Primal Blueprint Fitness And Diet:
An Interview With Mark Sisson
- Part 2 -

BACK: Part 1
Primal Blueprint Fitness and Diet
An Interview
with Mark Sisson


Why don't you like 'chronic cardio'?


Chronic cardio is repetitive, boring, and soul-crushing. It is the very opposite of pleasurable, of playful. I know lots of weight lifters who genuinely enjoy the act of lifting weights. When they’re under that bar, they are alive. I’ve never actually known a marathoner who loved the act of running a marathon. They may have loved the finish, or the sense of accomplishment, but almost everyone hates their life at the 18 mile mark.

It’s also ineffective for what most people want out of it. It burns through muscle mass. It doesn’t really burn fat all that well. It promotes the release of stress hormones like cortisol while reducing testosterone. Running ten miles a day is a great way to get skinny-fat, with love handles, skinny arms, and a protruding belly.

Chronic cardio also gave me the types of health maladies I outlined in the first question, so there’s maybe a bit of bias.

I’m all for slow moving aerobic activity, but not plodding along heaping repetitive stress on your joints and wasting hours of your while burning through muscle and increasing belly fat. Walking and hiking are much more enjoyable and effective.


Isn't eating all of those dead animals bad for you? ;-)


Yes, all that dead animal flesh is rotting in my colon as we speak, emitting “toxins” and forming little pockets of cancer. Didn’t you know?

Seriously, though? Animal foods form the caloric backbone of a healthy, omnivorous hominid diet, and they have for hundreds of thousands and maybe even millions of years. Two millions years ago, Homo habilis, a direct ancestor of Homo sapiens, was cracking femurs and skulls to get at the marrow and brains. We’ve long held an obsession with animal fat and protein; it’s genetically hard-wired into us, and its energy and nutrient-density is most likely what allowed and prompted us to grow such big brains.

That’s why you’ll never find a traditional vegan culture. Hell, before a couple hundred years ago, you wouldn’t even hear of vegetarians. They simply didn’t exist as a formal concept. Even plant-based cultures will work exceedingly hard to procure animal products, fat, and protein, because they know how essential they are to health.


What role do carbohydrates play in your metabolism vs. dietary fat? (i.e. Why do you advocate a high-fat diet?)


What I - and many more of my readers - have found since shifting over to a fat-based diet is that whether I choose to eat carbs or not at any particular meal, my satiety is stronger. I don’t feel the urge to constantly eat. My energy is steady, with or without a meal. I’m no longer ruled by food, constrained by my total and ever-present lack of satiety. This is possibly my favorite part of eating more fat.

I treat carbohydrates as elective additions to my diet. If I’ve been exercising harder and/or more frequently than usual, I’ll eat more carbs than I normally do. Or sometimes I just want a sweet potato with butter and cinnamon, so I eat some, because they taste really good.


Should really active people and athletes be eating more carbohydrates?


Like I said, one should tailor their carb intake to their activity levels. If you’re a daily Crossfitter, or an elite endurance athlete, or someone who goes really hard in the gym every single day, then yes, you need more carbs than the average person. If you’re tapping into that glycolytic, carb-burning energy pathway when you train, you will need to replenish those glycogen reserves. You fail to do that while maintaining that high energy output and you’re going to increase cortisol. Exercise is a stressor, but a stressor that results in beneficial adaptations given adequate and proper fueling. If you stress your system and then fail to provide enough fuel to overcome that stress, the benefits will cease and overtraining will set in.

The problem is that most people aren’t depleting their liver or muscle glycogen through regular, intense exercise, yet they still feel the need to carb-load.


What are the major benefits of intense exercise (sprinting, weight lifting, etc.)?

Mark Sisson flexing and showing off his primal fitness.


Physiologically, they build and conserve lean mass while sacrificing fat mass. They improve bone density. They promote beneficial hormonal responses, like post-workout growth hormone and an optimal testosterone:cortisol ratio.

They’re also over rather quickly, which is important. You’re applying an intense, overpowering, acute stressor that taxes your body and forces adaptation. If you try to prolong such a stressor, it will cease to be intense, for in order to perform a given activity for longer amounts of time intensity must be reduced. If you’re someone who wants the most bang for your buck - like I am - heavy lifting and occasional all out sprints are the ticket. They’re also self-regulating; you literally can’t overtrain if you do things hard enough, if you do them right.


You have lots of photos and recipes of delicious, easily prepared Primal dishes on your blog. How do you make it so simple (and tasty) to eat healthy?


While I’ll occasionally devote an entire afternoon to putting together a big grandiose meal, the reality is that I prefer to cook and eat simple food. I don’t like my day to revolve around what I’m eating. I like what I’m eating to support my day - and that includes leaving me plenty of time to do the things I love to do.

Besides, when you’re starting out with high quality, simple, delicious ingredients - properly-raised animals, healthy plants, nutritious fats - everything else just sort of falls into place.

By the way, people can get hundreds of free Primal Blueprint recipes here:


I know you run a dietary supplement company that complements What role do you think supplements should play in a healthy diet (and lifestyle)?


In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need supplements. Soil would be well-nourished with ample minerals, bestowing high-nutrient density on both the plants that grow there and the animals (including us) that then eat the plants. Animals and seafood would be wild caught or raised in an environment approximating their natural habitat (like grass-fed beef), thus giving their meat and fat a better nutritional profile. Chronic stress, from work, traffic, money, and trying to keep up with the inanity of politics would all be absent. The air and water would be clean. We’d all be getting plenty of sun, instead of being cooped up inside during the day.

These things are obviously not true. We live in a very different world from the one in which the bulk of our evolution occurred, so to tip the balance back in our favor, we supplement. A well-constructed diet of properly-sourced animals and plants will get us most, if not all, of the way there, but I like to take the safe route and add a few supplements. And if you’re not getting clean fish or regular sunlight, a bit of fish oil and vitamin D caps will restore normalcy. It’s really about restoring normalcy, or at least the kind of normalcy our genes expect from our environment.

You can learn more about healthy supplementation at

BACK: Part 1
Primal Blueprint Diet and Fitness
An Interview
with Mark Sisson

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