[01:40] National Academy of Sports Medicine
[02:55] Fitlife Organifi Green Juice
[06:10] About Mark Sisson
[08:32] Mark’s Perfect Day
[23:09] Mark’s Triathlete Day
[24:59] How Endurance Athletes Can Get Fat While Training
[36:39] Hacking Your Environment When Training
[40:39] Maximum Sustained Power Training
[57:58] Why Mark Doesn’t Rely On HRV
[1:05:42] Quick Post-Show Message
[1:07:48] End of Podcast
Ben: Hey, folks. It’s Ben Greenfield. Welcome to today’s podcast episode with Mark Sisson, the guy who roams around California on a paddleboard doing feats of primal endurance. I want to tell you about today’s podcast sponsors. First of all, we’re brought to you by Audible. Now Audible is a place where you can, of course, go get smarter while you’re exercising, or cleaning the house, or bowling, or anything else that you like to do with earbuds in, and you can get a free 30-day trial over at audiblepodcast.com/Ben. Here’s the deal, there’s tons of books, but I’m going to recommend a few to you. So the two books that I really, really like that are actually bestsellers on Audible are by this guy named Christopher McDougall. He’s been on my show before. He wrote two books about running and endurance, and they’re incredible books. They’re inspirational, they talk about like super athletes, and one book called “Natural Born Heroes” is about this daring band of misfits, these parkour like super fighter athletes who defend this little Greek island of Crete against the Germans. It’s a really good book. Both his books are really good. You can get those, you could get my book, my book “Beyond Training”. Yeah. That’s on audible. Just sayin’. So anyways, any of those you can get for free if you go to audiblepodcast.com/Ben. You get a free 30-day trial. You’re welcome. They’re awesome. Audio books. They work on iPhones, iPad, Android, Windows Phone, you name it.
Okay. This podcast is also brought to you by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. They’re actually looking for people who want to become personal trainers. Maybe you’ve thought about perhaps standing there while an attractive person who you’re watching in spandex performs bicep curls. Or maybe you have a more honorable reason for being a personal trainer, like for example, helping give people better lives, helping them lose fat, helping them get healthier, maybe fulfilling your own aspirations to be involved in the fitness industry. Well guess what? With NASM, you can do it. Basically they guarantee you’ll land a job as a personal trainer within 60 days of getting their certification, or your money back. Guaranteed. So how can you become a National Academy of Sports Medicine trainer? Well, you go to myusatrainer.com. That’s a very ‘murica type of URL, myusatrainer.com. And you get a free 14-day trial of their online program. So myusatrainer.com, and you too can become a personal trainer. I think that’s pretty cool.
This podcast, finally, is brought to you by Fitlife. Fitlife makes a green juice powder and their green juice powder is, frankly, amazing. I put it in my smoothie every morning. I take a big ol’ tablespoon of it, I put it in there, even if I’m running low on like good vegetables, let’s say I open my refrigerator and all I have left, this happen sometimes, for my morning smoothie is like celery and maybe some white-ish cabbage, nothing like dark green, full of flavonols and polyphenols. I don’t have my kale, or my bok choy, or my spinach, or my cilantro. Well I can, rest assured, that when I drop a tablespoon of this dark, dark green vegetable powder with tons of superfoods in it, like ashwagandha, and coconut powder, and moringa, spirulina, all sorts of cool stuff, I put it in there, and all of a sudden, my smoothie is not that sick, light green color. It’s that dark green, healthy color that makes you feel amazing, and that leaves dark green stains on your lips that your wife tells you to remove with a wash cloth before you go out into public. I’m just saying. That might have happened. Anyways though, you can get your green juice from Organifi, tastes amazing by the way, when you go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/fitlife and you use discount code Ben. That gives you 20% off. bengreenfieldfitness.com/fitlife, discount code Ben gets you 20% off. So I’ve hooked you up with audiobooks, a personal trainer certification, some awesome green juice powder, and now I’m going to hook you up with Mark friggin’ Sisson. Enjoy the episode.
In this episode of The Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:
“If I’m training at a low level of aerobic output and a low heart rate, I almost de facto am getting most of my energy during that training session from fat, and that’s what I’m trying to do.” “And the only way to create the metabolic machinery is to reconfigure our diet so you don’t have as much to glucose coming in, and your body is forced to rely on fat.” “At that pace most people train which we call in that chronic cardio zone, that black hole, they’re still burning so much glycogen during every training session that the body has a tendency to want to go home and replenish that glycogen.”
Ben: Hey, folks. It’s Ben Greenfield, and my guest today is pretty much the de facto leader of the entire primal and paleo lifestyle movement. You have no doubt heard of him before, his name is Mark Sisson. And the reason that I have him on the show today is because he just wrote a fantastic book that I’m holding in my hands right now, it’s called “Primal Endurance: Escape Chronic Cardio And Carbohydrate Dependency, Become A Fat Burning Beast”. It’s even got a really nice photo of Mark. I believe Mark, in the photo on the cover, are you running up a sand dune? Is that what that is?
Mark: Yeah. That’s a great sand dune off of PCH, between Malibu and Oxnard.
Mark: You’ve probably ridden your bike past it.
Ben: I think I have seen this very sand dune. So, yeah. It looks great. The only thing that’s missing is like most photos I see of you, there’s a slack line, a frisbee, and you have your shirt off. And none of those…
Mark: I knew that was coming.
Ben: None of those are the case.
Mark: I knew that was coming, man.
Ben: This photo. So you decided not to go [censored] out on your book cover, huh?
Mark: Just one time.
Ben: Alright. Well, it’s a good book anyways. So for those of you listening in, this book goes into all sorts of things about how to go faster, how to lose excess body fat, reduce stress. It’s kind of like a lot of the advice that you might read over on Mark’s website, marksdailyapple.com, but he really delves into, especially the components of building endurance. So if you’re a triathlete, or a cyclist, or an obstacle racer, or anybody who needs to go for extended periods of time, this is really quite a perfect read for you. So, Mark, thanks for coming on the show, man.
Mark: Oh, it’s my pleasure! Thanks for having me.
Ben: So usually, I save this type of question for the end of the podcast when I ask people like what a day of eating, or what a day of training, or something like that looks for them, but I really like the way that you’ve set up your lifestyle. I think you’ve pretty much got it nailed and hearing about how your perfect day actually goes I think could be an inspiration to a lot of people. So before we jump into like the biochemistry, and ketogenesis, and mitochondrial density, and sustained power training, and all the crazy science, can you just go into what like a typical day looks like for you? Like a perfect day?
Mark: Yeah. So first of all, qualifiers here. Are we talking about a workday? Are we talking about like the perfect day of all time? You know what I mean?
Ben: Let’s talk about a work day.
Mark: Yeah, okay. Good. I was hoping that, ’cause otherwise we might get way way out of left field.
Ben: Otherwise, we’d be like unicorns, and rainbows, and porn stars, and who knows what else.
Mark: Alright, so you already described my perfect day. So never mind. Backing up from that, perfect work day. I get up around 6:30, I have a big cup of coffee with some cream in it. I don’t put butter in it. I just like the taste of coffee with a little bit of cream and a dabble of sugar. So sue me. And then I read the paper, I read two papers, LA Times and Wall Street Journal. I do all the puzzles in The Times. It’s part of my mental morning exercise and it’s very meditative for me. Then, on a perfect day, I’d check the weather, I’d probably go down the beach, and get on my paddle board, and maybe do an hour and a half, two hour paddle, hang out with the dolphins, catch a couple of waves. A lot of times, that’s done alone I don’t like to, I don’t mind paddling with other people, but I’m okay paddling alone. Get a great workout doing that, until you’ve done stand-up paddling, you don’t appreciate what an awesome full body workout it is.
Ben: Right. I got to get you up here, by the way, to do cold thermogenesis shiver stand-up paddling in the Spokane River in April or October.
Mark: I could imagine, ’cause I know in the river there’s a tendency, I mean I’ll go two hours in the ocean out here and step on, calf height, get my feet wet up to my calves, paddle for two hours, and step off, and never get wet. And I know in the river, you dunk quite a bit, right?
Ben: Yeah. You dunk, and it’s just cold.
Mark: Yeah. And then you get back up, and then you’ve got the wind and the cold water on you. So, yeah. Let’s do that someday. Meantime, back to my day. Then I’ll head down to the office. I have an awesome team of employees whom I manage. Each one has a specific task, so we might have an hour meeting, hour and a half meeting about plans for the coming days, weeks, and months. Might answer a few e-mails, might work on a blog post idea. Have my first meal of the day at around 12:30 or 1. Typically it’s some sort of a large salad, heretofore referred to as “Mark’s big [censored] salad”.
Ben: Big-ass salad. I like it. So you’ve done all this stuff all morning, and your first meal is not really taking place until lunch, aside from the copious amount of sugar that you put in your morning coffee.
Mark: Correct. So I work out fasted and I don’t eat after my workout for quite a while, usually an hour or two. And I find I maintain great energy doing that, clarity of thought, stave free from the mundane colds and flu. So it really works well for me.
Ben: I promise I won’t derail your perfect day too much and we’ll get back to it, but is there anything biochemical that goes on when you skip a meal like that after a workout that’s actually good? Aside from just the ability to be Spartan-esque?
Mark: Yeah. I mean, interesting as we go through this, what you and I both do, which is coach people on how to live an awesome life, that coaching is just basically presenting a series of options to our clients, or to our readers, or to our followers. Those options, they’re choices, they’re not necessarily good or bad, they’re not necessarily the right answer or the wrong answer, they’re just choices. And so one of the choices that we confront after a workout is if I just depleted a bunch of glycogen, do I want to take advantage of that 45 minute to one hour window of opportunity where the body tends to want to replenish glycogen at a very high rate, in which case I will choose to take in a post-workout meal that is a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein and maximize that, and that’s kind of the hack that the endurance community embraced for 40 years. And that works. And the reason you might choose to do that is because you’re planning on going out and doing it again tomorrow. That’s the reason to expeditiously restore glycogen.
Now the other alternative, the other choice, another choice might be to take advantage of the HGH, the growth hormone and testosterone pulse that happens as a result of a strenuous workout. Now not so much after a paddle, but certainly after a heavy lifting session, leg day, sprint session, or interval session. And in that case, you want the body to benefit from that pulse of growth hormone and testosterone because that’s what sort of helps your body repair itself to the point that it’s even stronger than before you went on that workout binge. Now, the two concepts are kind of mutually exclusive. In other words, if you take the carbohydrate replenishment, the glycogen replenishment route, you raise insulin enough that it blunts the testosterone and growth hormone response. So on the one hand, you’re accentuating the replenishment of glycogen so you could do it again tomorrow. On the other hand, you’re blunting the sort of the aspects of that workout that might enhance your performance better over a long haul.
So they’re just choices that you make, and one of the choices, one of the litmus tests I use is I don’t want to necessarily workout hard every day for the sake the working out hard every day. So I don’t feel the need to replenish glycogen and go glycolytic every single day. In fact, it’s counterproductive to what I want to do, and we talk about that a lot in the book. So I elect to maximize my fat burning through the rest of the day knowing full well that my glycogen stores will fill themselves up, albeit a little bit more slowly, but they’ll still replenish themselves over time. And if it takes two days, or even three days, that’s fine ’cause I hadn’t planned on going hard for another two or three days. Does that makes sense?
Ben: It makes perfect sense, and I’m really glad you brought that up about testosterone and growth hormone. First of all, because a lot of people really don’t realize that you do get an upregulation of those when you are a little bit fasted after a workout. But then the other thing is, and I don’t know if you’ve seen this research of about ad libitum fueling, but it’s actually as little as eight hours eating ad libitum before your glycogen stores fill up again. So, yeah. Unless you’re going to work out again later on that afternoon or something like that, it’s kind of a moot point to hit that magical window and go and suck down your maltodextrin whey protein blend. So…
Mark: Exactly. And by the way, I was one of the guys that sort of launched that concept 30 years ago. I created a product called “Carbo-Concentrate” which was intended to quickly replenish your glycogen stores. And then years later, I developed a product for Beach Body that was fully intended to allow you to do [0:15:33] ______ one day and then come back and do it hard again the next day. So there’s a method to those madnesses, but that’s not my life these days.
Ben: Yeah. Plus you may burn in hell now for giving a bunch of athletes diabetes from carbohydrate concentrates.
Mark: Exactly. I mean, it’s…
Ben: I wouldn’t readily admit that.
Mark: Little tongue in cheek there, but some amount of truth to that. Yeah.
Ben: Okay. So anyways, your perfect day. You’ve got your paddle board, and then your fast, you’re big ass salad.
Mark: My big ass salad, which has a lot of vegetables, colorful vegetables on it, and I recently, here’s the shameless plug, I recently introduced a line of food products called Primal Kitchen. And my two salad dressings, it just came out about a month ago, Greek vinaigrette, which has oregano oil in it as a primary flavoring agent, and honey mustard vinaigrette. So I’ll use one of those on the salad, and then I’ll have maybe a lamb burger, and I’ll use my new chipotle lime mayonnaise, which is the only mayonnaise made with avocado oil, and flavored with chipotle and limes with spicy, and that gets me not only probably my favorite meat which is lamb, but my favorite healthy fat, which is avocado, and some of my favorite flavorings. So that’s like my ideal lunch. Then it’s back to work, and I’ll hit my desk, and then I start to write, I might work on a blog post, or finish a blog post that’s in process, or contact my researchers, ’cause I have researchers now, I don’t do this in a vacuum and all alone. I have a lot of research staff now. So we’ll gather together the necessary components for whatever upcoming post is due.
Ben: And Mark, how do you write in terms of like your work station? Are you one of those guys who sits on the floor, are you consciously altering your position, are you a treadmill workstation guy? What do you do?
Mark: No, no. So I have a Focal Upright desk. I think the single greatest piece of furniture ever invented.
Ben: Yeah! We just did an interview with their CEO about their products.
Mark: [0:17:32] _______.
Mark: Yeah. Martin’s a great guy. So I have the upright desk, I have the sitting station, which is basically a tractor seat with a leaning post, so even when I’m not fully standing, which I do much of the time, when I lean into it, I’ve still got a 90% open hip as opposed to sitting in a chair. So I literally never sit in a chair to write anything. I’m always writing either standing up or easily leaning into the post, which is part of the design of the Focal Upright furniture. And then how I write mentally is most the time that I’m on the board paddling is when I’m crafting the next blog post, or I’m thinking about some idea that hadn’t been researched yet and some new point of view on that. So a lot of my creative time starts with either the work out, either like I say a paddle session, or a hike in in the mountains, or something like that. Very important to me in terms of my creativity to have those amounts of alone time.
Ben: Yeah. Absolutely. The only time that sucks is if your exercise of choice is swimming, in which case you have nothing to write down or record with. And I found that to be the one frustrating element of swimming is your mind goes nuts, and someone has to invent like a waterproof pen and pad for swimmers.
Mark: Oh, yeah. And then you have the greatest idea in the world, in the history of the world while you’re swimming. And then when you get back and you can’t remember it, you go, “How the hell can I not remember that? That was the greatest idea in the history of the world.”
Ben: Or you think about remembering it the whole time and lose track of laps, and form, and everything else.
Mark: Which is always my biggest issue with swimming.
Mark: “How many times did I say 15?”
Mark: So, anyway. Yeah. So then, afternoon is a work session. Typically when the sun is out, and that’s most the time in Southern California, I take a break maybe around 2, I go into my unheated pool and take a cold plunge, a dip. Now in the summertime, it’s 72 degrees, but in the winter it gets down to the mid-40s. So it’s rather brisk. I will then air dry in the sun for maybe 10, or 15, 20 minutes, and I get a real, it’s almost drug-like euphoria. Not that I would know, but it’s what I perceive to be a drug-like euphoria.
Ben: The way you would imagine it to be.
Mark: But I would imagine it to be, how I’ve seen it explained. But it’s another like nice little part of my day that adds some excitement, a hormetic experience, recharges the battery, gets me some vitamin D, and allows me, once again, to sort of get back to thinking. I have a slack line in the backyard. I might take a few minutes on the slack line just to work on some movement. Go back to the desk, finish up writing, maybe do some e-mails, maybe do some research. The best and worst things about the internet are the rabbit holes that the scientific research can take you down in terms of links to this and links to that. And oh my God, there’s so much information here, how much of it is real and how much of it do I have to sift through to get to the reality. If for a snack, afternoon snack, I might have a handful of macadamia nuts, which I really like.
And then I’ll usually wrap it up around 6:30 or 7, and then I have dinner, and dinner is often a nice piece of grass-fed steak, or some kind of fish, and grow vegetables. It used to be a glass of wine. I’ve stopped drinking wine for the most part, although I’ve discovered some new Paleo wines that have changed my perspective once again, maybe finish off with a piece of chocolate, and then, unlike a lot of people who are living this sort of hunter-gatherer, full-on, all-in, full primal experience, I watch a little TV. I think there are some pretty cool things on TV these days, so my wife and I might chill in front of the set for an hour or two. I might finish up by reading a little bit. And then our nightly ritual right now is back to the pool, we have a pool outside, we have a jacuzzi outside. So around 10 or 10:30, I’ll take a dip into the pool, walk straight into the pool. Recently, it’s California, so it does get chilly a little bit in winter time. The pool’s down to 49 right now and the air temperature was in the low 50s, high 40s with the wind chill the other night, I walk out in the pool, stay in for as long as I can, which sometimes is at that temperature is probably a minute and a half, max two minutes, and then I get in the jacuzzi and hang out with my wife for 20 minutes, download the day’s activities. It’s a great kind of quiet time under the stars, we turn off all lights in the house, all the lights around us so it’s completely pitch black. And the stars are up, so it’s very primal and awesome. And then we go to bed, and my perfect day does finish with some nookie too. So that’s my perfect day, Ben.
Ben: Dude, sounds like a pretty perfect day. And what a lot of people may not realize is that probably stands in stark contrast to the way that you were living your life like however many years ago. What are you? 38, 39 years old now? So maybe…
Mark: Yeah. It’s 62.
Ben: Yeah. You were a professional triathlete. You were a professional triathlete. Can you describe your days as a professional triathlete in terms of, just basically give us an idea of where you were at in the triathlon world for people who don’t realize that you were actually involved in that world pretty intensively.
Mark: Right. So I was a pro before you made any money being a pro. So you had to have a job, and that made it really tough. I was a contractor in those days. So I’d get up in the morning, I would hit the pool at 5:30 or 6 AM, come home, do a master’s program, come home, work as a contractor doing heavy labor for eight hours, get home around 4, 4:30, run 20 miles or ride 60, come home at night after that, have a couple of beers, and basically go to bed early. Never went out, I didn’t have a family, didn’t have a wife or children. Really couldn’t keep a girlfriend on that schedule because Saturdays and Sundays were all about all day long training. So get up Saturday morning, do a brick. The original brick, as I defined it, was a hundred mile ride followed by a 10 mile run. That was on Saturday. So Sunday, you just kind of slept all day. And it was a tough, tough life. Basically eat, sleep, and train is what it was. And then of course if you were a true pro back in the 90’s, that was all you did, ’cause you trained even harder, but I used my work as a contractor, my actual physical labor, I was monkeying up and down ladders all day, so there was an element, there was a component of training to that that did benefit me when I got to races.
Ben: Right, right. And that kind of leads into the first question I want to ask you, ’cause you know me, I like to get into the nitty gritty science, and you certainly do in the book. So you were a professional endurance athlete, and one of the things you talk about is how endurance athletes can actually get fat from training for things like triathlons or marathons. What’s the actual mechanism behind that? How’s that happening?
Mark: Yeah. So at that very, very elite level, you don’t see that because, first of all, those people are self-selected genetically. They’re already genetic freaks to be able to handle a huge workload and not get injured. They’re already genetically selected with high VO2-max potential, so they can go hard. So they can burn, and have historically burned a lot of carbohydrates and not have the excess carbs that they take in, put on body fat. When I was a marathoner back in the 70’s, which was my first real sport running a hundred miles a week, I weighed 30 pounds less than I weight now, and I ate a thousand grams of carbs a day, and couldn’t put any weight on. So there is that elite level. Now you drop down to the age group level and to the citizen level where you see people lining up at the start of some triathlons, and you wonder, god, your training, you’re riding 120, 170 miles a week, you’re running 20 to 40 miles a week, you’re in the pool swimming, how do you still have 12 extra, or 15 extra pounds of flab on your belly? Or how do you still have the big thighs? How does that happen?
Well it happens because people are training, they’re basically practicing to hurt, okay? That’s what training seems to have come down to over the past several decades. They’re training at a pace that’s high enough that it hurts and that they are feeling like they’re mentally preparing for a challenge. So they’re practicing competing, or riding the bike, or running at whatever pace it is at what amounts to close to race pace, but at that pace that most people train, which we call in that chronic cardio zone, that black hole, they’re still burning so much glycogen during every training session that the body has a tendency to want to go home and replenish that glycogen by consuming crap loads of carbohydrates. That’s that ad libitum post-workout eating cycle. And over time, if you’re not one of the elite and if you can’t get away with it because of your genetic luck, you tend to overeat carbs, and you do it because you think carbohydrate loading is the way to train and if I’m going to train every day, then I got to replenish my carbs just like we talked about at the opening of the show.
And it’s this vicious cycle of taking in high carb, and a lot of times these are very sugary drinks that wreak havoc on your insulin system and other hormones, and you tend to over consume the carbs, which then creates an excess of insulin, which is basically a fat storage hormone among other things. And so you store fat in fat cells, and because you’re taking in so many carbs and you haven’t learned how to burn fat effectively yet, you haven’t become efficient at burning fat, you still rely so much on the carbs that you tend to gain weight over time as opposed to drop the weight. The only way to drop that way is to become good at burning fat, and the only way to become good at burning fat is to create the metabolic machinery to want to take fat out of storage and burn it. And the only way to create the metabolic machinery is to reconfigure your diet so you don’t have as much glucose coming in and your body is forced to rely on fat. And that’s the essence of the dietary strategy that we talk about in the Primal Endurance book.
Ben: Interesting. So it’s not necessarily the fact that endurance training makes you fat, but it’s the actual zone at which you train, the intensity at which you train which exhausts your glycogen levels and stimulates your appetite so that when you finish, you actually have a desire to eat more carbohydrates, and that could all be dependent on like the heart rate zone at which you choose to go out and run, or bike, or swim.
Mark: Exactly. And that gets us into the main point of the first part of the book, which is to take a look at the training you’ve been doing. And we almost say it jokingly, but there’s tremendous amount of truth in that. You get faster by training slower. And how that works is I talked about, initially so many athletes, when they’re embarking on a training strategy to do a triathlon, they’re practicing hurting, they’re sort of almost redlining themselves, they’re in a zone between 70 to 85% of their heart rate max for hours at a time because that’s what they think they’re going to be in in a race, or maybe even slightly higher. And so they’re practicing to hurt and they’re not learning how to burn fat. If they’re not learning how to burn fat and they’re still chewing up their carbs, they’re no more efficient through all the training they’re doing. The only way you become efficient as an athlete is to extract more energy from fat at a higher, and higher, and higher rate of output, at a faster and faster pace.
Ben: Right. And you’re not talking biomechanical efficiency, you’re talking about like biochemical efficiency.
Mark: Correct. Biochemical efficiency. I mean ultimately, we run out of fuel in these races. And a lot of times, we run out of, if you’ve read the all, and I know you have, all of the biochemistry from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s which had to do with carbohydrate and glycogen management, they would always tell you once your glycogen stores are gone, once your muscles have been depleted of glycogen, you hit the wall, you bonk, the race is over. Well, muscles only hold 500 grams total of glycogen in a well-trained athlete, and of that, only about 350 of those grams are actually available in the race because the body wants to hold on to the remaining 150 for survival purposes. So you run through the glycogen pretty quickly, and that’s where Gatorade came on the scene in the 60’s, that’s where all the gels and goo packs, that’s where I came on the scene with a carbo concentrate, that’s where all these mechanisms by which you could take in more carbohydrate during a race and have it be relatively easily digestible so it could get from your gut into your bloodstream quickly, that was all designed to stave off that moment at which your glycogen was depleted. It was to provide exogenous glucose so you didn’t have to tap into your stored glucose, and deplete it, and then hit the wall.
So all that stuff was sort of predicated on that ability to manage glycogen, but it had nothing to do with your efficiency, which meant if I could reconfigure how much energy I get from different fuels, and save glycogen, and spare glycogen throughout the entire race, then I’m going to finish better than my competitor. And when you realize the body, even on a low body fat guy, you’ve got enough fat stored to go 400 miles. So it’s not about, you’re always going to have enough body fat, but if you could learn how to access that body fat and burn it efficiently in a way that, maybe the first time you start out, and because we talk about the heart rate, we talk about 180 minus your age being a good metric for a maximum heart rate for your aerobic training. And a lot of people say, “Dude, I’ve never run that slow,” or “I’ve never trained that slow.”
I’m 62 now so my theoretical max heart rate for high-end training is 118. Not for high-end training, for aerobic training is 118. Well, that’s pretty slow until I’ve done it enough that I’m actually going faster and faster at that same heart rate because I’m becoming more and more efficient at burning fat. If I exceed that heart rate, I’m no longer really getting most of my energy from fat, I’m back into getting it from carbohydrate and I’m negating all of the gains that I got otherwise. So if I’m training at a low level of aerobic output and a low heart rate, I almost de facto am getting most of my energy during that training session from fat, and that’s what I’m trying to do. So I’m trying to become more and more efficient at burning fat at higher and higher speeds.
Ben: Now do you have to exercise, ’cause this is one of the things that I get asked about a lot and I’m curious to hear your opinion on it, when you are training for endurance and you’ve made the decision to do the majority of your training at that low intensity heart rate, like the aerobic or the Maffetone, or the Lydiard heart rate, whatever you want to call it, that heart rate that isn’t up in that kind of like black hole training zone that you described, do you not have to exercise for very long periods of time in that zone to build any appreciable amount of endurance?
Mark: Yeah, so that’s one of the artifacts of that. Now what does that look like? Because when you say training, I could say when I do a hike with my dog for an hour and a half, I’m getting a training effect that applies directly to my desire to compete in a triathlon or a marathon. When I’m paddling for two hours at a heart rate of 110 to 118 beats a minute for two hours, I get a direct training effect throughout my body that is improving my efficiency. And then clearly if I’m actually doing, if I’m going to be competing in one of these events, I certainly want to spend some time doing the actual activity. So there’s going to be some running in there, or some cycling, but it doesn’t have to be even five days a week. It can be two or three days a week. We say make your long workouts longer and slower and make your short workouts shorter and harder. That’s basically the kind of mantra here.
So, yeah. But my part-time CEO right now, he’s been following me for a long time, he’s a lifetime cyclist, loves cycling, he’s 55 years old, he just on a whim, he said, “Well, I better read your book, Mark, ’cause I’m working with you, and he started doing it with his cycling group and he goes, “It’s unbelievable.” He said, “Now I got all the guys in my bike group are doing what I’m doing. We’re going out for four, five hours on a Saturday, whereas we used to do a hard hammer two hour right, we’re doing four, five hours, but we’re coming back not beat up, and having had a great time, and knowing that we’re killin’ it because we’re actually seeing the improvements.” And it’s not like these guys are doing it every day. They’re doing their one long ride a week and a couple of catch up rides, or one long ride on the weekends and then a catch up ride or two during the week. And then whatever else they do, whether it’s, again, hiking, spending time with easy swimming, playing a game of easy soccer with the kids, whatever, all these things do contribute to your overall fitness.
Ben: Yeah. And tell me what you think about this, Mark. Because this is something that I try to practice in my own life, ’cause I have limited amounts of time to exercise but I also don’t want to do that black hole-style training to prepare me for these events I’m going, I’ve got a 60-hour event next week. And so for me, I try to hack my environment. What I mean by that is I just stay on my feet all day long. So I use the walking treadmill workstation, and I use a standing mat, and I’ll stop about every hour and do some body weight squats and some jumping jacks, and my theory is that I’m simulating what I would normally be simulating if I were going out and doing like the Kenyan marathoner approach of just like a two hour super-duper easy run each day. Do you think that process of hacking your environment is at all effective, or is there just not enough sports specificity involved?
Mark: No, no, no. It’s totally, I mean every employee at my office has a stand-up desk and a tred desk, a treadmill. They ask for it, and I provided it. So some of my employees put in eight miles of easy walking during the day. Just as you said, just walking around during the day instead of sitting has some neural, physiological, biomechanical impact on the body that prepares you for the 60-hour event coming up. The Kung Bushmen who famously are on the videos tracking the kudzu in Africa, they’re not training every day. Their life prepares them for this. So the fact they go out on a hunt once every seven or eight days, that’s all they need to do, combined with their regular daily routine which is orchestrated to improve their fitness just of necessity, ’cause they don’t have chairs to sit in and they don’t have sofas to do, they’re not sitting on a desk doing work, they’re either standing or squatting all day long, or moving. All that stuff prepares you for that event. You have your 60-hour event coming up, what is it? A running event, or a combination, or…?
Ben: It’s one of Joe De Sena’s crazy harebrained ideas, Death Race…
Mark: Yeah, yeah. But I mean you know how to do all the activities, right? It’s not like you need to practice doing activities. You just need to have a body that’s physiologically prepared to do that, and how you know that is by, look, unless you’re going to go to win it, which I don’t suppose that you are, but maybe you are, but if you’re a pro doing it, you’re going to train hard, then we could talk about the other tweaks. But if you’re just going to go to have a good time, to do well, and one of the metrics I use is if I can kick the ass of 80% of the people who are training harder than me thinking this is their big goal for the year, then my style is not only more effective, but more fun. I’m enjoying life more while they’re agonizing over the missed work out, or they’re taking a nap in the middle of the day because they overtrained the day before, whatever. I don’t I want to live my life that way. And the reason for Primal Endurance, the book itself, was for the last 10 or 15 years, I’ve sort of taken back, I’ve reevaluated my career as an endurance athlete. I said, “Well, you know, endurance training isn’t really that healthy for you. It’s not that good. It’s really not a longevity strategy for a lot of people.”
But if you want to do it, I would not take back any of my years of racing. I derived a lot from it. So if you want to do it, let me show you how to do it in a way that is going to build you up, and make you stronger, and have you living longer, as opposed to the old way of training, which was tearing you down, shortening your career, possibly putting you at risk for degenerative diseases because of the diet and the way you chose to live. So this is the technology of just the last 5 or 10 years that has come into play that we’re instituting in this book that allows you to take on a training strategy that does improve endurance, that does give you more of an enjoyment of life, that takes less time, that involves less struggling and suffering that involves a much better, cleaner diet that also tastes better for most people. So all of the elements come together to give you everything that you want. It’s like it’s all possible.
Ben: Yeah. I want talk about diet and ketones here in a minute. Oh, and by the way, I am going to win this event. So how dare you come on my own show and insult me. Of course I’ll win.
Mark: My bad.
Ben: Anyways though, I want to talk about strength training. You actually introduce a very unique style of strength training. I found this personally, just because I’ve done so much study on nutrition and aerobic training myself, but found this particular section of your book to be fascinating in which you talk about something called “maximum sustained power training”, which is a form of strength training I actually am not too familiar with myself. So can you go into to what that is and how it works, maximum sustained power training?
Mark: Sure. So when we’re talking about competing in endurance contest, we have the ability to extract energy from the muscle cells and so that they will fire in a way that keeps us going. But we can’t overlook the fact that we need to maintain power, whether it’s the legs that are driving the pedals to put you up over the six mile climb at a 12 to 14% grade, or whether it’s just a flat out, all out marathon, there’s power involved and the muscles have to generate power based on some prior experience. So what happens with most runners and a lot of cyclists is over the years, all you do is you spin the pedals or you run the miles, and even if you’re doing hills, you’re not generating a lot of force, you’re not generating a lot of power, you’re just doing like, we would say it’s like doing 10,000 repetitions of six pounds or something, or 10,000 repetitions of whatever. So it’s a high rep, low weight activity. But you still haven’t built any power.
Now what happens at the end of a lot of races is the reason you lose, or that your speed starts to slow down as you lose power. And when you lose power, you lose form, and when you lose form, your breathing screws up, and literally the wheels fall off. So the big challenge for a lot of endurance athletes is how do I sustain power throughout my event. How am I able to go up the first hill on a bike race, the first of three hills at 100% of my power, and then go up the second hill at 100% of my power, and go up the third hill at maybe 95% of my power versus the old days when I do 100% on the first hill, 80% on the second hill, and then I paper boy up with the last hill at 60%? Well, all of this stuff, you have to train the fibers, the muscle fibers deeper, and deeper, and deeper, and you do that in the gym with very specific work. It could be deadlifts, it could be weighted squats, it could be a number of other sport specific activities.
The idea maximum sustained power came from my friend Jacques Devore. Now Jacques and I have known each other for about 30 years, and he’s a very smart trainer, he trains Olympic athletes now, he trains elites and pros at his gym in West LA using this maximum sustained power concept, and he’s had a tremendous amount of success at it. Like the first real success we had was with Dave Zabriskie, the cyclist who, at the tail end of his career, kind of tagged for having been involved on doping movement so he had to serve suspension of six months. And as a result of that suspension, he basically came to us and said, “Knowing that now everybody is going to have to compete clean, how do I get my 34 year old, 33, 34 year old body in the shape it needs to be to be competitive on the circuit?” And so we started working with him, and he got tremendous results.
Ben: Interesting. So he got tremendous results and he was incorporating a lot of these things you talked about in the book like ketosis, and low-level aerobic training combined with high intensity interval training in this maximum sustained power training stuff that you’re explaining?
Mark: Absolutely. He was all in. He was all in with this stuff.
Mark: And the unfortunate, what happens in cycling is there are things called crashes that take you out of the race. But he went into the season out climbing his partner Christian Vande Velde who was actually a climber, they’d never out climbed him in the decade that they’ve been training together. He was holding 6 watts per kilogram for long periods of time, which is sort of the metric that a lot of the cyclists use as an absolute measure of power. So he was ready to have his best season ever, and then just before the time trial, which is his event in the Tour de California, he crashed. So we lost the season. That is what it is. But the point is Jacques came into this years ago as he was getting older. He’d always been a big fan of weightlifting for endurance athletes, but he found that he was getting injured because he was trying to do the heavy stuff, and he knew that doing multiple repetitions of the lightweight just wasn’t increasing his power at all.
So he developed this method in which you would find your one-rep max on any of these exercises, again, a deadlift, a squat, some weighted jumps, whatever it’s going to be. You find your one-rep max, and then you dial that back to 80%, and then you’d start doing a couple of reps. So you do a couple of reps, wait a little bit until you’ve felt recovered enough to do a couple more reps, wait a little bit until you’ve felt good enough to do a couple more reps, and you’d start doing this, he found that over the first couple of sessions, you might be able to do this for a couple of minutes and then have to stop. But with Zabriskie, he found that at some point over the course of training him that Dave could do 80% of his max on a squat twice every 10 seconds for eight minutes, and that’s true sustained power. Now that power’s one component of a large synergistic collection of different elements that comprise a race, right? You have to have the fuel partitioning dialed in to be able to fuel the kind of speed but you also have to have the sustained power to be able to maintain that power over time and not lose form.
Ben: And he didn’t have any issues doing something like this maximum sustained power training even doing like ketosis and a low carbohydrate approach?
Mark: Dave didn’t do as much ketosis as we would have some people do. So Dave was on the low carb strategy, and he got good at burning fat for sure, but Dave didn’t spend a lot of time in the ketosis phase. That’s something we talk about in the book. You don’t have to go all in with ketosis to derive these benefits. Ketosis just becomes one other component that allows you to access or tap into another level of brain function that allows you to sustain power and keep going. We could talk about Tim Noakes’ the central governor theory of the brain, which suggests that after all the talk, all the years about the fact that it may be that when your legs run out of glycogen, that’s when you hit the wall, Noakes postulated that that’s not true at all. It’s when your brain runs out of glucose that it kicks into this survival mechanism that tells you to pull over to the side of the road, slow down, and take a nap. Noakes’ central governor theory of the brain said that if you can’t fuel the brain, then you can’t fuel the body, regardless of how good you are at burning fat, or regardless of how good you are at these other things.
So with ketosis, when you become good at burning fat, and you become good at accessing the stored body fat, and you build the metabolic machinery, you increase the mitochondria, for instance, to burn fats more effectively. You also start to become keto adapted, and you start to become better at using the ketones that are a byproduct of this fat metabolism. And one of the cool things about ketones is that the brain loves ketones for fuel. So if you can unburden the brain of having to get a regular supply of glucose all during the race, and maybe drop the glucose requirement way down, and then fulfill that requirement with ketones that you’re producing as a result of your being good at burning fat, then the brain is able to fuel itself enough to say, “I’m doing fine. I don’t need to pull over the side of the road. I don’t care that there’s only 150 grams of glycogen left over the muscles because we’re burning fat, we’re burning ketones. Life is wonderful. Let’s keep this pace.”
Ben: Yeah. Yeah. That’s what I experience when I did two Ironman triathlons during about a year of very strict ketosis, and that was one of the biggest things that I found was five, six hours with almost no fuel, and my concentration and focus would actually increase as things progressed, and not decrease. So it’s super-duper useful stuff. Now one quick thing before we leave maximum sustained power training, and I want to ask you a few more things about ketones. So the idea behind it is you basically choose a series of exercises, and you’re doing a certain percentage of your one-rep max, and you’re simply lifting that weight without decreasing the weight at all until your power goes out the window, and you can’t move that particular way anymore, and then sets over, and you go home?
Mark: Bingo! It’s a beautiful thing. And it’s so finite. The old method, well, one of the old methods of lifting in the gym was you do a little warm up set, and then you maybe do three sets of whatever, but if you’re doing them the way the workout calls for, you have to strip the weights off a little bit to where you’re doing three sets of, say, 120, and then you’re doing three sets of 110, and then you’re doing three sets of 90 to finish because you can’t sustain the power of the original set of 10 that you did at 120. So the maximum sustained power, one of the caveats is, yeah, once you can’t do one more good, clean rep with excellent form without breaking down, that’s the end of the work out. You’ve done all the work that you need to do to create, to upregulate the gene expression in the body to adapt, to allow you to do it even better the next time you do it.
It’s such a finite and perfect metric for, and over time, you look at, well I did, again, looking at this one thing, I did two reps every 10 seconds for two minutes, and then I did it for two and a half minutes, and then I did it for three. And over time, you see the improvement. It’s right there. That’s clearly sustained power. There’s no arguing what that is or isn’t it, and it’s so perfect in essence. And how it applies to your ability to drive the pedals in a hard gear, or how it applies to your ability to sustain 620 miles in a marathon, or whatever it is you’re looking at doing, and it even works with swimming as well. There are certain, lat pulls and things you can do with swimming.
Ben: It reminds me a lot of the recent squat battle. I don’t know if you saw on YouTube, they had a squat battle between like a power lifter, a strongman athlete, and one of the guys was a cyclist, and the cyclists actually did pretty well. He was like a track cyclists, a guy who is pretty ripped, but it was actually quite entertaining to see how long these guys could go at a certain percentage of their one RM. But basically, I could go in my gym here, load up the bar for a back squat, go at, say, 200 pounds, and just basically do sets of three, for example, until I can no longer execute a good set of three, and then that’s it. And I don’t decrease weight, I don’t strip weight, it’s just set’s over, walk out of the gym.
Mark: By the way, it’s not only three. Start out with three, and then when it gets down to two, you do a two. And then when it gets down to one, you do a one. Until you can’t do the…
Ben: So you can decrease reps, just not weight?
Ben: It reminds me a lot of the, have you seen Air X Trainers? The efficient exercise machines?
Ben: Yeah. Very much like that, except a little bit less electronic version of that that probably doesn’t require a $10,000 efficient exercise machine.
Mark: Yeah. The other thing with the efficient exercise, I love those guys. Like Keith’s a great friend, but you do have to warm up on those, and you do have to be very careful on those. That’s really, I don’t know. You just have to know how to use that. This is somewhat different from that. They’re probably trying to achieve the same thing, but we’re talking for, again, we’re literally being able to sustain the power over a significant amount of time. Eventually it becomes minutes versus a brief two minute session on a piece of equipment that’s loading you up, basically working against your own willingness to work against it.
Ben: Right. Now speaking of stress in the body out that way, one of the things you mention the book is that athletes who are in a state of ketosis, or following like a lower carbohydrate intake exercise protocol, tend to recover faster from training. How is that? How does that actually happen? I think a lot of people would think that recovery would be delayed because you’re not refilling glycogen stores as quickly as possible or something like that.
Mark: Right. Well, when you exercise at length, you get delayed onset muscle soreness, which is the one metric of recovery. Certainly the ability to repeat the performance again over time is another metric of recovery. And when you’re burning purely carbohydrate within the mitochondria and in the cytosol, it’s a messier undertaking than fats and ketones. So there is more oxidative damage, there’s more oxidative fallout, shall we say, free radical fallout from being a sugar burner than being a fat and ketone burner. And it’s the free radical damage that ultimately wreaks havoc on the athlete’s body. When a free radical is created, it’s a molecule that then goes around scavenging its missing electrons, so it wants to go steal an electron from something else, and sometimes it’s the cell wall of an otherwise structurally integrous cell wall, or maybe it’s from an organelle or something, but this free radical damage takes place at a larger degree when you are revving at a high rate and burning sugar versus burning fat and ketones.
Now the body produces its own endogenous antioxidant system to mop up or sop up some of that damage, that would be the glutathione and superoxide dismutase and catalase. But in a lot of cases, you don’t have enough. If you’ve been working that hard that long and putting that amount of glucose through the system, and it’s creating, it’s like an old coal burning furnace and creating a lot of smoke and debris, the body has to work hard to clean it up. And if it doesn’t, if it doesn’t clean it up, it manifests itself in soreness, in scarring, in sometimes damaged DNA. I mean there’s a lot of things that that can go wrong here. So the idea is if you can craft a clean burning engine by creating more mitochondria, this what we call mitochondrial biogenesis, it’s literally your body’s response to being good at burning fat is to say, “Well if we’re going to burn fat most of the time, let’s build more of these fat burning machinery.” And that’s the mitochondria.
And ironically, not ironically but coincidentally, the mitochondria had their own DNA. Unique to any other organelle in the body, the mitochondria have what we call mitochondrial DNA that goes back to, who knows, a billion years ago or more. And that mitochondrial DNA, that also gets the signal, the epigenetic signal that it has to become more effective at what it does. So you not only have more mitochondria, you have more effective mitochondria, which then make the throughput of fat so much easier. The substrate material doesn’t get backed up at the front door, and then put through in a hurried fashion that can’t keep up with the clean-up crew on the backside.
Ben: Yeah. Just takes a long time to build. I think a lot of people look for that to happen within two weeks or three weeks, but I found it took a good year and a half to really truly get to the point where you could go for long periods of time and feel like you recover faster. And I know a big part of that, have you ever done genetic testing, Mark? Like 23andMe?
Ben: Yeah. Like a one of the things that you get back from that is your endogenous antioxidant production, which I didn’t realize this until a couple years ago when I started to dive into the science of DNA testing, but some people actually produce more endogenous antioxidants and they can mop up that damage more quickly. And so they might be able to handle consecutive days of something like ketogenic endurance training, whereas some people actually produce fewer endogenous antioxidants and need to do a hard workout, and then take 72 hours or longer to actually recover. So it’s highly variable too.
Mark: Yeah. No, I did DNAFit. So I get more of a fitness prism…
Ben: Right. Well, yeah. DNAFit lets you, they’ll take your 23andMe results and you can import them into DNA, that’s actually what I wound up doing. A couple other questions for you, Mark. You recently had a podcast with Joe Rogan. It was a great show. I think that anybody who wants to go in and listen to more of the talk about ketosis, definitely go and listen to that show as well. I’ll link to it in the show notes. But I listened to that in preparation for this interview, so I didn’t ask you all the same questions, Mark, and one thing that you did mention was that you don’t actually use this method that I’ve recommended before on other podcasts called heart rate variability training, or HRV training, to monitor your recovery or your nervous system, and you had a very interesting reason why that I’m curious and would love to hear you expound on. Can you talk about why you don’t rely upon HRV personally?
Mark: Sure. I mean I like the concept of HRV. I write about it in the book. I’ve been wanting to use it for a long time, but I kept getting sort of weird readings on any of the software that I was using.
Ben: What do you mean weird?
Mark: Well, I’d have great results, like intervals that were like .8, .9, 1.2, .8, 1.2, .8, so my intervals were so sporadic that I literally went to see a cardiologist.
Ben: Which would normally be a good thing.
Mark: Which would normally be, so, yeah. So HRV looks at the interval and wants there to be great variability from one interval to the next. Well, I’ve been writing about how the type of training I did my whole life was counterproductive, was counter, at least, to my intent to live a long, healthy life. Yeah, I raced fast, and I got some good results, and I was effective as an athlete. But as a living, breathing human being, it kind of tore me apart. And I’ve been writing about that for years and it’s just finally recently kind of bit me in the ass a little bit. I have premature ventricular contractions. So one of the epidemics that occurs among my generation of endurance athletes is what we call AFib. There’s a lot of athletes that I know who are my age who have trained for 30 or 40 years who have atrial fibrillation. The heart just beats quickly as a result of the enervation being screwed up, partly because of a thick ventricle.
Ben: Like an athlete’s heart.
Mark: Like an athlete’s heart. So in my case, the premature ventricular contractions are probably caused by a few cells that are scarred over the years as a result of my, probably a combination of my training hard, like maxing my heart rate out every day for 40 years, and/or some, maybe a virus. So I have a couple of cells that skip a beat, they cause the ventricle to skip a beat. So it’s not life threatening, seen a couple of cardiologists about it. It was just annoying because on every skipped beat, the ventricle overfills because it’s not squeezing the blood out, it just over fills. So then the catch-up beat is this great burst of blood manifest itself as a pounding in my chest. So it was affecting my sleep. And it would happen every time I got my heart rate above, say, 90 or 95 beats. It would happened like every other beat would be skipped.
Ben: And what test did you get to diagnose that?
Mark: Well, I got an EKG, I got a resting EKG for starters, then I’ve had several treadmill stress EKGs, and then I had all the other stuff to just make sure that there was nothing pathogenic in my heart…
Ben: Like an echocardiogram?
Mark: Yeah. And all that stuff. So everything in that blood test, everything turned out fine. It’s just that this is a, and I’ve seen a couple of specialists who say, “You know, we’re seeing this and it’s something that you can either take,” I actually take a calcium channel blocker for it, and now it’s fine. It’s like it doesn’t, I couldn’t go more than 10 minutes without a skipped beat four months ago, five months ago. Now I go four days without a skipped beat. And that includes if I’m doing some intensity training. So it’s all good, but with regard, and by the way, so maybe I’ll get back on trying the HRV, but it all was prompted by the fact that, and in fact I called one of the top HRV people in the country, and I told her about my situation, and she sort of chuckled, and she said, “Yeah. PVCs are one of the few things that cause HRV to not be reliable at all.
Ben: Yeah. PVC is probably at, ’cause I know most athletes from what I understand, ’cause I’ve done EKGs, and I actually have a chapter in my book about heart testing and heart issues in athletes, from what I understand, most endurance athletes, because of that athletes heart, they actually get PVCs once they get up to about 90% of intensity. Almost everybody has electrical abnormalities now.
Mark: Right. But as you’ll see it, it’ll be one every 10 beats, or one every 20 beats, or…
Ben: Right. But not at rest. Or not at easier, so it sounds like you were actually having them at rest too, huh?
Mark: Well, I was having it at rest. And I would have, by the way, I would have my rest if I got you know a call from a lawyer, or if I got some stressful news, or something that just you know didn’t sit well with me. And alcohol. One glass of wine would put me into what they call ectopy.
Mark: And when I talk about my being in ectopy, it was literally every other or every third beat with regularity. Like it was just like once in a while, for an hour, it would be every other or every third beat.
Ben: Why do you think alcohol did that?
Mark: Well, because these are stressors. So alcohol’s a stressor.
Ben: I would have thought that like…
Mark: So I switched my coffee around to decaf from caffeinated coffee for that reason.
Ben: Yeah. I would’ve thought alcohol would kind of relax you a little bit, but that’s really interesting.
Ben: It would be intriguing to actually see what it would look like to just wear a heart rate variability or heart rate monitor around all day long and take a look at the specific things that might cause a dip in HRV or a change in those values. Because from what I understand, and I had a podcast with Rhonda from SweetBeats Heart Rate Variability monitoring about this, apparently…
Mark: That’s who I spoke with.
Ben: Yeah. When you monitor your HRV, apparently it can detect some of those PVCs, or can at least give you clues that they might be occurring.
Mark: Well, that’s what happened. That’s how I got the clue. And I actually got the clue because I couldn’t get out a chest strap. I got three, I got a Polar, I got a Nike, I couldn’t get a chest strap to even give me a reading. I was like, “What’s going on here?” I get on my VersaClimber, I couldn’t get a reading at all, and it was because I guess the algorithm in the watch couldn’t figure out what the actual rate was because if every third beat is skipped, it’s going “beat, beat”, “beat, beat”, “beat, beat”, and it doesn’t know how to put a readout on that.
Ben: Maybe your just heartless, Mark.
Mark: Well, that too.
Ben: Well, it’s super interesting. And I mean you delve into all of this stuff in your book. You actually have a really good chapter on heart rate variability in there too. There are literally, I think in the first opening pages of the book, there’s 115 different takeaways, just many takeaways just from the first few pages of the book. And so it really was a great read. I enjoyed it. I was nodding my head “Yes” throughout the whole thing. And so if you are listening in and you’re curious about my own opinion of this book on endurance, because I actually disagree with much of the endurance training philosophies that are out there, I’m on the same page, pun intended, as Mark when it comes to the stuff he’s got in this book. So the show notes, you can get ’em at bengreenfieldfitness.com/primalendurance. That’s bengreenfieldfitness.com/primalendurance, and I’ll put links to Mark’s book, to the primal mayo we talked about, the Focal Upright desk, his recent podcast with Joe Rogan, DNAFit genetic testing, everything we talked about, so you can find it all at the show notes at bengreenfieldfitness.com/primalendurance. And, Mark, I want to thank you for coming on the show and sharing some of the stuff with us.
Mark: Always a pleasure, Ben.
Ben: Alright. Well I will let you get back to your perfect day of hookers, and crack, and beer, and wine, paleo wine.
Mark: Paleo wine.
Ben: And thanks for your time, man.
Mark: Thank you.
Ben: Alright, folks. So this is Ben Greenfield and Mark Sisson, author of the new book “Primal Endurance”, signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com. Have a healthy week.
Hey, it’s Ben Greenfield. I hope you’re not sick of my voice yet, ’cause I have one last thing to tell you. I have a special survey that you can go check out if you would like to. It’s actually a very important listener survey and the responses of that survey help to make this show the very best that it can be. So the survey takes approximately three minutes of your time. Yes, three minutes of your life you are never going to get back. However, you’ll get that instant gratification that comes with knowing you help support this show, and also the satisfaction of knowing that you can tell me how you really feel about the show, and help me get to know you better. So you can do it now, it’s super simple, the URL is super simple. All you do is you go to podcastone.com. That’s podcast O-N-E, like you spell out the word “one”. Podcastone.com. And that’s it. Just go take the survey. Super simple. Boom. Done. Alright. Now I’ll go.
Mark Sisson is my guest on today’s podcast. Mark is the de-facto leader of the primal and paleo lifestyle movement, and unlike the many instant and self-anointed experts who have descended upon the endurance scene in recent years, Mark boasts a rich history in endurance sports.
He’s run a 2:18 marathon, has a 4th place Hawaii Ironman finish to his credit, has spearheaded triathlon’s global anti-doping program for the International Triathlon Union, and has coached and advised leading professional athletes, including Olympic triathlon gold and silver medalist Simon Whitfield and Tour de France cyclist Dave Zabriskie.
Mark just put the finishing touches on a new book called “Primal Endurance” – a book that shakes up the status quo and challenges the overly stressful, ineffective conventional approach to endurance training. While marathons and triathlons are wildly popular and bring much gratification and camaraderie to the participants, the majority of athletes are too slow, continually tired, and carry too much body fat respective to the time they devote to training. The prevailing “chronic cardio” approach promotes carbohydrate dependency, overly stressful lifestyle patterns, and ultimately burnout.
To overcome this conundrum, Primal Endurance applies an all-encompassing approach to endurance training that includes primal-aligned eating to escape carbohydrate dependency and enhance fat metabolism, building an aerobic base with comfortably paced workouts, strategically introducing high intensity strength and sprint workouts, emphasizing rest, recovery, and an annual periodization, and finally cultivating an intuitive approach to training instead of the usual robotic approach of fixed weekly workout schedules.
I delve into these concepts in today’s podcast with Mark. During our discussion, you’ll discover:
-What Mark’s “perfect day” looks like…
-Mark’s history as a pro triathlete…
-Why endurance athletes can actually get fat from training…
-Why it can be a myth that you have exercise for long periods of time at that intensity to get very good endurance results…
-How to do something called “maximum sustained power training”…
-Why a ketogenic endurance athlete can recover faster from stressful training…
-Why Mark doesn’t use heart rate variability (HRV) measurements…
-And much more…
Resources for this episode: