I'm listening to a great podcast of an interview of Mark. I know he's big in the primal scene but I just find it funny that he promotes a primal lifestyle but his blog is steeped with "meal replacement" powder and his own line of "protein powder". Most anthropologist agree that the Paleolithic man didn't run around with protein shakers, chewing on Met-Rx protein bars. This guy is very knowledgeable and I know that if you're promoting a lifestyle that revolves around living like a caveman you're limited to the type of products you can promote.
Anyways, I'm a fan of Mark, and I can only hope that when I reach Mark Sisson's age I can look half as good as this guy but I just find it funny that he promotes "meal replacement powders" and other-in my opinion-non-paleo products.
Mark's is the moderate, sensible voice that enrolled me into leaving SAD. He seems to understand that supplementing your whole foods with a little home-made yogurt or a piece of fresh fruit isn't a "paleo fail" that deserves a stern scolding. I happen to agree his products fall in the "processed" category but I never felt I "had to" use them.
On some other sites, I feel like I "have to" be physically capable of intense athletic workouts to belong, or putting a little honey in my coffee is as bad as eating the french toast with maple syrup (or doughnuts, or highly sweetened cereal) I used to start my day with. And "how dare I" start my main meal with that well known evil, fresh fruit?
While I respect the young, lean and highly active "strict paleos" many of their posts read like science fiction to me as a woman in my 60s. Mark is at least from the same planet.
He's no greasy salesman. Fiercely devoted to helping others understand and interpret biochemistry and proper nutrition. He posts every single day, without fail.
The powders and supplements? Take it or leave it. There's no pressure or severe advertising going on, but there's quality supplements there if one feels they need that extra oomph. Everyone has to make a living somehow. I've seen far worse in terms of the supplement category.
Given his experiences, I'd say 95% of everything he's provided so far is completely free of charge, and is solely dedicated to helping others not fall down the rabbit hole of chronic cardio, SAD-eating, and nutrition-fails.
I know he's big in the primal scene...
He is the "Primal^TM" scene. The guy literally wrote the book on it. Colloquially, we all tend to throw around paleo, primal, etc, but "primal" is definitely his branding.
I tend to agree with all your points. I do take supplements and vitamins (in a training phase now, so more than usual), but I cringe when I hear or see people eating shakes and all that sort of fake, non-food food products. IMHO, a McDonald's hamburger is less processed than a shake mix, regardless of how "natural" the ingredients in the shake claim to be.
However, a lot of people gravitate towards "primal" over "paleo", as "primal" has a more lax approach to healthier eating and lifestyle baked right into it. Sisson is also big on the 80/20 rule -- and I don't think he'd advocate anyone getting 20% of their food intake from the shakes he sells. (Granted, I can't speak for him, but I sure hope he wouldn't).
Overall, I find him to be a really smart guy, and I feel that he is dedicated to his blog that he offers freely to the public ... a blog that has a great wealth of information. So he sells some shake mixes, too -- it doesn't outweigh the good he's brought to the paleo/primal/etc community.
Not only is he offering really good, smart, free advice that is highly accessible to folks (and thus stands a greater chance of reaching and impacting more people than stricter paleo-luminaries), he's also making it simple and easy. I also don't hear him promote his own food products all too often. He promotes his books quite a bit, but those tend to be lifestyle-oriented, not powder-oriented.
I think it's also worth noting that many of the folks in the paleo/primal "choir" (to whom many like Mark and Robb Wolf are inevitably partially preaching) are athletes who are going to work with some sort of protein powder/supplement regimen regardless of their attachment to the principles (e.g. crossfit folks and other training-nuts who tend to gravitate toward the lifestyle anyway and are often its early adherents). Sisson is at least making an effort to make these powders as nutritionally compatible with paleo/primal as possible, and I think that's worth respecting.
If selling some protein powder lets him do what he does full time, awesome. He is an exceptional writer and one of the few prominent figures in the paleosphere I really identify with; things like his articles on forest bathing, connection, dance, yoga... you don't find this stuff on your average biochemistry researcher's site, nor on a physical trainer's blog. He has a unique perspective that has made him one of the most popular figures in our little sphere.
His website is what got me into the whole primal/paleo scene. I think he's great.
I'd have an issue with him if he were constantly hocking his protein powder in his blog posts, but I've read almost all of them and he pretty much never mentions it. I don't see what the big deal is.
His book and Dr. Bernstein's were the first two books I read when I started this trip at 324lbs. Today I'm 220lbs and I'll be forever grateful to Mark Sisson for getting me started with something I could do to begin with.
I like the guy. He writes high quality, well researched articles on just about everything under the sun, and he practices what he preaches. He was my first introduction to paleo, and after some experimentation with others' philosophies, his is the one I returned to. He's pragmatic, and understands that people don't have the luxury of hunting down an elk every time they're hungry (or even hunting down some grass-fed beef). He was a supplement designer before he wrote The Primal Blueprint. He rarely, if ever, promotes his products in his blog posts, and I don't mind that I occasionally see a jar with Grok on it in the sidebar.
It is unfortunate that a number of people I have talked to seem to get the same first impression of Mark's site - that it is all about selling his products.
There is an incredible amount of free info on the site and aside from the ads in the sidebar, he rarely toots his own horn.
I initially learned everything I needed to know about Paleo/Primal from Mark's site. I eventually bought a book but only to give away.
Also, echoing what a few of you have said, I like Mark because he seems to be a very balanced, calm, reasonable voice in the community and his information the best synthesis of the whole. I send new people to his site because I don't want them to get bogged down by some of the debates over minutia going on elsewhere (not that these aren't important).
I agree with a lot of what's been said, Mark Sisson is a pretty reasonable and straight forward guy who advocates a more tolerant approach to nutrition than some people might advocate with a strict paleo diet. Personally, I started out with just being exposed to his books which opened up the world of "Primal" eating habits and how I could fairly effortlessly maintain ideal body composition without counting calories or stressing over whether I was getting enough complex carbohydrates or low fat meats. I was under the spell of a lot of unfounded conventional wisdom in the fitness world. I think Mark's 80/20 rule made eating better seem a lot less daunting. I can almost guarantee that if on day one someone told me no grains, no sugar, and on top of that nothing with so much as a single preservative in it or any fruit whatsoever I would have told them to go screw themselves and given up completely only to return to my pathetic SAD lifestyle. Eating a high fat moderate protein diet is what helped me realize that I really didn't know anything about nutrition or weight loss despite years of dieting and reading nonsense online.
Now I have personally decided to try and take my fitness, and body composition, as far as possible and this has involved further restricting my diet (cutting out most fruit and dairy, which I ate regularly for the first three months) and researching ways to adhere to a more Paleo diet. However, without starting out on the 80/20 rule I don't think I would have been open to changing my eating habits and I would still be where I was last year. What's wrong with being slowly introduced to a lifestyle that, if we're honest, is a fairly significant deviation from what 90% of Americans seem to do on a daily basis? Most people I try to describe a strict paleo diet to stop listening before I'm even done explaining it, it's just too drastic of a change and it seems mentally impossible to a lot of people. I think they're missing out, but hey it's their health not mine.
As far as his shakes go, I've never bought them. Even from a nutritional stand point if you just bought straight whey protein with no additives it would technically be more Primal than his brand (no sugar, no significant carbs which if you look at the labels on his Primal Fuel are pretty high if you were to have it on a daily basis) it would just taste like crap mixed with water. A lot of people get worked up over his line of supplements, but I'm pretty sure that's the business he's been in for a while. At the end of the day, he has to make money too and he already provides a wealth of free information on his website. You really don't even need to buy the books to start a Primal diet all the guidelines are right there in his blog. I think that's a pretty sweet deal. Here's the key to a happier, healthier you and oh by the way IF you happen to be interested I also have a line of supplements that I enjoy and you might too. Nothing wrong with that. Business is business and not everyone can just spend hours educating the masses without investing a little time into their own income.
It's not for everyone, but for what it's worth I think he's personally responsible for opening up a whole new world to me and many others. Just look at his page of success stories and most of those people aren't out to market his line of supplements. Let him sell his powder, if it helps people avoid a snickers or some other crap from 7/11 then let them have a protein shake as a snack here and there. That's just my opinion.