As I’ve written before, although most people’s lipid numbers improve across the board, some people get interesting cholesterol responses to Primal ketogenic diets. LDL skyrockets, even LDL particle number. The jury’s out on whether or not they indicate negative health concerns or if keto dieters are a special breed that hasn’t received enough study. (There may be a few genetic profiles, such as APOE4 carriers, that react differently to certain dietary inputs.) Either way some people just want their cholesterol numbers to look good in a conventional way. These days, whenever I run into someone in the real world with these or similar concerns, I tell them to try “Mediterranean keto.”
What is that, anyway?
The Mediterranean diet can mean a lot of different things depending on who you ask. On one side, you have the folks who make the ridiculous claim that the Mediterranean diet consisted of pasta, low-fat dairy, beans, green veggies, seed oils with a “drizzle or two” of extra virgin olive oil for good measure, a handfuls of nuts, and a single filet of sardine once every three days. They avoided salt and red meat and full-fat cheese, somehow ignoring the vast body of salt water on their shores and the large population of sheep and goats roaming the land. I guess that livestock is only there to keep the weeds down.
On the other side, you have the people claiming that the true Mediterranean diet consisted of fatty lamb, hard cheeses, fish filets dripping with oil, skins of homemade red wine, cured meats, endless olives, vegetables at will, and the occasional legume bathing in mutton juices and a tiny piece of bread crust submerged in extra virgin olive oil.
This is probably closer to the truth, but both are a bit hyperbolic.
It also depends on where you’re looking. The Mediterranean is a big sea. Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Crete, Turkey, Morocco, Algeria, Israel, Lebanon, Egypt, and even France are all technically Mediterranean countries. Are their diets identical? No. Are there common threads running through their respective cuisines? Yes.
Wine (excepting Muslim dietary practices)
Grains and legumes (Yes, they do eat beans and pasta and bread, although perhaps not in the quantities the grain-addicted would prefer)
And that’s not even mentioning all the various social, spiritual, and lifestyle components of the Mediterranean way of life. The sun, the walking, the hills, the family connections, the religious leanings. Today’s label is all about the diet.
The Mediterranean keto diet emphasizes olive oil, fish, cheese, meat, low-carb vegetables, and red wine. In other words, it takes all the keto-compliant foods readily available to denizens of the Mediterranean and constructs a nutrient-dense diet out of them.
And you know what? It seems to work really well.
In one of the most impressive studies, people with severe obesity and metabolic syndrome tried a Mediterranean keto diet for 12 weeks. That’s three months.
Here’s what the diet consisted of:
No calorie counting
Lots of fish. At least (and often more than) four days a week, subjects ate over a kilogram of fish each day, mostly sardines, trout, mackerel, and salmon. On the other days, they got their protein from shellfish, meat, fowl, eggs, and cheese.
Lots of omega-3s. Subjects were getting over 15 grams of omega-3s on their fish days and supplementing with 9 grams of salmon oil on their non-fish days.
At least 200-400 mL of red wine a day, 100-200 mL at lunch and dinner. That’s up to over half a bottle.
At least 30 mL (2 tablespoons) of olive oil a day, 10 mL per meal.
Maximum two portions of salad and one portion of low-carb vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, eggplant, etc) per day.
A comprehensive vitamin and mineral supplement covering all the basics.
What happened to these subjects after 12 weeks on this Mediterranean keto diet regimen?
They lost 30+ pounds.
Their BMIs dropped from almost 37 to 31.5, from the middle of class 2 obesity to the bottom of class 1 obesity.
They lost 16 centimeters, or 6 inches, from their waist.
Fasting blood sugar dropped from 118 (pre-diabetic) to 91 (ideal).
All 22 subjects started the study with metabolic syndrome and ended it without metabolic syndrome.
That last bit is pretty interesting. Note that the majority of the participants were still obese (BMI over 30) by the end of the study, yet every single one had cured their metabolic syndrome. Sure, they lost weight, and the trend was fantastic and heading down, but they weren’t there yet. Something about the diet itself was incredibly powerful.
The only limitation? It was a pilot study, not a randomized controlled trial pitting the Mediterranean keto diet against a control diet in real time. But considering that these people were coming off control diets—which clearly weren’t working for them—and onto the Mediterranean keto diet, it has more real-world power than you might think. You can bet the participants weren’t complaining about a lack of placebo control.
I’m not saying this is the best incarnation of all the potential Mediterranean keto diets out there. But if you’re having mixed metabolic results from the keto diet and looking for a ketogenic option with more monounsaturated fat and omega-3s, it’s the one that has some clinical research behind it. It’s one that doesn’t possess any glaring red flags.
This is also a form of ketogenic dieting that most people will view as “healthy.” It can be hard to get people to accept that putting real cream in their coffee and steak on their plates is good for them, even if they’re approaching death’s door eating what they’ve always eaten. It’s not so hard to get people on board with a diet of olive oil, fish, red wine, and salad. That’s no small feature.
In the end, the ketogenic Mediterranean diet appears to be an effective way to treat metabolic syndrome without scaring people away. For that reason, it might be a good option to try if you’re having issues with cardiovascular markers, blood sugar, hypertension, body fat, or any of the components that make up the metabolic syndrome.
What do you think of the Mediterranean keto diet? Think you could stick to it?
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering questions from last week’s Collagen vs Whey post. You guys had a lot of questions, mostly about collagen, and I’m here to answer them. Can collagen help with plantar fasciitis? Should you take collagen and whey together in the same smoothie, or do they cancel each other out? If a person can’t have whey, is there an equivalent protein powder source? Is glycine a good replacement for collagen? What about liquid whey from raw milk—how does it compare to powdered whey? If I wanted to get my glycine from foods, what would I need to eat and how much of it?
Let’s find out:
Is there any evidence that collagen supplements can help with plantar fasciitis? Suffering from this recently and the stretching from MDA has helped but looking to get that last 10% of healing so there is no pain.
Fascia is basically pure collagen. If collagen supplementation has been shown to improve pain in other parts of the body made of collagen, like the knees or tendons, and improve collagen synthesis in collagenous tissues like skin and joints, I see no reason it shouldn’t also improve the fascia. Boosting collagen synthesis is boosting collagen synthesis, and supplemental collagen does it.
A good thing to try is eat 20-30 grams of collagen with 200 mg of vitamin C 30 minutes before a workout that you know targets your plantar fascia.
Is there any benefit to having them at the same time? Or do they cancel each other out?
I’m a big fan of stirring collagen into any foods I make that have sauce.
What about a 50/50 smoothie of whey and collagen?
Thanks for any insight!
I’m unaware of any unique benefit.
When you think about how collagen appears in the natural world, it’s usually alongside muscle meat.
Entire culinary traditions revolve around the consumption of collagen and muscle meat together. Think Vietnamese pho (bone broth and meat). Think French (reduced broth-based sauce poured over meat). Think Mexican (bone broth-infused rice served with meat). Hell, go all the way back to the Pleistocene and humans were boiling smashed bone fragments in stomach casings.
No reason to separate them.
It is possible for a person to be allergic to casein and I don’t think it’s possible to have fully casein free whey protein except maybe the isolate. However, if the person is allergic it wouldn’t be safe. What’s the next best complete protein if a person can’t use whey, and wants the convenience of a powder? I’ve seen beef protein before, but have no idea of the quality.
I’d say go for egg white protein. Extremely complete, tasteless, and blends seamlessly into anything.
Is it true that collagen doesn’t work/assimilate without vitamin C? I try to take mine with some cherries or lemons.
It seems to work better. The recent study that found pre-workout collagen improved tendons also included vitamin C.
I sometimes buy raw A2 milk from Jersey cows, and make my own whey. Wondering how that compares to powdered whey?
That’s awesome. The liquid whey will have a broader range of nutrients, but the powdered whey will be more concentrated and far higher in protein. Remember that whey protein is basically dehydrated liquid whey and you’ll get a picture of how much liquid whey goes into whey powder.
My interest in this has led me to start studying biology because I would like to know more about nutrition and digestion. Because the way that my nails changed seems incredible to me and it really makes me wonder what else collagen is doing.
You make a good point. I often use improvements in one area of health as assurance that other areas of health are also improving. I’m sure that’s not always true, but I think that’s a pretty safe assumption most of the time.
My question to you Mark would be to echo the same question others have posed, ie are there any downsides to me taking whey, collagen and glycine simultaneously in my pre-workout shake? Otherwise I have a real dilemma, as it appears that there is very good science to support having both collagen/ glycine as well as rapidly digested essential aminos (from whey) in your system before undertaking a ‘fasted’ workout.. A tough question I know but any insight you have would be much appreciated!
There’s no reason to avoid it. Do it. Should be good for both your connective tissue and your gains.
Would glycine supplements have a similar effect as collagen? Glycine supplementation would be way less expensive than collagen:
• 30 grams of collagen (=~10 grams glycine) from Great Lakes = 5 tablespoons, costs =~$1.13 if you buy the 8 pound bag.
• 10 grams of glycine from Bulk Supplements =~$0.18 if you buy the 5 kilogram bag.
Pure glycine is great for things like balancing your intake of methionine. As I wrote in the original post, muscle meat is high in an amino acid called methionine. Methionine metabolism depletes glycine, so the more meat you eat, the more glycine-rich connective tissue, bone broth, and collagen supplements you should be eating to balance out the amino acids. This is the basic foundation for eating all that collagen I recommend.
But balancing methionine for longevity and health isn’t the only reason we’re eating collagen. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, providing tensile strength to our bones, teeth, ligaments, tendons, and cartilage. It’s an important structural component of the skin, lungs, intestines, and heart. And as far as the evidence so far available suggests, eating the amino acids that make up collagen separately doesn’t have the same effect on those collagenous tissues as eating them together in a collagenous matrix.
In one study, rats with osteoporosis ate collagen hydrolysate that scientists had marked with a radioactive signature to allow them to track its course through the body. It survived the digestive tract intact, made it into the blood, and accumulated in the kidneys. By day 14, the rats’ thigh bones had gotten stronger and denser with more organic matter and less water content.
Another study found similar results, this time for cartilage of the knee. Mice who ate radioactive collagen hydrolysate showed increased radioactivity in the knee joint.
All that said, pure glycine can be a helpful supplement. As mentioned, it’s great for balancing out methionine intake from muscle meat consumption. It’s also been used in several studies to improve multiple markers of sleep quality. And glycine is probably the most important component, if you had to choose just one, of collagen.
Collagen is ideal, but glycine isn’t a bad option. In fact, I’d argue that perhaps collagen plus supplementary glycine could offer the best bang for your buck.
Mark, can you please do a post examining the different amounts of glycine in actual foods, i.e. pork rinds, chicken skin, connective tissue rich cuts of meats, etc? I’d really like to get my collagen and glycine from food sources and know how much of the foods I would have to eat in order to get the 10g you mention.
I’ll do a quick answer.
An ounce of pork rinds gives you 3.38 grams of glycine.
An ounce of roasted chicken skin gives you 1 gram of glycine.
A pork tail of about 4 ounces will give you almost 3 grams of glycine. Oxtail should be about the same.
So getting your glycine from food alone is entirely doable, but you’ll probably have an easier time if you like chicharrones/pork rinds and animal tails. There are some higher quality pork rinds out there these days, like the Epic brand ones.
Hi Mark – thank you for all of your great information!!!
I make homemade Greek yogurt at home – I strain it in a fine mesh strainer and get an incredible about if whey as a result. I generally mix about 1/4 cup back into the yogurt to get the right consistency. I throw the rest out. Is this consumable as whey for the diet?
It is consumable. But keep in mind that liquid whey isn’t as protein-dense as whey powder. It’s still good to eat and a great source of probiotics.
As Mark has always said, the key to great food is the sauces and seasonings. This simple and versatile compound butter is yet another way you can add more flavor and richness to just about any Primal or keto meal you make. Fresh herbs add a bright taste and butter lends a smooth richness to everything from roasted vegetables to hearty omelettes to varied fish and meat dishes. Use your favorite herbs for the perfect taste you’ll enjoy!
1 stick butter (softened at room temperature)
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. fresh basil
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano
1/2-1 Tbsp. fresh thyme
Note: If using dried herbs instead of fresh, cut the amount of herbs in half
If using fresh herbs, wash, dry and roll together into a “cigar” shape, and finely slice, gathering up the herb pieces and cutting the pile until the pieces are very small. (If you’re using dried herbs, combine in a small bowl.)
Place the chopped herbs in the same small bowl as a stick of softened butter. Use a fork to mash the butter and combine the herbs with the butter.
When combined, place the compound butter on a small sheet of waxed paper or parchment paper, and roll into a log. Twist the ends to seal. Refrigerate for an hour to harden.
Take a tablespoon or more to add to omelettes, roasted vegetables, meats, or other dishes for added flavor and richness.
Note: To maintain freshness, store in the refrigerator in the rolled paper and a plastic container.
Other flavor options: chipotle powder, chili powder, cumin, fresh garlic, tarragon.
Nutritional Information (1 tablespoon = 1 serving):
Hemp and cauliflower “oats” is a hearty and filling breakfast that has the traditional texture—without the grains. You can modify the recipe dozens of different ways by varying fruits, nuts, seeds, natural sweeteners, milks, and other toppings. While this recipe used full-fat coconut milk and water, you can use dairy milk or another non-dairy alternative you prefer. We also added collagen for an extra protein boost. Find your favorite taste combination, and enjoy this Primalized classic.
In a pot, combine the cauliflower, coconut milk, water, and ground flaxseed and heat over medium heat. Stir occasionally.
Once it starts to bubble (about 3-4 minutes), add the almond butter and give the mixture a stir. Reduce the heat to medium low and cover the pot. Heat for an additional 5 minutes, removing the lid occasionally to stir.
Take half of the pumpkin seeds and pulse them quickly in a grinder, blender or food processor so they are chopped small but not yet in the form of a powder. Pour the pulsed pumpkin seeds in the pot and stir. Cover the pot again for an additional 2-3 minutes.
When you uncover the pot again, add the vanilla extract and hemp hearts. Around this time it should start resembling thin “oats.” If you are adding the Collagen Fuel, any sweeteners, or additions like cinnamon, add them now. Gently stir the oats uncovered over medium-low heat so it is just bubbling until the mixture reaches the consistency of your liking (keep in mind that it will continue to thicken a small amount after it is removed from heat).
(If the mixture seems too thick, you can add a small amount of additional water or coconut milk. If the mixture is still too soupy and thin, you can either try adding ground flaxseed a teaspoon at a time or continue to cook the mixture uncovered until it reaches your desired thickness.)
Pour the “oats” into a glass or bowl and top with raspberries, a sprinkle of hemp hearts, the remaining pumpkin seeds, and any other favorite add-ons you may have!
Nutritional Information (2 servings, per serving):
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!