July 18, 2013 Over the Hump Bump: What's with all the supplements, and Primal hypocrisy

Since I totally forgot to do a post bump last week, I'll have a two-fer for you today of examples of the few posts I've done concerning Mark Sisson here at the Asylum.  I did so few, and tried so hard to build my readership by trashing him that I even had to update the labels on this post to include the man's name.  Yet I thought I'd use these bumps to shed some light on Mark Sisson's career as a disappearing artist of sorts -- making criticisms disappear.  This is an opportunity to address Point 8-of-12 of Mark's email to Charles Grashow as pertains me.  
8.       I find it more than ironic that a person who would continuously try to take me down, criticize my business, question my ethics and motives and generally use my site and my products as fodder to build her own traffic would then beg me to disassociate with and publicly denounce others to whom she does the exact same thing. On that principle alone I wouldn’t  be seen supporting her (Ev) in any way.
Ahh yes, it is no longer in his interest (see Crying Wolf II).  For the record, my criticisms of Mark have been rather mild and he, himself, described them as fair during our almost 90 minute phone conversation last summer.  His behavior since, however, is worthy of questioning.  But one thing about his "ethics and motives", they are questionable for sure.  So first my bump today is my post criticizing Primal Fuel (in the context of LC supplement usage/promotion).

Like I was the only one?  Nope.  The Hartwigs of Whole9 did so in November of 2010 (so you read it here first - grin), only an interesting thing happened to their post.  On the right we have a partial screenshot of the original (you can click to enlarge) post entitled Paleo-Schmaleo.  In red there, they write of their frustration with the dilution of the term paleo -- way back in 2010 mind you!   Below that, is a partial shot of the current version you will see if you click on the link.  That middle paragraph with the missing PB logo is Primal Fuel   

But in an attempt to cash in on the Paleo bandwagon, the term is now being bandied around by marketers, companies and sales campaigns with little to no regard for the original definition of the word.
You see, paleo people used to criticize other paleo people ... before my blog averaged a piddly 500 page hits per day.  My post on PF likely barely broke 250.  Yeah, my criticisms were such well orchestrated business builders.  Ha!  Here's what they wrote about Primal Fuel:
Case #2: Mark Sisson’s new Primal Fuel, described as, “The perfect Primal, Paleo or Low-Carb Meal”. The main ingredient is whey protein isolate, with some sucrose and maltodextrin thrown in for good measure. Slightly more offensive to us, as folks look to MDA to dispense accurate and healthy nutrition advice. We’re not down with this particular sales pitch.
Scathing?!  They even said it was offensive to them, gasp!  Oh can you just feel the vitriol?!  But it's gone now.  I don't suppose it's OK for me to speculate that some pressure just might have been applied there?  Here's another one for you, a post written by Fit Bomb that no longer resides on his site but remains on this host(?) site.  Fit Bomb is married to popular paleo blogger Nom Nom Paleo, she is the "M" he refers to.  
This week, Mark Sisson -- author of pro-ancestral-diet-handbook "The Primal Blueprint", creator of the P90X Recovery Drink, and professional supplement maker -- introduced a new meal replacement shake called "Primal Fuel."

Sisson swears this stuff is consistent with a primal/paleo approach to nutrition -- but is it really? My gut tells me that our prehistoric ancestors would have had a difficult time hunting and gathering the ingredients in Sisson's powdered shake, which include whey protein isolate, sodium caseinate, sucrose, and maltodextrin (a.k.a. corn starch). How is this stuff considered "real" or "whole" foods? And Sisson's charging ninety-nine dollars for 30-serving cannister of a protein powder made up of coconut milk mixed with whey protein isolate and a bunch of lab-processed chemicals?
I tend to think the charge about the recipes is more at the root of why this post no longer exists on fitbomb.com, but, eh ... Mark likes to stay out of the sandbox.   

So, with these two examples in mind, I offer my own scathing assessment of Mark Sisson's Primal Fuel, with another Bump to come.

Original publish date 10/17/2010

I've come to be somewhat amazed at the numbers of supplements taken by the low carb community.  I understand that some of our modern foods are almost bound to be deficient in some way or another, but I simply can't understand how any diet can be considered healthy (or the healthiest) when so many supplements are still required.  

I've seen Dana Carpender describe herself as an "accomplished swallower", Jimmy Moore takes a ton of supps, Mark Sisson has his own (pricey!!) supplement line, etc.etc.  The Eades provided a long list of supps to take with their 6WC diet.  This list could go on and on.

I wonder what the evolutionary advantage would have been to waking up in the middle of the night with crippling leg cramps.  I don't know about you, but I've never experienced muscle cramping quite so agonizing until I low carbed without taking potassium, and I had my fair share of opportunities through sports participation.  Bananas and potatoes anyone?

Now granted if it were only low carbers taking the stuff, GNC, Vitamin Shoppe and the like would all be out of business, but in general I never experienced such great fervor for taking all those pills and liquids back in my low fat days.  And I was in with some pretty serious diet & fitness crowds at various times too.

I often wonder if some of the "miracle cures" experienced by some low carbers are due to carbohydrate restriction or the improved micronutrient content of their diets through supplementation.  No doubt eliminating gluten from the diets of most low carbers can be helpful for those with undiagnosed intolerance.  

So I'm sure many of my readers are aware that I follow Jimmy Moore's low carb menus blog, and have commented over there on occasion.   I was shocked to see Mark Sisson had come out with a new product:  Primal Fuel meal replacement powder.  Apparently this isn't his first product of its kind, but I haven't really looked into this side of him.  Anyway, so much for real whole foods and the whole "spirit" of the evolutionary diet argument.  But OK, well, maybe it's not a whole food, but it's still primal.  I guess primal is what Mark Sisson says it is?  The formula contains sucrose (not a lot, but ...) and maltodextrin!  The former may be acceptable as sucrose does exist in nature, but maltodextrin?   I consider this to be hypocritical on Sisson's part.  Maltodextrin is made from starch, the starch Sisson routinely derides when he assesses certain foods as acceptable for primal lifestyles or not.  Sigh :-(    Mark has responded to several comments about the maltodextrin saying it is an anticlumping agent in all powdered coconut milk.  He says it is obtained from casava.  Fair enough ... sounds mighty Primal to me!  NOT.  Maltodextrin is not a glucose polymer found naturally in casava roots.  And maltodextrin derived from casava is no different than that derived from corn.  The starch is "extracted" from the whole food then enzymatically modified to maltodextrin.  Let's be honest about this and not try to pass it off as some sort of Primal ingredient.  I know Sisson is all about "honoring our Primal genes" while living in the modern world.  But Sisson routinely shuns whole foods or less processed derivatives of them (e.g. flour) because of their carbohydrate/starch content.  Yet this one is OK?    Sisson has a built in "fudge factor" for the Primal Lifestyle -- the 80/20 rule.  More 20% for ya I guess. 


Jeremy said…
Mark Sisson and Art De Vany are believers in dietary antioxidants. I am less sure.
Colby said…
Amen! I actually watched Nikoley's interview with Sisson (video here: http://freetheanimal.com/2010/04/a-conversation-with-mark-sisson-about-primal-business.html) and Mark talks about his history selling nutritional supplements and various fitness related businesses and how he essentially hit on a successful one this time. It seems to me that this is about making money and not so much a passion for science/nutrition.
CarbSane said…
Jeremy, did you mean supplementing antioxidants or obtaining them through diet?

I've always liked Sisson's embracing of veggies and some fruits. His "big ass salad" is similar to how I ate (pretty much my only "meal" of the day) most days back when I was dropping weight like crazy.

But the high-fat crowd that agonizes over every carb in veggies and limits muscle consumption is missing out on a spectrum of micronutrients. Even if/when we can isolate the "active ingredient" in a particular food that has health benefits, we don't know if there is some synergism with other compounds that make it really effective.

So when someone claims this or that diet is optimal, then advocates a bunch of supplements, I just have to wonder. Neither our paleolithic ancestors nor fairly recent cultures had access to supplements yet were relatively free from obesity and disease. So ....
Derek H said…
Sisson is on the P90x DVD's pushing the "recovery" drink. I got a good chuckle from that.
CarbSane said…
Welcome Derek! Isn't he a "poster body" for that program too? He claims to have his abs doing no ab work then describes isometric ab contractions he does all the time. Take someone in great shape to begin with and maintain ....
CarrollJ16 said…
Good on you for pointing out the inherent contradictions in a lot of the low carb community. I like Barry Grove's approach: He is an elderly Brit who doesn't take (or pedal) supplements, but eats organ meats regularly.
CarbSane said…
Ugh .... organ meats. When you've worked in some of the fields I have this is just impossible!! But I get his rationale. I see a lot of paleo/primals eating beef and not much else. They're missing a lot of the "evolutionary" nutrition that way. I do take some basic supplements on a "just in case there's something to this" basis. But I'm amazed how many people buy Sisson's overpriced stuff. Apparently the PF is coconut milk and whey. If I found myself wanting to purchase that for $99/30 servings I would re-think my lifestyle!

Welcome to my blog Carroll! Great arms girl :-)
Erik said…
You're misrepresenting Sisson. He isn't against all starch, just the type - grains/legumes, mostly, and wheat, specifically - that come loaded with gluten and other antinutrients. Sure, he advises against a ton of starch for overweight people looking to lose, but that's extremely sensible. If you're lean and active, yams or potatoes are fine.

It's not the starch content the paleo world is against.
CarbSane said…
Welcome Erik! Perhaps I'm not misrepresenting him after all:
Erik said…
Thanks! You should check out his latest thoughts on starch, specifically rice and potatoes. That's a pretty old post.
CarbSane said…
Yeah, my link is to an older post, but this goes to one of my issues with Sisson. His basis for considering certain foods Primal or not (or honoring the genes) seems very fluid indeed. Now Grok got dairy? Now starch carbs are sort of OK? (I see he also has some posts on potatoes lately).

I'm all for questioning and tweaking one's ideas on nutrition, etc. But when one has compiled a bunch of information in a definitive book, that implies some sort of authority on the topic. His reasoning for everything seems way too situational for my liking considering how absolute he is about some other things.

80/20 really can allow for just about anything when you think about it.

I guess the whole excess carbs turn to fat underpinning of Sisson's diet sticks in my craw given that this is demonstrably not true in humans. Kinda makes everything else he says suspect, and given that he ultimately is in the business of selling supplements, I remain wary.
Me said…
"Paleo people used to criticize other paleo people". My current beef with paleo bloggers is how they all just LOVE each others' books! Every single one is just perfect in every review! Never a single criticism or fault. Drives me nuts.
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