This week, we talked to Mark Sisson, author of marksdailyapple.com. Mark is an extremely well known Primal enthusiast. He has authored The Primal Blueprint, [more recently] The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Total Body Transformation, as well as other successful books on nutrition, health and fitness, and has appeared on several news broadcasts.
In this interview, we asked him the following questions on the topic of staying Primal in the college setting:
[CC] What is the first thing you would tell a college student who just discovered Paleo/Primal and is thinking about taking “the plunge?”
[MS] Don’t stress about getting everything perfect. Eat better, exercise regularly, focus on getting enough sleep, maybe study outside in the sun when you can—but don’t think you need to squeeze a chest freezer into your dorm, or stress out over sitting down for eight hours a day during lecture, or whether the fish in the cafeteria is wild caught. Just get the basics down.
[CC] Some colleges and universities have a reputation for serving french fries and nachos three times a day, everyday. How can a college kid working off of limited dining selections manage to put together a Primal meal?
[MS] Junk food will be available, but so will fresh whole foods. Hit the salad bar; bring your own olive oil if they don’t offer any good dressings. Eat fresh fruit, eggs, bacon, and sausage at breakfast; if all they have is heat lamp scrambled eggs, ask the cook for a fresh omelete or a couple eggs over easy. If it’s burger night, ditch the bun and double up on the meat. Make a mental checklist of the non-primal stuff as you survey the days offerings, and eat everything else.
[CC] Snacking is a big part of college. What should students be snacking on in order to keep those positive brain-waves flowing?
[MS] Macadamia nuts are my favorite, but jerky or a great aged cheese works too. Someething with fat and/or protein. Also, you don’t really need to snack. I find I do some of my best work on an empty stomach.
[CC] Many of our readers have asked us to explain why we have adopted a lifestyle that has not been supported by long term clinical trials or studies. What is your response to those who say that there is simply not enough long-term scientific evidence to stand by a Primal lifestyle?
[MS] As humans, we’ve been eating meat, vegetables, fruit, roots, nuts, seeds, and tubers for tens of thousands of years. It’s not an extreme position, and I’d say the burden of proof rests on those who say we shouldn’t be eating those things. Besides, there are no long term randomized control studies on any diet, not just the Primal way of eating, because it’s too expensive and difficult to conduct.
[CC] Students days are incredibly full. How do you recommend college kids stay in shape with their hectic and busy lives?
[MS] Make your workouts shorter and more intense. Avoid the cardio machines and head to the weight room for full body compound movements. Keep the intensity up and reduce the volume. Walk as much as possible—to class, to the library, to parties, to bars. Overall, make your workouts count, so you don’t have to spend so much time doing them.
[CC] College students are generally on a limited budget as well. How do you recommend staying primal on a college-level budget?
[MS] Don’t stress out over grass-fed and organic; they are superior choices, yeah, but they aren’t necessary for success.
[CC] There’s a lot of alcohol on college campuses these days; what do you recommend to kids thinking about drinking while also trying to stay lean, healthy and Primal/Paleo? Drink a little bit? Not at all?
[MS] Develop an appreciation for wine. Not only is it one of the “healthier” choices you can make, it’s also going to serve you well in life if you know your way around the wine list. Other decent options are tequila with lime and soda (Robb Wolf’s famous NorCal margarita) and any high quality spirit like scotch. Opt for quality over quantity.
But yeah, you’re gonna want to avoid the binge drinking. You should both enjoy and remember your college years. Don’t let it affect your life in a negative way; blackouts, missed exams/classes, an inability to wake up, constant hangovers are all signs you’re overdoing it.
[CC] How do you see students getting their lives on a healthy track during college?
[MS] Going Primal, at least partially, is a good start. College is a crazy time. You’re stressed out of your mind at points, but you’re also happier and more enthused about life than you’ve ever been. You’re making friends, probably lifelong ones. You’re chronically short on time. Your sleep schedule is out of whack. You’re on your own for the first time. Your beliefs are being shaped, established, and then shaped all over again. It’s kind of a trial run for real life, and if you can maintain fantastic health for the duration of the tumult and the confusion, you’ll know you can thrive later on, too.
[CC] Most Paleo/Primal blogs, websites, and books are generally geared toward an older audience. How can we help promote the Primal lifestyle in the college community?
[MS] Start a club or meetup group. Look for people wearing Vibrams. Chat up the people doing squats and dead-lifts in the weight room. Connect with people in your classes, on your floor, on the campus. Make it an in-person, tangible thing.
Questions for Mark? Questions for us? Want a Caveman College t-shirt? Leave a comment below!