Mark Sisson is an American fitness author and blogger, and a former distance runner, triathlete and Ironman competitor. Sisson finished 4th in the February 1982 Ironman World Championship. Sisson was born in Maine and is the oldest of four siblings. (Wiki)
We had the pleasure of catching up with Mark to get his thoughts on life, being an entrepreneur, what motivates him, and his experimentation with the Keto Diet. Here is what gives Mark the edge:
MPOF: What does Mark Sisson do for his birthday?
Mark: I don’t do anything really. For me it’s just another day. I’m not trying to avoid the inevitable or make it feel like something that it’s not. In some respects everyday feels like my birthday. On the other hand, my wife tries to make a big deal of it. So, this year we had a family dinner with about 16 family memebers.
But, I didn’t take the day off… I just went with the flow.
MPOF: What is the first 5-30 minutes of your day like? Do you have a morning routine?
Mark: Typically I wake up without an alarm clock. I sleep on a Chilipad, which is a water circulating cooling device that keeps my mattress cool, so I sleep well at night. As I wake up, the pad warms up to match the circadian rhythm of my body, and I usually get up around 6:30am.
Then I feed the dogs, make a robust pot of coffee, read the WSJ and LA Times and try to do all the puzzles in the LA Times.
I don’t have breakfast. Just a cup of coffee then I cruise into the day from there.
MPOF: Why coffee? Why not tea or some other caffeinated drink?
Mark: I just like the coffee. I like the taste of it and the pageantry of making it. This is a part of my life that keeps me grounded. If I had all the money in the world and had access to any great morning concoction, I’d still have a cup of coffee every day.
You may have seen the headlines that, coffee is helping people live longer. There has been resurgence in looking at the benefits of coffee… maybe it’s the anti-aging benefits, anti-inflammatory, or cognition benefits of coffee.
MPOF: Do you have a particular brand of coffee that you like?
Mark: I pretty much like all brands of coffee. As long as it’s a dark roasted and the more robust the better. My favorite brand would be Caveman, but I’m not the kind of snob that won’t go to Starbucks or whatever is closest. All I add is a little heavy whipping cream and maybe a pinch of sugar.
MPOF: What is your work schedule like?
Mark: My commute is literally down the hall, because I work out of my house. So, I’m typically at my desk well before 8am.
MPOF: I saw you have a pebble mat and a leaning post at your desk. Tell me about that.
Mark: Yeah, it’s kind of a cool thing. It looks like a welcome mat but it’s made from a couple hundred smooth rocks that are glued onto the mat in a way that, when I stand on it, it gives a different sensation on the bottom of my feet. (Mark works barefoot) And with the leaning seat, it’s not just about standing up at a desk, it’s about how many postural changes you can make throughout the day that’s going to lead you to greater alertness and posture, but may decrease inflammation and back pain, may open up the hips, and more.
MPOF: What types of exercise routines do you have?
Mark: I go to the gym or go paddling. My favorite thing is paddling, but that takes more time then I usually allocate to exercising. If I go to the gym, it only takes about an hour. The great thing about the gym, to me, the that there is a social component to the guy. So, it’s very much a social time for me.
My workout is geared towards not getting injured…because at my age, injury is a very real thing. But my favorite thing to do is play Ultimate Frisbee. I’ve played every Sunday, unless I’m out of town, for the past 13 years. I look forward to it all week.
If I had to pick one preferred exercise, I would have to pick sprints. It’s my favorite type of exercise because it’s efficient; you can do it in a very short period of time and be “energetically tired.” Because they are sprints, you’re increasing bone mass, bone density, build muscle mass, and increase aerobic capacity. All the things I want to keep, or at least not lose as I get older.
MPOF: How do you set yourself up for success mentally?
Mark: The time spent in the gym is easy to get through. It’s easy for me, it’s just not fun. Unlike paddling or Frisbee, where if I have to do it then get back to work, it’s like damn.
MPOF: Is there anything else you do to set yourself up for success mentally?
Mark: I think it is part of our make up… maybe it’s in our DNA? I just always feel compelled to always be doing something, to producing something or creating. Sometimes I think it’s to a fault because I have so much going on. It forces me to wake up in the morning going, “I have to get to this/that.”
MPOF: You have basically been a guinea pig for your tests and experiments with regard to health and wellness. How do you determine what you’re going to try next?
Mark: I keep educating myself and keep doing research. As I recognize a place in the world for me to explore that topic, or develop a product in that category, I do so. For example, when I was writing my book, I couldn’t get a publisher to publish it, so I self published… and because I self published that book, I self published the next seven books that I wrote and started a publishing company. Now I’ve published over 25 other books by other authors just because I saw there was a need for it.
Food and the Keto Diet -
MPOF: Is there anything you’re tried that you thought, nope this is not for me?
Mark: Well yeah, a lot of thing. I’ve had business failures that I thought I would try, and made the wrong choices early on, and had to pivot away from that. Or, in terms of eating strategies, I used to be a carb centric consuming endurance athlete for most of my life. I thought that consuming 500-1000g of carbs per day was what I needed to do to fuel my body for all the miles I’m putting on my body.
We’re a big fan of the N=1 strategy – the experiment of one. You educate yourself, you find out about the latest techniques and strategies, and then mindfully you engage in them and observe what the effects are.
MPOF: How does Keto and the Keto Reset book fit into the N=1 Strategy?
Mark: Keto is a recent shortened version of the word Ketosis. There is also Ketogenesis which is a term for the process by which your liver takes fat and produces ketones.
“Keytones are a type of fuel that your muscles can use, the heart can use, and the brain can use.”
Ketosis is the presence of excess ketones in the blood stream. It was the point at which your body was making so many of these ketone bodies as a byproduct of the fat metabolism. But ketosis isn’t the goal.
The goal of ketosis is to be metabolically efficient, or metabolic flexibility, to be able to burn fat and at a relatively high level of output. For the purpose of generating ketones and have your brain use those ketones so it doesn’t have to rely on glucose and to have your muscles s good at burning fat that they really don’t need glucose.
So for me, it has become more of a lifestyle where I’ve trained my body to be very efficient at converting food to energy, less reliant on carbohydrates, to a point where the body start to take on repair and restoration characteristics.
BTW… I’m not advocating for people to be in ketosis all the time. I’m not in ketosis all the time. I spent two months deep in ketosis to experience it and write the book, but I like to eat other kinds of foods.
Get deeper into Mark’s thoughts on Keto, click here
MPOF: What’s the difference between High Fat Low Carb (HFLC) and Keto?
Mark: There are degrees of participation here. I was HFLC for 10 years. Pretty much anyone who is primal is eating a high amount of healthy fat and moderate amount of healthy carbs. But that won’t get you into ketosis.
Going keto is like the next level of participation of this strategy. And I call it a strategy because it’s a tool that you can use when you need to burn fuel more efficiently and ultimately with less free radical damage.
In the Keto Reset Diet book, we ease into it. We spend 21 days getting people in to a low carb routine so they become better at burning fat. Then there is a mid-term exam halfway through the book to help people gauge how they feel. If they pass the mid-point test, then we spend the next 6 weeks in keto. That where you get the maximum efficiency and utility. You really need to be in ketosis for 6 weeks.
MPOF: Is it something that’s manageable outside the home? Eating out for example.
Mark: Well there are two thing about keto that are great:
- Your appetite is mitigated so you don’t feel like you need to find a restaurant to satisfy cravings. If there is not a restaurant around you can just skip a meal. The really cool thing is that when you’re in keto, if you skip a meal, you’re more keto than ever.
- I’ve never found a restaurant (other than fast food) that didn’t have something that fit my eating style. It’s a simple as using a couple kind words and making a request to the waiter. “Can you make me an ommlett, cooked in butter, and I’ll pay extra for the butter.” Or “Can you make me a big salad with a whole bunch of olive oil and vinegar.”
Motivation and Success -
MPOF: If someone was to come to you and say, Im struggling t get started, what are three tips you’d give them to get started:
- Cut out all the sugar in your life.
- I think that the less amount of glucose/sugar you eat in your life the longer you’ll live and the healthier you’ll be.
- Cut out industrial seed oils (corn oil, soybean oil, canola oil)
- Defer to avocado oil, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil
- I don’t care what program you’re engaging in, make vegetables the basis of your diet. They are one of the healthiest things you can eat.
MPOF: When you think about success who is the first person that comes to mind and why?
Mark: Richard Branson is one of the great business idols because he took the concept of a brand and he grew it across multiple different channels. He took it from music, to airlines, to resorts, and clothing. He took the Virgin brand and applied it to a lifestyle brand. That’s what I’m trying to do that with Primal.
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