Each week, select Mark’s Daily Apple blog posts are prepared as Primal Blueprint Podcasts. Need to catch up on reading, but don’t have the time? Prefer to listen to articles while on the go? Check out the new blog post podcasts below, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast here so you never miss an episode.
Packing a lunch day after day saves money and helps you stick to your health goals, but it requires some regular inspiration. From simple no-cook Bento box lunches, to layered Big-Ass salads, to big-batch recipes that provide dinner and lunch the next day, we’ve got you covered. Pack something good every day of the week with these go-to Primal lunchbox ideas.
Put together several Big-Ass salads and store them in glass mason jars so you can grab the pre-made salads for lunch throughout the workweek. Dressing goes in the bottom of the jar and the salad ingredients are layered on top. This keeps everything crisp and fresh, even if you pack the salad a few days in advance. When you’re ready to eat lunch, dump the contents into a bowl and voila! You’ve got yourself a Big-Ass salad.
Tips For Packing Jar Salads:
Use quart-sized jars for main course salads and pint jars for side salads
Wide mouth jars are easiest to pack
Most mason jar salads can be packed up to 3 days ahead of time
Pour 2 to 4 tablespoons salad dressing in the bottom of the jar
Layer ingredients from firmest in texture to lightest, so the salad doesn’t get soggy
Greens are the last ingredient to go in the jar. Tear larger leaves into bite-sized pieces. It’s okay to pack the greens in tightly.
Mason Jar Big-Ass Salad Inspiration:
Greek Salad: Thinly sliced red onion, cookedground lamb or sliced lamb ,large diced cucumber, feta, Kalamata olives, spinach
Bento box lunches offer a variety of flavors and foods with very little effort. The trick is keeping your kitchen well stocked with healthy whole foods that require little or no prep time. Just open your fridge and pantry, pull a few things out, and pack up your bento lunch box.
Bento Lunch Box Inspiration:
Canned olive oil-packed tuna with Primal Kitchen Mayo + Sweet mini bell peppers + Olives + Fresh berries with coconut butter
Smoked Salmon + Cucumber + Avocado + Green beans drizzled with sesame oil + Dried Seaweed (nori or SeaSnax)
For more kids’ bento box ideas, check out this post.
Not sure what to pack for lunch? The answer might be in your fridge already. It’s called “leftovers.” Packing lunch is always easier when there are dinner leftovers in the fridge. These 9 recipes make big batches of food, providing both dinner and lunch the next day.
Tender chicken thighs are cooked in a rich sauce made from tomatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers and garlic. Packing fresh garnishes in your lunch box like basil, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and black olives will give leftover chicken cacciatore fresh, bright flavor.
This simple sheet pan meal is just as good the next day eaten as a shrimp and broccoli salad. Buy a bag of baby spinach to toss with the leftover shrimp and broccoli for lunch and don’t forget to dress the salad with Primal Kitchen Sesame Ginger Vinaigrette.
Chili tastes better a day or two after it’s made, which means it’s a perfect leftover for lunch. With a simple list of ingredients and a short cooking time, this smoky sweet potato chiliis sure to become a regular weeknight dinner that also provides lunch the next day.
These short ribs are so good you’re going to be counting down the minutes until lunch so you can eat them again. And the short ribs are tasty hot or cold (especially with the cool and sweet tasting slaw), so you’re good to go without reheating.
A pan of casserole in the fridge is always a welcome sight. Especially when it’s Primal taco casserole. Pack this layered taco casserole with an avocado and small containers of salsa and sour cream and you’ll have a filling and delicious lunch.
Traditional buffalo chicken flavors are baked into this gluten-free, low-carb casserole. Better yet, this recipe is from Meal Prep on Fleek, which provides step-by-step instructions for meal prepping four meals from this one recipe.
Sliced brisket with potatoes is the type of leftover lunch that makes coworkers envious. Pack a few sprigs of fresh parsley to scatter over your meal, plus a little sea salt and a wedge of lemon to perk up the flavors of the meat and potatoes.
Thoughts or other ideas to add to the mix? Share them below, and have a great end to the week, everyone!
For years, collagen/gelatin was maligned by bodybuilding enthusiasts as an “incomplete protein” because it doesn’t contain all the essential amino acids, nor does it contribute directly to muscle protein synthesis. There’s definitely truth to this. If you ate nothing but gelatin for your protein, you’d get sick real quick. That’s exactly what happened to dozens of people who tried the infamous “liquid protein diet” fad of the 70s and 80s, which relied heavily on a gelatin-based protein drink. Man—or woman—shall not live by collagen alone.
As for whey, it’s an extremely complete protein. It’s one of the most bioavailable protein sources around, a potent stimulator of anabolic processes and muscle protein synthesis. I consider it essential for people, especially older ones in whom protein metabolism has degraded, and for anyone who wants to boost their protein intake and get the most bang for their buck.
This said, which is best for your needs today? Let’s take a look….
Collagen and whey are two completely different foods. Whether you take one or the other depends on a number of factors.
The first thing to do is explore the different benefits and applications of whey and collagen.
Whey Protein: Uses and Benefits
Whey is one of two primary dairy proteins, the other one being casein. It gained its reputation in the fitness world as a proven muscle-builder, but it actually has some interesting health effects that have little to do with hypertrophy.
Fatty liver: In obese women, a whey supplement reduces liver fat (and as a nice side effect increases lean mass a bit). Fatty liver patients also benefit from whey, enjoying improvements in glutathione status, liver steatosis, and antioxidant capacity. Rats who supplement with whey see reduced fat synthesis in the liver and increased fatty acid oxidation in the skeletal muscle.
Sarcopenia: Muscle wasting, whether cancer-related or a product of age and inactivity, is a huge threat to one’s health and happiness. Studies show that whey protein is the most effective protein supplement for countering sarcopenia, especially compared to soy. An anti-sarcopenia smoothie I always have people drink on bed rest is 20-30 grams of whey isolate, a couple egg yolks, milk, cream, and ice. Tastes like ice cream and works like a charm. One time a friend even gave this to his grandmother who was on bedrest in the hospital with diarrhea, mental confusion, and a total lack of appetite. She was in a bad state. After a day or two of the smoothie, she recovered quite rapidly, regaining her appetite and alertness.
Gastrointestinal disorders: Dairy gets a bad rap in some corners for its supposed effects on the gut, but a component of dairy can actually improve gut health, even in patients with gastrointestinal disorders. In Crohn’s disease patients, a whey protein supplement reduces leaky gut. In rodent models of inflammatory bowel disease, whey protein reduce gut inflammation and restore mucin (the stuff used to build up the gut barrier) synthesis.
Oh, and whey is great for hypertrophy.
When To Choose Whey
If you lift and want some extra protein, whey’s a great choice.
If you’re older and worry about your ability to metabolize and utilize protein, some extra protein via whey can help.
If you have any of the conditions listed above, whey’s a great choice. Do note that some of the benefits may stem from simply eating more protein than before. Whey itself may not be the whole cause; an extra slab of steak or a few more eggs could possibly have the same effect.
Along with foods like organ meats, egg yolks, and shellfish, I consider whey to be an important “supplemental food”—a food that acts like a high-density nutrition supplement, powerful in small doses and worth including in almost every diet.
Collagen Protein: Uses and Benefits
I advocate collagen protein as afourth macronutrient. It’s different enough from whey and other “regular” proteins, serving a totally different function in the body.
If whey has been the gold standard for the muscle building amino acid profile for 30 years, collagen is the gold standard for supporting collagen-based structures in the body (fascia, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, skin, hair, nails). We don’t get much collagenous material in a normal diet these days, and meat proteins and/or plant proteins and/or milk, eggs, etc. don’t have the collagen peptides nor the ideal ratio of glycine, hydroxyproline, and other amino acids found abundantly in collagen. Furthermore, metabolism of the amino acids present in muscle meat deplete our reserves of glycine, thereby increasing the requirement even further. The more meat you eat, the more collagen you need.
Why We Need Collagen So Much These Days
This (non)relationship with collagen is extremely novel for our species. For millions of years up until very recently we ate nose to tail. We ate the entire animal. To give you an idea of how much collagen we’d have eaten, the average cow is about half muscle meat and half “other stuff,” which includes bones, skin, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and other bits extremely rich in collagen. That’s a ton of glycine and a far cry from eating nothing but ground beef and ribeyes. And more recently, even when we moved toward shrink-wrapped select cuts of meat and away from bones and skin, we still had jello. Then, when jello got maligned, we had nothing. So for the past 20-30 years or so, most Americans have had no appreciable source of collagen peptides in their diet.
Just based on what we know about human biochemistry, this is a disaster. The human body requires at least 16 grams of glycine per day for basic metabolic processes, yet we can only synthesize 3 grams, and the typical omnivorous diet provides just 2-3 grams per day, so we’re looking at an average daily deficit of 10 grams that we need to make up for through diet. Collagen is roughly 1/3 glycine, so that means we need to be eating about 30 grams of collagen per day to hit our 10 gram dosage. And in disease states that disrupt glycine synthesis, like rheumatoid arthritis, or on plant-based diets that provide little to no dietary glycine, we need even more.
I suspect a lot of pro athletes who have connective tissue issues could use even more collagen, especially since they’re exposing their tissues to such incredible stress. I know I did back during my competition days.
What Does Collagen Do For Our Bodies?
It supports our connective tissue and collagen-based structures: fascia, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, skin, hair, and nails.
It balances your muscle meat intake. I mentioned this earlier, and we see both observational and interventional evidence for it.
Observational: In one recent observational study, the relationship between red meat and diabetes was abolished after controlling for low-glycine status. People with low glycine levels and high meat intakes were more likely to have diabetes; people with higher glycine levels could have higher meat intakes without any issues. In another study, low circulating levels of glycine predicted diabetes risk.
Interventional: In both worms and rodents, excessive intake of methionine (the amino acid most abundantly found in muscle meat) reduced longevity, while adding in glycine restored it.
It improves gut health. When I gave up grains and stopped endurance training at age 47 my gut health improved immensely. Like, world-changing for me. But I was still at 90-95%. When I started supplementing with collagen, my gut finally had that last 5% of repair/support/healing it needed to get to 100%.
It’s a great pre-workout. Though maybe not for the reasons most people take “pre-workouts.” I’ve also experienced rapid healing of tendinitis through using pre-workout collagen with vitamin C. I’m not just imagining it because I’ve dealt with a ton of tendon issues over the years, and they never healed that quickly until I introduced pre-workout collagen.
I’ve noticed that my hair and nails grow much faster than before.
Final Answer: Which One?
So, should you use whey or collagen? Let’s get to the bottom line, Sisson.
I made Primal Fuel because I wanted a high quality, low-sugar, moderate-fat meal replacement whey protein.
If I had to choose one, collagen is a better choice for the vast majority of you.
Essential amino acids aren’t a big problem on most ancestral diets, like paleo, Primal, or Primal-keto, and if you’re eating enough animal protein you don’t really need whey. Now, can you benefit from whey despite eating meat? Sure. Necessary does not mean optimal; whey has been shown to improve hypertrophy and muscle recovery from resistance training, plus all the other benefits I already detailed earlier. Almost anyone who does anything in the gym will see benefits from adding 20 grams of whey per day.
But almost no one is getting enough collagen, even the ancestrally-minded eaters who are aware of its importance. And that is a historical aberration on a massive scale. It hasn’t been done before. I wouldn’t recommend testing those waters.
And of course, powders aren’t the only way to get collagen and whey. They both appear in plenty of foods. The powders are just convenient to have on hand when you forget to make the bone broth (chicken, beef, turkey) or throw the oxtails in the crockpot. (Check out those linked recipes if you prefer broth or stew sources.)
Which do you prefer—whey or collagen? What benefits have you noticed from each?
Thanks for reading, everyone. Let me know your thoughts, and take care.
I love dairy. As a man of primarily Northern European descent, my ancestors have been consuming the stuff for thousands of years. It doesn’t give me any issues. You won’t find me chugging tall glasses of straight milk these days, but I’m a big believer in cream, cheese, yogurt, and kefir. Very nutrient-dense food if you can handle it. Lactase persistence? I practically have lactase insistence.
My favorable response to dairy makes keto especially easy. High-fat and fermented dairy is high in nutrients and low in digestible carbs (the bacteria consume most of the lactose). Cheese, cream, kefir, and yogurt all happen to be the most nutritious forms of dairy and the most keto-friendly. Many others getting into keto lean heavily on dairy. It just makes keto easier, especially if you’ve grown up eating dairy.
But globally my reaction to dairy is pretty rare, and that changes the keto landscape for most people.
Most of the world has some degree of lactose intolerance, meaning once weaned from breast milk they no longer retain the digestive enzyme required to comfortably break down the milk sugar lactose. A smaller but still significant chunk of people have dairy protein intolerance; they get an inflammatory or allergic response to the proteins found in dairy, most commonly casein. And there’s also the problem of A1 casein, a relatively novel form of dairy casein that has been shown to cause inflammatory issues in the guts of susceptible people, whereas the more “ancestral” form of casein—A2 casein—does not. A1 casein is far more common these days, and not everyone can handle it or find access to A2 casein-producing dairy animals.
In other words, there are many people reading this blog interested in going keto who either cannot or don’t want to consume dairy. They need tips for doing it dairy-free. And today, I’m going to give them some.
MCT oil powder: I’ve never been a big fan of the straight-up MCT oils. They’re fine if you like adding oil to your coffee, but I really prefer using the powdered MCT oil. The way I do it is mix a scoop or two with a little liquid—milk (although not if you’re avoiding dairy), coconut milk, water, etc—and then add the resulting slurry to the coffee.
Cashews: Cashews are a great creamer replacement because they have a natural sweetness to them. They’re also very rich in fat and low in fiber for a nut, so they promote extreme creaminess when blended. Some of my favorite Indian curries use cashews blended into water as the base instead of heavy cream or yogurt.
Tahini: A fantastic alternative to heavy cream is to blend tahini (sesame seed butter) with coconut milk and a teaspoon of blackstrap molasses. I normally blend the tahini into a bit of heavy cream, but coconut milk or cream also work. Don’t fear the few carbs in that teaspoon of blackstrap molasses; it’s key. You’ll find a nice coffee recipe using tahini here.
Macadamia cream: Blend macadamia butter (make by throwing mac nuts into a food processor) with a bit of water. Mac nuts are almost pure fat, so they make a fantastic creamer base.
Hemp: As I mentioned in one of my recent Sunday With Sisson emails (subscribe to the newsletter to receive those if you’re interested), one of my latest favorites is using 2-3 TB whole hemp hearts, a scoop of Vanilla Collagen Fuel, a dash of salt and cinnamon, and blending it all together until frothy and creamy. The hemp provides a ton of magnesium and creaminess, the Fuel gives collagen and rounds it out, and the salt and cinnamon provide flavor, sodium, and a little extra barrier against insulin resistance. All told, it’s a great way to enhance your coffee and provide many of the nutrients you need while ketogenic.
Eggs: Primal egg coffee. Egg yolks are also great thickeners for sauces where you’d normally use cream or butter.
Yeah, yeah, conventional wisdom sources are obsessed with people missing out on calcium if they choose to eschew dairy, and they get so much about nutrition so wrong that it’s easy to ignore that one, too. They’re not wrong though. Dairy is a good source of calcium, perhaps the best, and definitely the easiest and most available. And although one reason why people feel they need so much calcium for good bone health is that they’re walking around with vitamin D deficiency—which impairs calcium metabolism—you do need calcium.
How do you get calcium on a dairy-free keto diet?
Eat bone-in fish. Canned sardines are a really easy, really delicious way to do it. An average can provides about 20% of your daily calcium requirements. Trader Joe’s has a great bone-in, skin-on wild pink salmon in a BPA-free can. If you eat all 7 servings in the can, you’ll hit 70% of your calcium requirements plus 35 grams of fat, much of which is omega-3, and 90 grams of protein. You could even slow cook whole bone-in fish until the bones soften enough to eat.
Cook bones or bone-in meat in acidic liquid. The old practice of adding a splash or two of apple cider vinegar to your bone broth pot doesn’t actually extract any measurable calcium from the bones. To really extract calcium, you need lots of acidity. An old Chinese postnatal meal was spare ribs cooked in vinegar (and sugar, but you can leave that out); the vinegar extracted huge amounts of calcium from the bones, giving the mother a much-needed source of calcium as she nursed her child. Cook ribs, shanks, or make bone broth using an acidic liquid like red wine or a high vinegar:water ratio. The Chinese vinegar sauce had a pH of 3.2, so you’ll want to aim for something in that realm of acidity. Red wine runs between 3.3 and 3.5 pH.
Eat collard greens. Some of the other calcium plant sources are also quite high in oxalates, which can bind to calcium and inhibit its absorption. Collard greens have less oxalate than most others and plenty of calcium. They’re also delicious cooked in some bacon fat, bone broth (maybe the high-calcium bone broth from the last section, even), and vinegar.
Focus On Whole Foods Rather Than Isolated Fats
Lots of keto people use dairy as a crutch. They drink cream by the cupful. They eat blocks of cheese like apples (not a bad thing, necessarily). They eat bowls and bowls of stevia-sweetened whip cream. They throw sticks of butter in their coffee. All of this in a quest to “get more fat.” These are good foods, to be sure (it’s a great crutch), but I don’t think they should form the basis of your caloric intake. They should enhance a meal, not replace it.
What if instead of subbing in buckets of coconut cream, cashew cheese, and MCT oil, you ate more eggs, meat, and salads? You don’t need to drink shots of olive oil or avocado oil. You can add them to your salad along with some olives and avocado. You can eat actual foods. Actual meals.
This applies to people eating dairy, too. But if you’re dropping dairy and are interested in 1-to-1 isolated fat sources, perhaps use this opportunity to switch over to a whole foods-focus.
A big reason keto folks rely on dairy so much is that it’s easy. It’s right there, ready to be poured (kefir, cream), sliced up (cheese), spread (butter), or scooped out (yogurt, cottage cheese).
Omelettes are a regular go-to for me. There’s no faster or easier way to whip up a healthy and filling meal than this. If I’m not eating a big-ass salad for lunch, you can bet it’s an omelette instead. Eggs offer a good dose of protein as well as plenty of essential minerals. Veggies, meat and a little cheese add their own nutrients and make for constant variety. It’s one of those Primal-keto staples I never get tired of. Let’s dig in.
Mark’s Big-Ass Omelette
Time In the Kitchen: 15 minutes
3 large eggs
1/4 bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped ham
3 Tbsp. feta cheese
Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat.
Crack three eggs in a bowl and whisk until well combined. Set aside.
Add veggies to the skillet and saute for a few minutes until cooked. Add salt and pepper to taste, if you’d like, and stir the veggies well. Add any pre-cooked protein you’d like to use (we used diced ham in this version) and warm for 20-30 seconds.
Add whisked eggs to skillet. Allow to cook for a couple of minutes, scraping down the sides of the skillet with your spatula every now and then. Swirl the eggs around a bit with your spatula as the eggs start to cook on the bottom of the pan.
When the eggs are mostly set, sprinkle some cheese, if desired, on the eggs before folding the omelette over. Using your spatula, lift up one side of the eggs and very carefully flip that side over top of the other side.
Carefully slide the omelette out of the pan and onto a plate. Serve immediately with a side of bacon or sliced avocado if desired.
Sea salt caramel is no kiddie flavor (although more discerning children may love it). In fact, sea salt caramel may be one of the most nuanced and decadent ice cream varieties out there…. Something about the caramel flavor feels richer than other ice creams. Something about the sea salt offers a bite that satisfies beyond taste imagination. It’s where sweet meets depth. And with this recipe, it’s an indulgence you can still revel in—even while keto, thanks to the magic of Swerve.
In a medium pot over medium heat, melt 3/4 cup Brown Swerve sugar with 3 tablespoons water, swirling skillet frequently, until Swerve turns mahogany brown in color (it should be almost but not quite black). This should take around 10 minutes.
Add heavy cream, almond milk, 1/8 tsp salt, and simmer until cream mixture is completely smooth and warm. Remove pot from heat. In a separate bowl, whisk yolks. While whisking constantly, slowly pour about a third of the warm cream into the yolks, then whisk the yolk mixture back into the pot with the cream.
Return pot to medium-low heat and gently cook until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer). This should take between 25-30 minutes. You want to avoid cooking ice cream mixture too fast because the egg could curdle.
Cool mixture to room temperature. Cover and chill in refrigerator overnight or for 8 hours.
Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into ice cream machine. Churn in ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. Sprinkle flaky sea salt into base during the last 2 minutes of churning. Serve directly from the machine for soft serve, or store in freezer until needed. Enjoy!
Each week, select Mark’s Daily Apple blog posts are prepared as Primal Blueprint Podcasts. Need to catch up on reading, but don’t have the time? Prefer to listen to articles while on the go? Check out the new blog post podcasts below, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast here so you never miss an episode.
But I’m sorry to report that Dylan Thomas imploring you to assail life with boldness is becoming harder for the average person to fulfill and embody. People more than ever before are heading into middle age with a head-start on the degenerative changes to body composition and function that used to only hit older folks. They may want to go boldly into that good night, but their bodies probably won’t be cooperating.
Ignore the standouts for a moment. I’m not talking about that awesome granny you saw deadlifting her bodyweight on Instagram or the centenarian sprinter smoking the competition. I’m not talking about the celebrities with personal trainers and access to the latest and greatest medical technologies. I’m referring to the general trend in the greater population. All signs point to average men and women alike having more fragile bones, weaker muscles, and worse postures at a younger age than their counterparts from previous eras.
What Signs Point This Way?
Low Bone Density
These days, more men than ever before are developing the signs of osteoporosis at an earlier age. In fact, one recent study found that among 35-50 year olds, men were more likely than women to have osteopenia—lower bone mineral density—at the neck.
Osteoporosis used to be a “woman’s disease,” lower estrogen after menopause being the primary cause. That’s rather understandable; estrogen is a powerful modulator of bone metabolism in women, and a natural decline in estrogen will lead to a natural decline in bone density. Men’s bone density has a similar relationship with testosterone; as a man’s testosterone declined, so does his bone density. As long as a man or woman entered the decline with high bone density, the decline wouldn’t be as destructive.
But here’s the thing: these days, both men and women are starting the decline with lower bone density. In women and men, peak bone mass attainment occurs during puberty. In girls, that’s about ages 11-13. In boys, it’s later. Puberty sets up our hormonal environment to accumulate healthy amounts of bone mineral density—but we have to take advantage of that window.
One of the main determinants of bone density accumulation is physical activity. If you’re an 11-year-old girl or a 16-year-old boy and you’re not engaging in regular physical activity—running, jumping, throwing, lifting, playing—you will fail to send the appropriate signals to your body to begin amassing bone mass. And once that developmental window closes, and you didn’t spend it engaging in lots of varied movement, it’s really hard to make up for all the bone mineral density you didn’t get.
But you can certainly improve bone mineral density at any age. Even the elderly can make big gains by lifting weights, walking frequently, or even doing something a simple as regular hopping exercises. The problem is that physical activity is down across all ages.
Children are spending more time indoors using devices than outdoors playing. They aren’t walking to school or roaming around outdoors with friends getting into trouble. If they’re active, they’re more likely to be shuttled from soccer practice to ballet to music lessons. Their movement is prescribed rather than freely chosen. Hour-long chunks of “training” rather than hours and hours of unstructured movement…
Not just kids, either. Sedentary living is up in everyone.
So there are two big issues:
Kids are squandering the developmental window where they should be making the biggest gains in bone density.
Adults are leading sedentary lives, squandering the lifelong window we all have to increase bone density.
Another reason men are having newfound problems with low bone mineral density is that a generational drop in testosterone has been observed. Twenty years go, men of all ages had higher testosterone levels than their counterparts today, meaning an average 50-year-old guy in 1999 had higher testosterone than an average 50-year-old guy in 2019. Testosterone will decline with age. That’s unavoidable. But something other than aging is also lowering testosterone—and bone density—across the board.
Experts are now recommending that young men use night lights, avoid throw rugs on the floor, and do pre-emptive physical therapy—all to reduce the risk of tripping, falling, and breaking something. That is absolutely tragic. This shouldn’t be happening.
The smartphone is a great tool with incredible potential to transform lives, economies, and personal capacities. But it can wreck your posture if you’re not careful and mindful.
Try this. Pick up your phone and compose a text message. Do it without thinking. Now hold that position and go look at yourself in a mirror. What do you see?
Head jutting forward, tilted down.
Upper back rounded, almost hunched.
Shoulders internally rotated.
Now spend 6-8 hours a day in this position. Add a few more if you work on a computer. Add another 15-20 minutes if you take your phone into the bathroom with you. Add an hour if you’re the type to walk around staring at your phone.
It all starts to sound a little ridiculous, doesn’t it?
Not only are people spending their days sitting and standing with their spine contorted, they’re staring down at their phones while walking. This is particularly pernicious. They’re training their body to operate in motion with a suboptimal, subhuman spinal position. They’re making it the new normal, forcing the body to adapt. And it is subhuman. Humans are bipeds, hominids that tower over the grasslands, able to scan for miles in every direction, perceive oncoming threats, plot their approach, stand upright and hold the tools at the ready. What would a Pleistocene hunter-gatherer of 20,000 years ago make of the average 25-year-old hunchback shuffling along, nose pointed toward the ground? What would your grandfather make of it?
Interest in effective fitness and healthy eating and CrossFit and paleo and keto and everything else we talk about is at an all-time high, and all your friends on Instagram seem to be drinking bone broth and doing squats, so you’d think that people are getting stronger and waking up from all the crazy conventional wisdom that society has foisted upon us over the years. They’re not, though. That’s the view from inside the Internet bubble. This explosion in ancestral health and fitness is a reaction to the physical ineptitude and torpor enveloping the modern world. A small but growing group of people are discovering the keys to true health and wellness because the world at large has become so backwards.
And no matter how many CrossFit gyms pop up or people you see walking around in yoga pants, the average adult today is weaker than the average adult from twenty years ago. That’s the real trend. It probably doesn’t apply to you, my regular reader, but it does apply to people you know, love, and work with. Here’s the reality:
New recruits in the military are weaker than recruits from previous eras. They’re even having trouble “throwing grenades.”
Everywhere you look—Lithuania, Portugal, Sweden, to name just a few—kids, teens, and adults of all ages are failing to hit the normative standards of strength and fitness established in older eras. People are getting weaker, softer, and less fit earlier than ever before.
Don’t let this happen to you. Don’t let it happen to the people you care about. You have the chance, the duty to your future self to go boldly into that good night, rather than wither and dwindle and fall apart. And it starts today, right now, right here. Do one thing today. What will it be?
How are you guys fighting the ravages of age and gravity? What are you going to do today to ensure you’ll go boldly into older age?
A criticism often leveled against the keto diet is that it’s more expensive than a “regular” (read: SAD) diet. There’s some truth to that. It does cost more to buy meat than ramen and beans. I personally spend more on groceries now than I did before finding Primal. Not only did I shift to buying different types of food, I also came to care more about food quality. I started choosing more pasture-raised meat and eggs, and more pesticide-free and organic produce and dairy.
However, my grocery bills haven’t changed noticeably since going keto. If you’re already eating Primally, your daily foods don’t have to change that much if you decide to try keto. You’ll remove some (okay, most) of the fruits and root veggies, and sub in more above-ground veggies and probably some healthy fats. It’s not a substantial overhaul. However, if you’re coming from a standard high-carb, lots-of-cheap-packaged-foods diet straight into Primal+keto, it can be a shock to the wallet.
Sure, I can tell you that this is an investment in your long-term health and spending more on food now means spending less on medical care later. I believe that. I also know that doesn’t help you today if you’re looking at your food budget and your fridge, now mostly empty after purging it of non-Primal, higher-carb foods.
If you’re committed to making Primal+keto work on limited funds, it can be done. Here are some tips for making it happen.
1) Buy What You Can Afford
With Primal+keto, there are ideals when it comes to food quality, and then there’s what fits your budget. Now is the time to call on the saying, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Don’t stress about buying the best quality everything. Don’t forgo eating vegetables because you can’t always fit organic options into your budget. Non-pastured eggs still have more to offer nutrient-wise than a bagel for breakfast.
In terms of priorities, aim for better quality meat. (I’ll include tips for finding less expensive meat choices below.) Check the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch to see which types of seafood are worth your money and which should be avoided altogether; don’t spend money on the latter.
For produce, check out the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen—the vegetables and fruits they recommend buying organic—and the Clean Fifteen that are safer to buy conventional. Of note to keto eaters, spinach and kale should be organic, but many of our keto-friendly faves make the clean list. Don’t stress if you need to choose conventional avocados, cauliflower, and broccoli.
Remember, too, that it’s not always necessary to look for the organic label even for the “dirty dozen.” If you’re buying from local farmers, ask about their practices. Many small farmers are pesticide-free or use organic practices but simply can’t afford the process of becoming organic certified (it’s quite expensive and arduous). The same goes for meat.
2) Don’t Menu Plan
I’m going against the grain here. Most articles on budgeting tell you to make and stick to a strict plan. I find, however, that it’s more cost-effective to let sales be my guide. I’d rather check out my local grocery stores and farmer’s markets, buy what’s cheapest, and make it work. Use apps that tell you where the sales are and buy accordingly. Sign up for the customer loyalty cards at the stores you frequent so they can send you deals and coupons.
I realize that this might sound stressful if you don’t feel confident in the kitchen. If you’re beholden to recipes, this doesn’t always work. (Of course, you can always look up recipes on your phone in the grocery store—I’ve done it a million times.) Remember that you can always default to making a Big-Ass Salad or an omelet or scramble.
3) Shop Around
Get to know the various supermarkets, specialty stores, and farmer’s markets in your area. Learn what’s the freshest, cheapest, and most likely to be available at each. While it’s convenient to do one-stop shopping, it might be worth the extra time it takes to make two or three different trips during the week to hit up different stores.
Think outside the traditional grocery store box. In many smaller communities, a “big box” store may have the largest selection of meat and veggies, including organic, and a wide variety of specialty products. In my town, Grocery Outlet is the best place to buy organic coconut oil and olive oil, and they carry lots of other keto-friendly staples like nut butters, grass-fed meat, and cheese at low prices.
If you have access to a farmer’s market, definitely make sure you check it out. Sometimes farmers will mark down their remaining items at the end of the day so they don’t have to pack it up. You won’t have the same selection, but you might score some deals.
Also look into local CSAs, farm stands, and meat purveyors who sell direct to customers. Again, you can often find ones that offer sustainable practices and high-quality products without the expensive organic label. Check out Eat Wild and Local Harvest to find farmers near you. I’m a fan of CSAs that sell “ugly produce”—the items that aren’t pretty enough for grocery stores but that are still tasty and nutritious—so it doesn’t go to waste.
Finally, check Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, and so on for people looking to sell backyard eggs for cheaper than the store. If you live in an area where people hunt, you might be able to score some meat this way during hunting season, too.
4) Skip the MCT Oil and Exogenous Ketone Products
Unless you have a medical reason to have very elevated ketones, these expensive products aren’t a priority. You don’t need them to do keto “right.”
5) Reconsider the Keto-fied Baking
Almond flour, coconut flour, arrowroot powder, erythritol, and so on can also be pricey. From a nutrient perspective, there are better ways to invest your grocery dollars. You don’t have to give it up entirely, but consider how big a chunk it’s taking out of your budget and whether it’s worth it.
6) Eat the Stuff that Other People Don’t Want
I’m talking organ meat, bone-in chicken thighs and drumsticks, sardines, and the like. The great irony is that these are some of the most nutrient-packed foods in the store, and you can often get them for cheap because the average consumer is looking for boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Good news for you!
Ask the butcher at your grocery store if they have organ meats or cuts that they aren’t going to put in the case because they aren’t popular enough. You might be able to snag cheap (or even free) bones for bone broth that way too—although probably less so now that bone broth has become such a trendy item.
If you’re squeamish about organ meat, remember that almost anything can be ground up in a food processor and mixed with ground beef for burgers or meatballs, or to be hidden in chili or meat sauce. Heart is an excellent place to start. It doesn’t have the distinctive strong flavor of liver or kidney, and it’s very affordable.
7) Your Freezer is Your Friend
Many items are less expensive if you buy them frozen—vegetables (especially off-season), berries, seafood—and they’re just as nutritious. Freezing also allows you to buy in bulk and freeze the extras, or prepare big batches of food and freeze smaller portions for later. If you have a chest freezer, look into splitting a cow or a pig with friends. This can sometimes land you a great deal on a pasture-raised animal.
Throwing away food is throwing away money. There’s no reason to waste food if you have a freezer. Most leftovers can be frozen if you’re not going to consume them immediately (though some things, like mashed cauliflower, don’t reheat well). If your avocados are on the verge of going bad, slice and freeze them. Blend fresh herbs with your oil of choice and freeze them in ice cube trays to add to soups and sauces later. Strain leftover bacon grease into a jar and freeze that, too.
My favorite freezer trick is to keep a large zip-top bag to which I add vegetable trimmings like the ends of carrots, celery, onions, and beets, and broccoli stems. I also keep the bones from all the delicious bone-in meat I’m cooking. (I always buy bone-in when I can—it’s one of Dr. Cate Shanahan’s Four Pillars of health.) This allows me to…
8) Make Your Own Bone Broth (and Nut Milk)
Bone broth is a hot commodity nowadays—no pun intended—and you can spend a pretty penny on it at the store… or you can just make it yourself out of stuff that other people are throwing away.
Whenever I cook a whole chicken (which is usually more cost-effective than buying just breasts or thighs), or when my aforementioned freezer bags fill up, I make a batch of bone broth in my slow cooker or Instant Pot. To store it, I freeze it in mason jars or silicone muffin cups. The latter makes broth “pucks” that are uber convenient for adding to dishes later.
Nut milk isn’t necessary for keto obviously. However, if you’re dairy-free and buying nut milk, you really have to try making your own. It couldn’t be easier, and I strongly prefer my homemade nut milk (a blend of almond, hazelnut, and Brazil nut) to anything I can find in the store. As a bonus, I use the leftover nut pulp to make pancakes, bread, and rolls. (See the recipe in The Keto Reset Diet.) It’s a double bang for my buck, and no waste.
The Good News…
Despite the naysaying, it’s not only possible to do keto on a budget, but sometimes going keto actually saves you money. First, many people are able to reduce or eliminate certain medications—insulin, blood pressure meds—which can be a significant monthly savings. Second, once you’ve become keto-adapted, you might find that you’re eating fewer calories overall for the same amount of energy. Mark touts this benefit all the time.
Also, your “non-essentials” budget usually goes down. I’m talking things like frappuccinos, restaurant desserts, and alcohol. The cost of a night on the town decreases significantly when you’re fully buzzed off a glass and a half of wine once you go keto! (And when you’re not ordering 2 a.m. pizza.)
So, let me turn it over to you: Do you have other tips for making Primal+keto easier on the wallet? Share them below, and have a great week, everybody.
Dr. Jason Fung is stopping by the blog today to share a bit about using adaptogens for stress. Enjoy, everybody—and be sure to share any questions you have on the comment board.
“Adaptogens.” Something about the word is reminiscent of Transformers—you know, those robots that look like a normal automobile or airplane—and then turn into something so much more powerful.
In truth, adaptogens aren’t that different from Transformers. They look like normal herbs, roots, and mushrooms. You’ll perhaps even recognize some of the adaptogens discussed in this article and will have eaten them before.
But adaptogens aren’t just normal plants and mushrooms. Research tells us that adaptogens can transform us into people who are less affected by stress.(1)
And, in the modern world, being less stressed certainly sounds like a superpower, right?
So, let’s take a research-based look at how adaptogens work and which ones you might try. We’ll focus in particular on the best adaptogens for stress reduction.
How It Works: Taking Adaptogens for Stress Reduction
It could be that you’re physically stressed from exercise, worn out from fighting off an illness, or emotionally stressed by a work-life balance issue. In any of these situations, adaptogens can help reduce cortisol levels, balance your hormones, and leave you feeling calmer.
In short, adaptogens help with stress reduction because they increase your tolerance for stress.
The reason adaptogens can assist with a broad range of stressors has to do with the mechanism by which they reduce stress. Rather than going to the specific site of our stress—an injured body part or rush hour traffic (wouldn’t that be nice?)—they go to work on our hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands. These are the parts of our anatomy that signal and respond to stress.
As a result of this interaction, our “fight or flight” response is less likely to be triggered by every little thing that is happening in our day. And our overall cortisol levels are less likely to skyrocket in response to modern-day stresses that don’t actually deserve a physical response (back to that rush hour traffic).
Conversely, chronically high stress levels—and chronically high cortisol—can lead to adrenal fatigue, digestive issues, and even premature aging. So, the fact that adaptogens can reduce stress is important on a physical level, not just an emotional one. Reducing stress can keep us younger and healthier.
5 Adaptogens That Will Help You with Stress Reduction
So, how do you go about incorporating adaptogens into your diet or supplement regimen? It’s actually pretty easy, and you will recognize some of the names of the adaptogens below. While all adaptogens will reduce your body’s stress response, they each have their own special qualities and methods for attacking stress.
Let’s discuss five adaptogens that you can easily get ahold of and why they might be a great addition to your daily health routine.
1. Chaga Mushroom
Chaga comes first in this list because of its broad spectrum of benefits. Chaga has been used for hundreds of years in a variety of Eastern European countries and may even have been used as far back as Roman times.
It is extremely high in antioxidants and is therefore known for its anti-aging properties. These same antioxidants may be behind chaga’s traditional use as a cancer treatment, as well.(2)
But chaga’s ability to boost the immune system (3) also means it has the benefit of stress reduction. How many of us have experienced the two-fronted attack of stress and illness? Don’t you always come down with the flu or a cold at the worst possible time? A 2011 study demonstrated that mice treated with chaga had an increased ability to fend off viruses and bacteria.(4)
This knobby looking root is one of the adaptogens you’re more likely to already be familiar with. Ginseng has trended in and out of fashion in the Western world, but in Traditional Chinese Medicine it has long been a powerful tool for reducing stress, anxiety, and mental fatigue.
There are many recent studies available that demonstrate ginseng’s status as one of the powerful adaptogens for stress reduction. Here are just a few:
A 2003 study on rats found ginseng to be an effective strategy against chronic stress.(5)
A 2010 study on a group of thirty human volunteers showed ginseng improved calmness.(6)
A 2013 meta-analysis of both human and animal studies found ginseng to be an effective “actoprotector,” which means it can increase mental and physical performance. The meta-analysis authors suggested ginseng deserved further research regarding its ability to influence mental work capacity.(7)
Note: because ginseng can also be a natural energy-booster, it can be an effective way to kick a caffeine habit and switch to something more beneficial.
3. Reishi Mushroom
Reishi mushrooms have been used therapeutically for over two thousand years because of the multitude of benefits this mushroom imparts.
In China, reishi mushrooms are considered to symbolize “success, well-being, divine power, and longevity.” (8) On a more practical level, reishi mushrooms are a good source of all nine essential amino acids. (9) This means reishi can assist with muscle growth and recovery, hormonal balance, antibody production, and more—all things that can help us recover from stress and fight it off to begin with.
Reishi has also proven effective in fighting fatigue from various sources. A 2005 study conducted on neurasthenia sufferers—a condition that results in chronic fatigue, irritability, headaches, and more—found consuming reishi resulted in a significant improvement in their symptoms. (10) Another human study found reishi reduced fatigue and improved quality of life in breast cancer patients. (11)
4. Rhodiola Rosea
The adaptogens in rhodiola come from the roots of the plant. Rhodiola is good both for regulating mood and improving cognitive function.
A 2008 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine demonstrated that participants experienced a significant improvement in their generalized anxiety disorder. (12) And a 2009 study from the Journal of Ethnopharmacology (conducted in a laboratory and using neither humans nor animals) showed that rhodiola roots possessed “potent anti-depressant activity” due to its ability as an MAO inhibitor. (13)
For the most effectiveness, take rhodiola first thing in the morning before you eat.
While this root has long been prescribed in India for a wide range of issues—everything from inflammation to insomnia—modern science does indeed back up ashwagandha’s claims to positively impact our stress level.
According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, study participants’ serum cortisol levels were “substantially reduced.” (14) In this study, participants took 300 mg of high-concentration full-spectrum ashwagandha extract twice a day for sixty days.
As you can see from the diversity of the research, adaptogens are not a simple substance—but their benefits are simple to understand. By improving our immune system, reducing our cortisol, boosting our brain function, and reducing our anxiety, these seemingly “normal” herbs, roots, and mushrooms can drastically reduce our everyday stress levels.
The Chaga Energy Elixir is a perfect way to begin your day. Blended with N.American ginseng and burdock root, it boosts brain function and energy—and is a great alternative to caffeine. (Or you can add it to your coffee or tea, if you’d like!)
The Reishi Calm Elixir is a great way to complete your day. Drinking it in the evenings can help you wind down from work while it also supports your immune system, combats stress, and regulates your mood.
No matter which adaptogens for stress reduction you decide to try, get ready to feel less anxious and more balanced. Both science and traditional medicines tell us this is true. It’s amazing how many benefits such a simple substance can bring to our lives.
Thanks again to Dr. Jason Fung for his post today. Questions about adaptogens for stress management? Share them below. Have a great week, everybody.