Mr. Money Mustache vs. Mark’s Daily Apple

The Mustaches and the Sissons, sprinting it out in Malibu, CA.

A couple of months ago, I was relaxing in the Mustache Lounge and an interesting email came in. It was from the editor of a major blog called MarksDailyApple.com, which I had heard of but never really followed.

As it turns out, this guy was also an MMM reader and we had a great conversation about writing blogs on topics which tend to go against conventional wisdom. But even more fateful was the fact that he offered to send me a few books from author Mark Sisson, the original “Mark” behind that Daily Apple website and the employer of my new friend.

“Yeah, yeah, free books” is what you normally say in that situation. It’s flattering to get free stuff just because you have a blog, but I normally don’t accept the offers because I already get all my books for free – at the Library. Combine this with the fact that I already have a long queue of things I need to read, and the fact that free books are in general sent in hopes of getting free promotion from bloggers, and you can see why I don’t usually accept the gifts.

But in this case, I thought it could work out well. I was about to leave for the giant annual trip to Canada (a trip we’re just wrapping up this week, actually), and I figured it would be handy to have some more reading material on vacation. Also, the guy offering was a really interesting and genuine person, and the subject of health and fitness is one of my favorite to read about. So I requested that the books be sent to the address where I’d be staying in Canada, so they’d be there waiting for me when I arrived.

Then over the next two weeks, I forgot about the whole arrangement. I drove alone across the country, had a chance to meet many new interesting people, and had some neat experiences.

Eventually I arrived at my final destination in Ottawa, and found that my new books had been opened and were in active use. My wife and in-laws were eating differently, novel exercises were being performed, and both motivation and fitness levels were looking pretty good, by vacation standards. Occasionally I would hear the unusual phrase, “Hmm.. I wonder what Mark Sisson would think about this choice? Is it Primal?”

I had to figure out what all this was about, so I dug into the thickest of the three books, called “The Primal Blueprint”. And I’ll admit, even as a jaded fitness book junkie who thought I wouldn’t see anything new, I found it pretty interesting. And here’s why.

The Primal Blueprint is all about living a simpler, more powerful, and healthier life. The idea is to be inspired by the Badassity of our pre-agricultural human ancestors, who were actually just as clever as us and far more physically fit. In fact, if you adjust for the higher infant mortality of primitive times and the vastly higher danger of early death from infection and accidents, these people lived almost as long as we do now, and kept in much better shape throughout their lifespans, typically avoiding heart disease and cancer.

So the idea is that you can take the best of a primitive lifestyle, and incorporate it into your modern one, to get the best of both. In practice, this means thinking about our evolutionary past and sticking to foods and activities that are compatible with what we evolved to thrive on. Moving around all day, spending most of your time outside, and eating plants, nuts, organic meats and a generally low-carb diet: yes. Sedentary lifestyles, TV, refined carbs and grains: not nearly as much.

Mark Sisson suggests that we all live more laid-back lifestyles, walk around with bare feet whenever possible, let our bodies be forced to adjust to the climate around us, exercise moderately but with occasional heavy lifting and sprinting, and basically forego as much of the modern blare of flashy digital entertainment as we can stand to do.  In exchange, he suggests that you’ll have a much easier time maintaining an excellent level of fitness, and you’ll become happier and more productive and live much longer as well.

I’m sure you’re starting to see why I like the message. This stuff sounds awfully similar to Mustachianism itself. Over the past 1.3 years, Mr. Money Mustache has taken away your TV, made you live within biking (or walking) distance of work, taught you to get more of what you need from Nature, cut down on your purchases of unnecessary gadgets, told you to always put Muscle over Motor, and even drawn inspiration from another primitive culture of Badassity, the Native Americans. I took away most of your Air Conditioning privileges (never cool your house below 82F), arguing that it is better to make the most of your body’s natural adaptability to changing temperatures rather than wasting electricity just for the benefit of remaining a Climate Wuss.

In short, I too want you to live like a Cave Man or Cave Woman. You’ll be a well-educated and socially conscious one with Internet access, but in general you will be reaping the enormous benefits of this simpler way of life, with the six-pack abs and Giant Money Mustache to show for it.

The Primal Blueprint book is far more focused on nutrition than this blog, and I enjoyed the different perspective. For example, if you believe the studies cited in the book, dietary cholesterol intake has nothing to do with blood levels of “bad cholesterol” and heart disease . In fact, it is the excessive insulin production caused by high carbohydrate intake from grains and sugars that causes most of the lifestyle diseases we see today.

A recent breakfast, enjoyed outdoors at the Mustache-in-Laws.

In other words, the book suggests that having a giant plate of bacon, eggs, and avocados (all organic if possible) is a far healthier breakfast than a few slices of whole wheat bread covered with some modern low-cholesterol spread.

It’s far from conventional wisdom, but it actually aligns almost perfectly with what the “Paleo” eating crowd has been preaching. And from my own non-scientific experiments on myself, I have to weigh in on the side of the low-carb eaters.

I’ve dropped bread and most grains out of my diet over the past year, just to see what would happen. It’s a huge change, since in my 20s I was an avid low-fat follower, avoiding most oils and eating plates of spaghetti and drinking mugs of skim milk with protein powder even as I did long weightlifting workouts 3-4 times per week.

The results have surprised me. I eat rich oily foods now, and do much shorter workouts. But with very little effort I’ve lost almost all the extra fat I had been carrying in the earlier years. Energy levels are better than ever. Even more interestingly, my body seems to regulate its own appetite much more easily now. Instead of requiring 6 small meals per day, I now tend to eat a big greasy breakfast, and not need food until much later in the day. On active days, appetite scales way up. On sit-at-home days, I need much less food. In the event of food shortage, the body has become very good at just using stored fat, making the belly fat reserves very easy to control at will (“Sorry, Metabolism, no food available right now, but help yourself to those Love Handles over there if you’re hungry.”).

These are all things advertised by lower-carb advocates, but I just happened to stumble on them myself earlier this year. Pretty neat.

But the neatest part is how the ideas of the Primal Blueprint also apply so readily to the field of becoming wealthy enough to retire early, the primary focus here at Mr. Money Mustache.

Mark Sisson correctly recognizes the natural badassity of our ancestors and harnesses it to whip all of his followers into shape. If you follow the advice, you’ll have a nice body and a healthy mind. But you’ll still be locking those fine assets up in a cubicle all day, so you can earn enough to buy $100 steaks at Whole Foods and make the payments on the giant SUV you use to drive to the forest for hikes.

Mr. Money Mustache simply keeps going with that set of ideas, and teaches you to apply them to your spending as well. By embracing rather than running away from simpler living and heightened challenge, you can learn to save 50-75% (or more) of what you earn, while coming out happier than you were while spending much more. Don’t be fooled into spending lavishly to attain a healthy and primal lifestyle. It’s all around you – you just have to take off your shoes, run outside, and grab some of it.


Many thanks to Aaron at Mark’s Daily apple and to Mark Sisson himself for working to share such a useful message.

  • Ziggy August 9, 2012, 6:10 am

    MMM, are you sure you want to go here? When it comes down to it, you’re endorsing a guy who is part of the diet industry, something that seems to be the antithesis of what I understood to be moustashian ways. The entire thing is one giant merry-go-round that endlessly turns and turns, for now instead of demonizing fat, they’re demonizing carbohydrates and even legumes, one of the most cost-effective sources of protein that most of the world makes an important part of their diet by necessity because meat is an expensive thing. All the while, hawking expensive and unnecessary products that fit into whatever diet they’re peddling. Mark sells PRIMAL FUEL, a $33/lb supplement for all the protein-shake swilling cavemen out there, not to mention all of his other associated products.

    The simple fact is, diets don’t work, not because people don’t lose weight initially, but because long-term changes are really hard for people–particularly when they are extreme–and biological mechanisms in the body make keeping weight off a difficult thing–I’m not talking one year here, which is about how long this thing has been popular, I’m talking 5 years, 10 years and beyond. So people try the newest fad du-jour, looking for a yet another fix. Yet I can guarantee you somebody has suggested the same basic advice of this in the past, just in a different form, so it’s not really new. As one of your previous commenters said, there are elements of the whole “primal” thing that are sound, like not eating processed crap–a basic piece of advice that one need not diet to follow–but it’s really just a low-carb diet. A diet.

    The lentils… please tell me you don’t support throwing them out. $1 for a 1/lb bag. Such a moustashian food… and delicious with a little smoked sausage!

    I certainly see how elements of this are appealing to you, simplify, etc, and that like everything there are some good parts, but it just seems to me that there is so much wrong with with the entire outlook being hawked by people like Mark Sisson.

    • Mr. Money Mustache August 9, 2012, 6:08 pm

      Yeah, I’m pretty happy to speak out in favor of this primal lifestyle thing. I don’t care if it happens to contain food recommendations, I wouldn’t consider it part of a “diet industry”. It just works, and I’m recommending it because it has worked for me and everyone I know who tried it.

      As for losing weight: no, it’s not hard to keep excess bodyfat off if you actually know how to eat, live, and exercise properly.. it’s hard to keep it ON! The key is that most people don’t know how to do those things properly. (Low-fat fruit shakes and jogging or aerobics, for example, won’t help most people improve their body composition over the long run.)

      Now that I’ve accidentally become a teeny-tiny self help guru myself, I have much more sympathy for the plight of self-help gurus in general. Mark Sisson discovered some stuff that really worked for him. Then he started sharing it with people and got more and more excited, and it turned into a business for him. I believe his main reason for continuing is because he enjoys helping people.

      That’s exactly the same situation I’m in as Mr. Money Mustache. I started writing about some shit that worked for me, others reported that it is also working for them, and here we are. If I needed more income, I’d also start selling some products through the blog, which wouldn’t make the underlying message any less real (although it would certainly inspire more cynics).

      The main difference between me and the typical mega-selling spokesperson is the fact that I’ve disconnected the idea of having even more money, from being any happier. That saves me from a lot of effort in thinking up things to sell.

      And for the record, I DO believe that Mustachians should customize the idea of a primal lifestyle to their own liking. Don’t buy any expensive supplements. Get the books you need from the library. Eat beans and rice if they agree with your digestive system. Do research and don’t be a sheep. But if you need to lose fat, DO try a low-carb, no grain diet just to see what happens!

      • JasonR August 10, 2012, 9:17 am

        “Get the books you need from the library.” While I wait 6 years for it to show up…perhaps we could try…

        What if I send you postage and you ship your free copy to me, then I’ll send it to the next person who wants it and we can share all this info at a media mail rate. Sisson gets free PR while the hoi polloi gets reduced rate information.

        With all these different diets/gurus/lifestyles/studies, I don’t understand how people rationalize their decisions when faced with conflicting information. The China study (among many others) shows one clear outcome (all animal products are bad), Paleo shows a mutually exclusive and diametrically opposed outcome (meat is fine). Which one has the better science? Anyone have experience in translational medicine? It seems like every camp has “the real facts” that support whatever angle they’re pitching. Shady. Someone is wrong.

        What’s less frustrating but more disagreeable is that all this back-and-forth nonsense costs money. Once someone charges money for an interpretation/repacking of some *free* studies and widely available info (try NEJM and pubmed) it smacks of snake-oil salesmanship no matter how valid the underlying premise is.

        I don’t know what this incredibly annoying MD’s angle is, but at least the info is free: http://nutritionfacts.org/ if you can withstand his voice and delivery.

      • Scott August 14, 2012, 1:22 pm

        Sisson used to be an endurance athlete and has always been in great shape. Apparently, the main benefit of the Paleo diet to him is that he gets sick less. That is great, but I am not sure his personal experience proves much in the area of weight loss.

    • MrsTrimWaistFatWallet September 1, 2012, 6:15 pm

      Diets DO work. People don’t :)

  • Mike August 9, 2012, 10:08 am

    I love the ghetto photoshop of the cover! Almost as much as the mirror image photo between you and Ferriss!

    I started a whole foods program, Whole30, which is a little bit more restrictive than our on-and-off-again paleo diet and I’m blogging about it here if you want to see how it is working for us. I’m convinced now that I have some food allergies because aside from losing weight, several other aspects of daily life are much better.


  • Rebecca August 9, 2012, 4:59 pm

    You mean, Primal isn’t just about eating nuts and berries???

    *face palm*

    Sounds like an interesting read. We could all afford to take some Mustachian/Primal approaches in our daily lives.

  • JaneMD August 14, 2012, 10:24 am

    Wow there is a lot of discussion on which diet is favored by whom! Having read up on numerous diets and their primary research (JAMA just had an article discussing low carb versus low fat versus ‘normal), I ended up with a few points I think most MMM readers could agree on.

    1. Packaged/processed foods are not the best source of nutrition
    2. Packaging is expensive and wasteful.
    3. Eating out is expensive, wasteful, and usually not healthy.

    I’ve ben watching diets come and go, so at this point none of them particularly impress me. (HubbyJD favors the old ‘Caveman diet’ which he learned about in college – 150g of protein a day.) My personal suspicion is that many people lose the weight on whichever diet they pick because they are so committed they can follow one plan for months/years. Diets worry me when they start recommending things that are food safety/medically questionable – lack of pasteurization, cleanses, non FDA regulated supplements, overly restrictive diets (vegan+gluten free+organic+preservative free+add your own), failure to carb count in diabetics. Otherwise, if you want to eat no/50:50/all wheat flour/white flour/meat/dairy/plants/fill in the blank, go for it.

    In our case, we keep kosher at our house, so eating out or embracing a particular diet is nearly impossible. Unless you count one week per year of the glorious ‘Matzah diet’ during Passover. Delicious, tastes just like cardboard . . .

  • Shannon August 16, 2012, 6:55 pm

    MMM, how are you doing? I left you a message before on the internet sharing article. I am a big fan! So I want to ask you… Is that really YOU in the picture on the left? You look so young, athletic and handsome. I can’t believe you are almost 40 years old. Since you are so cute, why don’t you use your real head shot as icon to replace that “funny” mustache man on the top banner? I believe it will help to attract more readers. I hate to say this but that “funny” man on the top and comment area gives me some strange & uncomfortable feelings every time( my girl friends also agree with me)…like an dirty old man staring?! Anyway, more pictures please and keep good up the good work. Maybe Mrs. MM can start a new series for young readers of how to find a MMM as husband in real life?

  • TLV August 21, 2012, 10:04 am

    I’ve been curious about paleo/primal for a while now, and after reading this I started checking out marksdailyapple. I have no criticism to offer for the diet or lifestyle from a health standpoint, but after about a week I came across something that really bothered me, and I won’t be going back to that site.

    The articles on the site frequently reference the “4 essential movements” – pushups, pullups, squats, and plank. Occasionally, though, you’ll come across a reference to 5 movements instead of 4. I thought this was odd, so I dug deeper. It doesn’t take much searching to discover that the 5th movement was the overhead press/handstand pushup. But no matter how much searching I did, I couldn’t find any explanation as to why it was dropped, and only one place on the forums where users acknowledged that it was dropped (http://www.marksdailyapple.com/forum/thread48359.html). At the end of the thread, you can see that they contacted the site to ask why, and the response basically said “It’s gone. Learn about the 4 essential movements from the free e-book.”

    If Mark were to explain why it was dropped (perhaps it was causing too many injuries?) so his readers could make their own judgment that would have been fine. But to revise significant portions of the site’s content to remove references to it, and pretend it never happened until directly confronted? That’s a slippery slope to Orwell’s 1984.

  • Claudia March 16, 2015, 5:54 pm

    Hi! I’m a new reader and I found this article very helpful. I have to say I stopped right after taking the plastic cover out of my new bookshelf. I was looking for some literature in English (I live in Peru) but all I founded was very expensive best-sellers. Then it hit me. I went to the British council Library in San Isidro (just 4 blocks away from the business center where I work) and found a membership for $17 a year. It has everything I would like to read in 10 years. Next step will be to sell back all the (still new) books I have and get my life back on the game for early retirement!!
    Lesson learned: Even if your public library isn’t good enough, there can be a private or sponsored library to become a visitor!

  • R Merewether June 27, 2015, 2:45 pm

    • Mr. Money Mustache June 28, 2015, 3:03 pm

      That’s a good link that sounds like reasonable science – studying atherosclerosis in mummified bodies.

      And I do support a scientific approach – the modern stuff being done today seems to support some of the lower-carbs-are-better-for-you hypothesis, but there is still plenty of debate and there are reputable people on both sides.

      But for me, some consistent experimentation since I wrote this article a few years back has kept me in the semi-primal camp: eating bread and sugar instantly makes me fatter and increases my appetite. Eating a high-fat/low-carb diet delivers instant results the other way. I can control it like a switch now, and that is good enough for me.

  • PurpleOne November 9, 2015, 6:29 am

    Does anybody know if you can try paleo without eating meat? I’ve searched about it, but can’t find an answer.

  • Tim February 4, 2017, 4:11 pm

    Hi Money (hope you don’t mind the informalities)

    Your other post about food (http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/03/29/killing-your-1000-grocery-bill/) lists the top calories for cash foods (ie the most energy dense foods we can buy cheaply). This seems to be the foundation of cutting our grocery bill, which is in turn a foundation of cutting living costs and saving more of our income.

    The problem I’m having right now – most of the foods on that list are not paleo / primal / keto (what have you). I’m trying to reconcile these two pieces of advice.

    Depending on how strict the diet is, I can only eat 3-8 of the foods on that list of 13.

    I’ve been eating paleo for years now, and although my appetite is better off and I’m not constantly snacking, I can’t cheat and just eat heaps of rice and pasta to save money. However, this seems to be the gist of that article.

    I’m going to eat more mince instead of steak, but I’m still stuck with a clash of priorities.

    • Mr. Money Mustache February 6, 2017, 4:51 pm

      I hear you! I too have given up some of the cheapest foods. But there is salvation in sweet potatoes, olive oil, eggs, and other healthy Pale-friendly stuff.

      • Rob February 7, 2017, 9:24 am

        Are you still on the oats?

    • Jwheeland February 7, 2017, 10:07 am

      Yes! I feel the same clash of priorities. Not to mention the whole what-if-the-whole-world-ate-as-much-meat-as-me question.

  • Anonymous March 16, 2020, 2:24 pm

    Best evidence based book that explains everything with all the science as backup is HOW NOT TO DIETby DR MICHAEL GREGER à bible of 600 pages but a must for whoever want to understand nutrition.


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