years is that while fats are necessary and some fats are horrible and some fats are good, the fact that you cut out carbs does not mean that you have to make up those calories with fats. So to this day, I still I don’t seek out extra fats.

Mark Sisson: I don’t I don’t put butter on my steak. I don’t look at ways. And I think that was one of the one of the early issues with with the first generation keto people was they really they started to think, well, keto gives me license to eat as much food as I want as long as I don’t eat carbs.

Mark Sisson: And so guys like, you know, live in La Vida, What was his name? Jimmy Moore, who weighed £400 and never lost an ounce but was sort of the keto guy. He would brag about eating 4600 calories worth of food a day, most of it fat and some protein and no carbs. And I’m like, that’s you’re missing the point here.

Mark Sisson: The point is back to what we talked about earlier, metabolic flexibility and metabolic efficiency. If if you are replacing carb calories with with fat, but you haven’t developed metabolic efficiency yet, you probably gain weight, right? You’ll probably and I’d have to look at your your friends the guy that gained £20 I say I’d look at his die and say what are you reading and how much and when.

Mark Sisson: And I’d look at a number of variables. I’d also say, Are you sure you’ve cut out all carbs? Because a lot of people in the early days of this fat appreciation would say, you know, Mark wrote about fast being good for me, so I’m going increase the amount of fat my diet, and they wouldn’t cut the carbs.

Mark Sisson: Well, if you don’t cut the carbs and you increase the fat, then it’s it’s worse than anything because the carbs cause a rise in insulin. And insulin drives all of that into the fat cells. It drives the fat into the fat cells, it drives the calves into the fat cells. So it’s it’s it’s you know, you have to sort of pick your method here.

Mark Sisson: For a lot of people, a low a low fat diet works, right? If they just eat fruit and vegetables and they cut the fats entirely, they’ll lose weight, they’ll feel great, etc., etc.. For a lot of people who cut the carbs entirely and increase the amount of fat, they’ll feel great. They’ll lose weight. But it’s that it’s that middle ground where you can’t you’ve got to choose one.

Mark Sisson: But if you mix and match them and try to keep the carbs the same and increase the fat, yeah, you’ll probably gain weight.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah. So, so all of this is kind of in a lot of this is in the overall goal of making a more efficient body. But why why do we want a more efficient body? I mean, obviously it sounds great, but what are some benefits of having a more efficient body?

Mark Sisson: Great question, because one of the first things that you that you see in the fitness world is people who say, Mark, I just want a fast metabolism. I really want to develop a fast metabolism. Am I okay? Why do you want a fast metabolism? Why? Yeah, why do you want a fast jump? Well, so I can eat more food and or so I can.

Mark Sisson: I burn off more calories and I’m like, All right, So that’s not really how we’re designed. In an ideal world, you would be seeking a slow metabolism because a fast metabolism is like, you know, a Ferrari revving at 7000 RPMs at a stoplight. And the stoplight never changes, but it’s still revving. There and waiting for a stop. And then when a stoplight goes off, you know, it takes off.

Mark Sisson: You don’t want to rev your Ferrari at 7000 RPMs. You know, you want to treat it gently and you want to do the same thing with your body. So you don’t want your body to be revving at a high, at a high temperature, in a high output, because a high temperature and a high metabolism means there’s more oxidative processes going on at any one time.

Mark Sisson: So I would I would say to most people again, what’s the least amount of food you can eat without getting hungry again, within reason, right. I’m not I’m this is a thought experiment for people who think that they need 3500 calories a day. But I would say this, this idea that you want to build a fast metabolism, why?

Mark Sisson: Because if you’re not hungry, if you can control hunger, if you if you have all the energy you want and you are never sick and you’re not hungry and you maintain muscle mass, what does a fast metabolism have to do with any of that? So the fast metabolism mentality is just okay, so I can eat more food, so I can be the glutton at a meal.

Dean Pohlman: Well, it’s the same as people asking like, I want to do a workout that burns a lot of calories. I’m like, Well, why do you want to do that? Let’s go. Let’s go beyond. Yeah, you think you want that and go straight to what you want to be healthier. Okay. Actually, that’s not how we get that’s not how we get here.

Dean Pohlman: What you need to do instead is right. Right? Yeah.

Mark Sisson: So if you if you’re a well-trained marathoner, going back to the marathon analogy and you say, you know, this guy can run 26 miles burning a hundred calories a mile and this guy can run 26 miles, burning 80 calories a mile because he’s more efficient and he’s more efficient because he’s a better he’s more fat adapted, he’s better burning fat.

Mark Sisson: He’s better at using ketones and ketones. The brain loves ketones. And so he’s able to run at a higher rate without feeling the fatigue that a carbohydrate glucose dependent runner would feel. So in that case, if you were more efficient, you’d be a better athlete, right? You wouldn’t run out of you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t run low on glycogen at the same rate that a less efficient runner would run on glycogen.

Mark Sisson: So there’s a there are you know, those are real world examples of why. But at the end of the day, I would just say if some people would say, all right, well, I tested low, my thyroid is low. That’s a classic, right? I have my doctor says I have low thyroid. I’m like, well, what does that mean? Well, it’s at the low end of normal.

Mark Sisson: My is. How do you feel? Well, I feel great. I mean, I’m not cold. I’m not losing weight. I’m not gaining weight. I’m I have all my hair. I’m not losing my hair. None of the symptoms of of hypothyroidism I like. Well, if that’s where you are and you have low thyroid within normal ranges, you win. You’re I could argue that you’re going to live longer anybody because your engine is revving perfectly humming along at an efficient rate all day long.

Mark Sisson: But when you end up going back to my Arnold Zweifel days in college when I was eating, you know, 5000, 6000 calories a day and getting away with it every day, I sweated my ass off every night in my sleep. I slept hot. I ran, I burned, I burned. I revved high all the time. You know, I was probably throwing off free radical damage throughout my body as a result of my body trying to normalize the, you know, get rid of the calories that I’d consumed.

Mark Sisson: It didn’t want to storm as fat, so it needed to burn them off without with a you know, they talk about the thermic effect of food, but also probably my you know, I had a fast metabolism in those days. I do not think it served me well at all.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah, I think that’s a that’s great. That’s a great answer to all of that. So I want to I want to ask questions, too. So I want to I’m going to I’m going to kind of move on to another section here. So also want to be respectful of your time and people sometimes to my podcast are too long.

Dean Pohlman: So anyways, I want to ask about, you know, you’ve had a lot of success in in your businesses and you recently well, not recently, but a few years ago you started Primal Kitchen, which was are you going to how about you explain Primal Kitchen? Because I think that’s better than me trying to.

Mark Sisson: No, not show all the work I did over the years looking at diet and what happens when you get rid of all of these insidious foods that are in our diet? When you get rid of the pies, the cakes, the candies, the cookies, the breads, the pastas, the cereals, the industrial seed oils, the refined grain products you come down with short list, right?

Mark Sisson: It’s meat fish.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah, it’s hard eggs.

Mark Sisson: You know, vegetables, fruit, maybe some root tubers. It’s pretty daunting for a lot of people when they look at that short list. But what, what makes the difference is the preparation. How do you prepare them? The sauces, the dressings, the toppings, the herbs and spices, the methods of cooking, which can impart an infinite variety of different ways to prepare these these nutritious and otherwise delicious foods, but delicious as it is important.

Mark Sisson: Part of that of that. Now, over the years I was writing about food on Mark’s daily Apple and and I wrote a seven cookbooks but I recognized that that that what really what people wanted what I wanted because everything I do in this world arises from my recognition that there’s something that I would like to see in the marketplace, that it does not exist.

Mark Sisson: And so I wanted to make a better for you condiment, right? I wanted to make I wanted to make mayonnaise and ketchup and mustard and salad dressings and pasta sauces that you would feel good about putting on your food that you would feel like the more you put on, the better that that food was for you. And up until then, the opposite was was that was the approach, like mayonnaise, was considered bad for you and use it sparingly because it’s got all full of nasty oils and bad things, salads dressing same thing.

Mark Sisson: It’s, you know, just use it sparingly. Will do it When I when I eat a salad, I want to douse it addressing, you know, and I would make my own dressings and with, you know, extra virgin olive oil and some balsamic vinaigrette and a little bit of mustard honey, and they would be great. So I thought, well, I’ll start a company that makes, you know, the best product in each of these categories, the one that you look at the label, you go, everything on this label looks great and the product tastes great.

Mark Sisson: So that was the impetus behind the start of Primal Kitchen. And it was a it was a new concept because we started by building the product first in the kitchen and then we priced it later. Most large food companies will say, okay, we want to introduce this new mayonnaise and it has to be on the shelf at 399 for a jar.

Mark Sisson: And so how do we how do we make it? Where are the compromises that we make in the choices of ingredients where we can come in at a price that that allows us to make a profit? We did. Because of my naivety, I just said, you know, I think there’s going to be some people who would pay sort of whatever it takes to get the best possible product in that category.

Mark Sisson: So we introduced in 2015 a promo Kitchen Mayonnaise and it was 995 for a 12 ounce jar. Wow. We didn’t even have that much of a margin in it. But, you know, the way food goes, that was the retailer. You know, the retailer sells it to you for 995, but he buys it from the distributor for 30% less than that.

Mark Sisson: The distributor buys it from us for less than that, blah, blah, blah. So it it works his way down the food chain. So we we really kind of shook up the food world by saying there are a number of people who are who want the best possible ingredients.

Dean Pohlman: And absolutely, that’s why you buy the grass fed beef instead of the stage one beef, you know. Right.

Mark Sisson: And so we weren’t going after, you know, the average shopper who doesn’t care, doesn’t know, maybe doesn’t even have the budget. We were going after those discerning food shoppers who said, look, my family’s important to me and I’m willing to spend this on on a quality product that I can put on my food and feel good about it.

Mark Sisson: And and as I like to say, and use with reckless abandon. Right. And so, you know, my my salad dressings, one of the complaints we got from the salad dressings was, you know, they only get four servings out of it, even though we’re supposed to say seven or eight, because they they know they can put more on on a big salad and make it taste even better.

Mark Sisson: But we’re you know, we’re quite proud of the fact that that Primal Kitchen started this in 2015. We were acquired by Kraft in early 2019. So it’s been four and a half years since I sold it, but I’m still very much involved and still the face of the brand. I’m still, you know, I attend all the team meetings.

Mark Sisson: We just hosted a big influencer event at my house in Pacific Palisades two months ago with 100 influencers. I’m still very much involved. The company and I love it. It’s my baby, it’s growing, and it has spawned probably 50 other companies that are now attempting to do what we do, which is provide access to better for you foods to more people, more families across the country.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah. And I think that’s a that’s that’s fantastic, because, you know, that’s what I do when I go to the store. I look at the back of the label. I’m like, okay, well, we make sure that there are, you know, does this use olive oil as a base instead of grapeseed oil or something like that? So exactly.

Dean Pohlman: It works. It works for me. So my question is kind of it’s kind of personal to you. So you sold Primal Kitchen for $200 million. And I’m curious, like, how has how have you gone about your life differently since then? You know, what did you realize was important versus what was, this is not as important.

Mark Sisson: Well, you know, my life didn’t change that much. You know, we we’ve always I’ve always done reasonably well with my businesses. So a big chunk of money coming in just gives you sort of certainty for the rest of your life, which is that sort of security for a boy growing up in a poor fishing village in Maine is kind of a nice a nice thing to have.

Mark Sisson: But, you know, my life we’re in the south of France. We’re in an amazing house in the south of France that I would not have been able to afford to rent. You know, in the early days. We’ve done this every year for the last couple of summers. So we’re here for two months. We travel a lot. I just have 20 family members to northern England for a week and then the Scottish Highlands for a week after that.

Mark Sisson: But that’s something I’ve done for 12 years with my family. I’ve taken them on a.

Dean Pohlman: You have kids? How old are you?

Mark Sisson: Yeah, my, my children are my daughter is 31. She has two too. We have two grandchildren through her three and a half year old daughter and granddaughter and a one and a half year old grandson. And then my son is 28 and he is my co-founder in my new venture. So one of the things that happened as a result of my selling Primal Kitchen was I was able to turn my attention to yet another problem that has plagued me for the last three decades, and that is foot health, food, comfort and footwear.

Mark Sisson: So my son and I started a company called Paloma two and a half years ago, and the idea was to create a brand of shoe that was wide enough to fit everyone’s foot and accommodate the toes without scrunching them together. That was the best elements of minimalist footwear, which is close to the ground so that the soles are only one centimeter thick but had a little bit more cushion than than many of the earlier minimalist shoes.

Mark Sisson: So these are five toed shoes that have a thin, flexible sole and have very attractive uppers. So the idea was to combine comfort with foot function and style. And we launched about four months ago. We’ve had tremendous feedback, tremendous success so far. People are loving not just the shoe, but the concept of what we’re doing, the idea that you can articulate your toes up and down, that that every every step you take in life, you ought to be feeling the ground underneath you.

Mark Sisson: And you ought to be you ought to have a smile on your face because you felt what was underneath.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah, I can vouch for it. I’ve been doing semi barefoot shoes for a while. I’ve never had the five toed shoes before, so this is new for me. But when I saw that you launched them, I think I saw it on out of von Rothschild’s account. I was like, those are cool. it’s is it by Marc, I’m going to go buy some.

Dean Pohlman: So I got a couple of pairs just to make sure they fit. But I’ve been doing barefoot shoes for a while now and my big complaint with them is that they have zero padding, which makes sense if you’re walking around in like a nature trail that has never been walked on before, like if you’re like crack, right, to use your archetype and you’re walking on somewhat soft ground, that makes sense.

Dean Pohlman: But we’re walking on cement, we’re walking on sidewalks, we’re walking on very hard ground. And so for me, the the barefoot shoe concept with zero cushion and I’m you know, I’m wearing these one of my late toes. I’m not you know, I’m pretty relatively young. So, like, my feet would hurt if I wore them for too long or I’d have to take a day off.

Dean Pohlman: And I’ve been able to wear these every day now. And it’s great because I have that toe articulation. I’m able to actually feel my arches and gauge better as I’m walking, but my feet don’t hurt walking on pavement. So anyway, I love what you’re doing.

Mark Sisson: Thank you. I this came about because I was a big fan of the original five toed shoes and they didn’t have enough cushioning. And it’s not much that we’re talking about. Again, it’s just an extra two or three millimeters of EVA cushioning that makes all the difference. We wanted to create the feeling of walking barefoot on a putting green, if you will.

Mark Sisson: And, you know, in in the south of France here, where we spent our summers last summer, I brought six prototype shoes. One of the pairs I put 650 miles on walking anywhere from 6 to 14 miles a day, much of it on pavement. And in the old days, with those original barefoot shoes, I would have to take a day off after after walking in them, because my feet would hurt.

Mark Sisson: I would have like bone bruises. So last year with the new prototypes, you know, it was like every day I could go out and walk on pavement, on concrete, on on gnarly, craggy, rocky surfaces. There’s a couple of hikes here. We did up I did a walk this morning with my wife two and a half hours of of uneven surfaces on on a on a long hike.

Mark Sisson: It was a lot of uphill. So we could do two and a half hours. And it was like I was I felt like I was getting a reflexology massage on my feet the whole way. It’s exactly what feet are intended to do. Our feet are intended. They’re there. They’re designed through evolution to feel the ground underneath. Right? You’re supposed to feel every thing you walk on.

Mark Sisson: And by the time you weight that forward step, your brain should have all the information it knows on how to bend the knee, how to flex the foot, how to talk the hip, how to absorb the shock and get ready for the next footfall. Well, because we’ve been wearing cushioned shoes for so many decades and thick, cushioned shoes, we’ve lost that haptic sense.

Mark Sisson: That ability has been taken away from us, that that input that the brain needs has been forfeited in the name of, quote, you know, pillow like comfort under your feet. Well, all that does is bypass that information and make your knees hurt or like your lower back hurt or some other part of your body gives gives way because you bypass that important information on the biomechanics, the whole the whole kinetic chain starts with contact with the ground and works its way up the body.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah. And I can I can speak to that, too. Just as someone who’s so I’m, you know, I, I work for myself, so I’m either at my home office or I’m at my studio office where I record and I never wear shoes anywhere. And I also have Mike Rogers in my gym. I work out barefoot. So as someone who is barefoot all the time, but then every now and then, once every once every year, once every, you know, a couple of times a year, I have to put on some dress shoes and like, go to an event.

Dean Pohlman: My feet hurt the next day, like I’m in pain.

Mark Sisson: You know, it’s amazing when you realize what you were putting your feet through it. Most people become immune to that sort of pain. It’s like they’re immune to the inflammation of of being, you know, overweight and carrying 20 extra pounds of water weight because they’re inflamed, they’re immune. It’s not painful to them. They just used to it. Well, your feet get used to that, except they get deformed.

Mark Sisson: So did you get a pair of the Napa’s the, the leather lace ups.

Dean Pohlman: Let me see here I got mine are the white ones and I have to because I got two different sizes. It says.

Mark Sisson: The Miami. You got the Miami Sea.

Dean Pohlman: I got the Miami. I think these ones look pretty cool.

Mark Sisson: Yeah, those are the strands. That’s the lace up strands. Those. Those are what we work out on. Those. I wore those today. Those exact ones today for my two and a half hour hike. And they’re very light as you can. As you can see, they’re really lightweight.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah. The the hardest part was putting them on because I never put them I kept getting my I kept I couldn’t get my my second or my, my, my second metatarsal. I couldn’t get that one through there. Kept going in to the the third one.

Mark Sisson: It’s the biggest issue people have. And until you know and by the way, it’s an indication that you need to use toe separators or need these kind of shoes because if you can’t just widen your toes out naturally, splay them out naturally without pulling them apart with your fingers, then you need to work on that toe articulation and that toe movement and foot health has become we’re saying foot health is the new sleep, right?

Mark Sisson: It’s the new people have have bypass. They’ve overlooked it for so many years. And you start to see it in in people complaining about, again, their lower back or their knees or their hips need replacing. I’ve got a whole new theory that many of the hip replacements are a result of thick cushioned shoes that at the time felt like they were cushioning the the running steps and the heel strike.

Mark Sisson: But all did was put all of the all of that stress up all the way into the hip. Right. So we’re we really feel confident that we’re going to revolutionize footwear. This like this is my mission with Primal Kitchen was to change the way the world eats. My mission with Paloma is to change the way the world walks.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah. And what is what’s pullover? What is where does that word come from?

Mark Sisson: Well, so I had I’ve had a lot of trademarks in my career based on primal. Right. My I feel like I, I revitalized the word primal 20 years ago, actually 30 years ago, because my first company was Primal Urge Press. Then I had Primal Fitness, that I had primal nutrition that I Primal Kitchen, Primal Fuel, Primal Health, Koch Institute.

Mark Sisson: And so I went to get Primal Footprint. And somebody had already gotten the rights to the word primal. And so any word combination of primal was kind of out out the window. So we had to make up a new word. So we put in a word generator and we played around with different languages. And it turns out that in Portuguese, the word for foot is pig, and the word for a glove is louver.

Mark Sisson: So it’s foot glove. Helluva, Okay.

Dean Pohlman: And I just I just assumed it was like somewhere nice in Hawaii, because I know you like to go to Hawaii.

Mark Sisson: And it could be. And it could be somewhere nice and Hawaii and it could be, you know, it’s got love, which is sort of love in it. It’s a fun word. We really like that. The choice that we made on that. And like I say, we’re getting a lot a lot of traction from everyone from from bodybuilders who are using it for leg days and doing all their work in the gym, too, and feel basically reporting back to they feel the muscles in their legs working more because of this haptic senses contact with the mat or with the power with the plate.

Mark Sisson: I’ve got ultra runners. Nobody’s I don’t want people to run in these yet. You got to be really well trained to run in a minimalist shoe. What I want you to do is wear them all day long for everything else you to do your errands, go to work, go to dinner, pick the kids up from school, go to the gym.

Mark Sisson: Then when it’s time to run, put on your running shoes. When it’s time to, play basketball, put on your basketball shoes will eventually get to developing those sorts of shoes. But right now, these are literally designed to train your feet all the hours that you’re not doing your sport, so that when you do your sport and it’s stressful, you’ve got you’ve got, you know, you’ve got the shoes that you get, you’ve trained in for the last 20 years.

Mark Sisson: Yeah. Biggest issue with the earlier versions of minimalist footwear was people read the book Born to Run, which said We should all be barefoot and they should all get to Barefoot Shoes. Now go run seven miles the first day. Yeah, well, these were people that had trained for 15 or 20 years to heel strike with their thick Nike’s or their thick, you know, hocus or whatever.

Mark Sisson: And then they get a shoe that has no very little heel cushioning and they’re trying to heel strike with it. So they and they haven’t learned how midfoot strike yet and land the way humans are supposed to run, which is on the you know, on the midfoot and the front of the foot. Yeah, not, not on the heel.

Mark Sisson: So yeah. Anyway.

Dean Pohlman: That’s something big that I notice when I’m using, you know, something with a like a running shoe on days when I don’t have to use them anymore now because I actually have some cushion on my, my shoes but on my, on my days after I wore minimal shoes all day, I would wear those shoes. And you notice you have a lot more leeway with striking on the heel.

Dean Pohlman: But when you’re wearing this barefoot shoes, you have to be very deliberate about using the midfoot and using the arch of your.

Mark Sisson: Foot when you’re running.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah, right. I mean, even when I’m walking, for me like, otherwise, am I okay, this this hurts my heel. I’m going to I’m going to use my toes and my, you know, my arches.

Mark Sisson: So we’ve designed a pelvis to walk long distances in urban, urban settings, like lots of pavement walking, because when you walk, you are supposed to heel strike. You know, you sort of walk through heel lands and then push off the big toe heel lands, push off the big toe, whereas running, you’re really not humans are really not supposed to be heel striking.

Mark Sisson: It’s just this technology and shoes. This started the seventies let people go from running 40 or 50 miles a week to running 100 or in my case, 120 miles a week some weeks because because the cushioning took you know, it’s felt like it was about six feet and contact with the ground that are wet should tell you when it’s time to stop running.

Mark Sisson: You know, I search.

Dean Pohlman: Your knees and your lower.

Mark Sisson: Back your knees and your lower back at you. It’s your feet that say, nope, that’s enough running for today. But when you bypass that information and then you can run twice as far, then it’s then it becomes more problematic for the knees, the hips, the lower back and and the heart. Because, you know, I have I have heart issues from all the miles I ran in the early days.

Mark Sisson: And I’m starting to think part of it was because I shouldn’t have run that many miles, but it was those damn cushions shoes that sort of allowed me to bypass the information where my feet should have said, Hey, Mark, time to stop running. That was a great week. But no, the cushioned shoes took that off to call it information away, caused other injuries and probably forced, you know, allowed my heart to work harder than it should have for longer than it should have.

Mark Sisson:

Dean Pohlman: So it’s kind of along those lines for people who haven’t done barefoot shoes before, what are some guidelines for them? Because if they just get these shoes and they’ve been wearing, you know, hookahs all day and they go straight into, you know, where I’m barefoot, they probably going to end up with some sore, achy feet. They’re probably not going to like like the shoes.

Mark Sisson: I mean, are you. Yeah, we just say take it easy. It’s a little insert, too. Comes a little letter for me. When you get the shoes, just be very, very cautious the first couple of days. Wear them for an hour or two, you know, make your toes fit. And that’s, you know, spend the time to get your toes into the individual toe.

Mark Sisson: But sockets. And at that point when you walk around, you’ll feel a lot of people say they feel amazing the first time out and then I mean we’re on a trip with a friend who, you know, who said it took him five or six days to get used to them. And now I can I can’t get them off his feet every what?

Mark Sisson: He’s not one who’s known to be hiking and he’s hiking with us and doing all kinds of stuff and loving it and seeing these are and he’s you know, he’s 70 years old. These are people who who were sort of relegated to having unhealthy, crappy food for the rest of our lives. But now they’re experiencing a new kind of total freedom, a new kind of of of foot range of motion and mobility that.

Mark Sisson: So I would say spend the time for a couple of days, you know, suspend any of disbelief, make sure they fit well and you’ll be you know, you’ll be hooked within a couple of days and you’ll you’ll wonder how you could ever put on a regular shoe again.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah, I do like them. I do like the lot. Big fan. Thanks for making them. And yeah, guys, I encourage you, especially if you had had toe issues or feet issues to try out, you know, a couple hours a day seem to help. Probably probably will. Part two. I’ve got I’ve got a few rapidfire questions here that I’m really interested to hear hear your responses for.

Dean Pohlman: Don’t think about them too much. These are questions that I answer ask at the end of every interview. So. Ready?

Mark Sisson: Yep.

Dean Pohlman: Okay. What do you think is the one habit belief or a mindset that has helped you? The most in terms of your overall happiness?

Mark Sisson: This too shall pass.

Dean Pohlman: This too shall pass.

Mark Sisson: You know what that means? It means that at any point in time when you are in the deepest hole and thinking there’s no way out, there is a way out and it will pass and you’ll look back on it as a growing experience, as a learning experience.

Dean Pohlman: My thought was you’re 15, 50 miles into a run and you still have 11 more to go. And you’re like, okay, it’s going to be over soon. Yeah. All right. What’s what’s one thing that you do for your health that you think is overlooked or undervalued by other people?

Mark Sisson: I’m going to I’m going to say walking in pelvis like I was I was a runner for years and I and I didn’t I looked down on walking, right. Because I was a runner. And so walking was like, now I don’t want to I try to, you know, find a way to not walk or jog to whatever it was.

Mark Sisson: I’m the biggest fan of walking now. And just because every time I put on these shoes, I feel like I want to walk. I literally I get a smile on my face every time I hit uneven pavement because it feels like I’m getting a massage on my foot. I can’t describe it. It’s just like so I’m the biggest fan of walking now.

Mark Sisson: And I think because of my age and the fact that I can’t really run the way I would like to or used to anymore, walking is going to carry me into the next two to decades.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah, I hear that because I think when I was in my twenties and going out for a walk, I felt kind of silly. I’m like 26. I should be able to go for a run right now. But there’s been a lot of a lot of promotion for running coming up, right? Kelly and Julia starts book came out recently and there’s a whole chapter on how we should how I think walking 12,000 steps a day minimizes your risk of death by 65% just like this.

Dean Pohlman: Insane numbers just from walking. Yup And my my personal coach who I mentioned before, he’s got t shirts that say make walking cool again.

Mark Sisson: So he’s no walking is that I don’t walk as much in Miami because I I’m doing I live in Miami Beach when I’m not traveling around the world and I have a bike and I ride the bike and I do stand up paddling and I don’t walk as much when I’m here. We do 200 miles a month of walking and I would say I will lose.

Mark Sisson: Unfortunately, I’ll probably lose £4 while I’m here. Even I’ll be lifting weights and eating great food because walking the amount that we do, it’s so I can feel my body just burning fat and ripping and, you know, getting striated. And it’s so it’s so invigorating. And I never thought I would say that about walking. But yeah, you know, hiking up and down hills and changing the terrain and having, you know, having your feet sort of understand what’s going on underneath and adjusting and adapting.

Mark Sisson: So, yeah, I just I’m a huge fan of walking now.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah. I mean you can’t go you can’t understate the benefit especially mental to I feel like when I’m walking my I had a three month I have a three month old now and we had a phase a weeks ago where she just did not like sleeping. So I was walking to two and a half hours a day, but I, I, it was great.

Dean Pohlman: I felt like really mentally because I’m like going on these walks as my brain process and things when I’m moving and and now I’ll go out and I’ll take my phone with me and I’ll just dictate kind of a note instead of sitting in my office brainstorming, I’ll go for a walk and do it instead. And it just it feels so much better.

Dean Pohlman: All right. We got really excited about walking there. Next question. What’s the most you’re going to have to say something other than walking for this. What’s the what’s the most important activity you regularly do for your overall stress management?

Mark Sisson: Yeah, let’s see. Well, if it’s not walking, it’s going to be stand up paddling. So I always paddle alone. I always get into into a rhythm, into his own when I’m paddling. The water has a very calming effect, soothing effect on me. I get to my best thinking done when I’m paddling and I’m stand paddling. I don’t do it, you know, every day.

Mark Sisson: But again, now that we’re here, there’s one of the greatest paddle places in the world. It’s Villefranche Bay. And I do three, three sessions a week here when we stay here for the summer.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah, it sounds amazing. What is the most stressful part of your day to day life?

Mark Sisson: The most stressful part. Like, I like to think that I don’t have what I would call a most stressful part. Yeah, I can’t identify one. Wow. Yeah.

Dean Pohlman: That’s great. That’s never had that answer before. Yeah Good for you. What do you think is the biggest challenge I’m going to say just for you, since we’ve been talking so much about physical, what do you think is the biggest nonphysical challenge facing men and their well-being right now?

Mark Sisson: Non physical challenge facing men and their well-being? Well, I mean, we could go into a whole diatribe on society and and this outrageous hue and cry against, quote, you know, toxic masculinity. But I think the biggest issue we face is that men need to reaffirm what it means to be masculine. Again, I feel like society is trying to take I think, you know, the society works really well in polarity, you know, male, female, black, white, positive minus charges.

Mark Sisson: It’s polarity. It makes the world go round and and maleness and femaleness is an integral part of that. And I think we we need to maintain that the maleness, the masculine part of maleness. And I feel like society’s trying to make men more feminine and women more masculine. And I think it’s just going to wind up at a at some horrible intersection there.

Mark Sisson: So I’m I’m really that men one of the greatest challenges that men have it’s not physical is in this world trying to be masculine and not be you know as holic about it and not be a jerk and not be, you know, all of the negative things. But but to reaffirm masculinity.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah, I think that’s a that’s a that is an issue that’s come up a lot on this idea too. So a podcast a few weeks ago on kind of the state of masculinity for 2023 and it’s you know, it’s kind of like you said, we are we’re, we’re looking at masculinity now and we’re instantly suspicious of anything that’s all men or anything that’s masculine because of the backlash against toxic masculinity.

Dean Pohlman: It’s this case of we are throwing out the good of masculinity when we’re addressing, you know, rightly so, bringing up some of the negative manifestations of it. But we’re also now like attacking all of it, right? So I agree with that. All right, Mark, how can people learn more about you? How can they learn more about Polyvore? What’s the best place to keep up with what you’re doing?

Mark Sisson: All right. So on Instagram, on the Gram, I’m Mark Sisson, primal and and then on Instagram, the shoe company is where Palu, the WTA ah palooza, that’s on the Instagram and then obviously Palu of a dot com is where you can look at the shoes and I hope that your listeners will try them. I think they’ll be very pleasantly surprised.

Mark Sisson: And then Mark Staley, Apple, where I’ve been writing and putting something up every day for 17 years now.

Dean Pohlman: So cool, fantastic Hey, can I, I didn’t ask this, but show this for the show. Can you get a can we have a promo code for for pelvis or do you do that?

Mark Sisson: Yeah, we do. Yeah. Okay. Do let’s do 15% off.

Dean Pohlman: Wonderful.

Mark Sisson: And promo code. So hit me up. Hit my team up. Me and my team after this. Go on email. But let’s just call it what do you want to call it? Man Flow man.

Dean Pohlman: For a yoga.

Mark Sisson: Man Flow. Yoga. Let’s do that.

Dean Pohlman: Okay, Do it. All right. Thank you. Because I think a lot of people will be interested in this. Cool. All right, Mark, this is a fantastic conversation, has so many more questions I want to ask you about longevity, about, you know, because you’ve been doing it so well for so long, so many other things, but think this is a fantastic conversation.

Dean Pohlman: Thank you for your time, for your expertise. I love what you’re doing. Thanks for inspiring me and appreciate it.

Mark Sisson: My pleasure. All right.

Dean Pohlman: I’ll talk to you soon. Bye.


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Tired of doing a form of yoga that causes more injuries than it helps prevent? The cold, hard truth is men need yoga specifically designed for them. Well, here’s some good news: You can start your 7-day free trial to Man Flow Yoga by visiting https://ManFlowYoga.com/join.

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