Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
9 Feb

10 Real-Life Reasons Why the Primal Blueprint Works for Me

There’s been a lot more talk in the mainstream recently about “caveman” diets and barefoot training. Primal/Paleo/Evo seems to be gaining in popularity and may be nearing the critical mass needed to garner mainstream appreciation. John Durant appeared on Stephen Colbert last week, Art De Vany was featured in Der Spiegel, Born to Run is a NYT Bestseller and my book recently made the top ten Health and Fitness titles on Amazon. Even so, we Primal types still get those occasional looks of derision or incomprehension when we show up at the gym with our Fives on and a bag of homemade jerky hanging off our belt to do a quick 15 minute HIIT session. I think there’s a sense among outsiders that the Grok fairy tale trumps the science within the Primal crowd – that the notion of living like a caveman is a cute ideal but irrelevant in a 21st century high-tech context. Of course, it’s not true; science always leads the way here at MDA and on most Primal/Paleo/Evo sites. But even with the science completely supporting the idea that we ought to emulate our hunter-gatherer ancestors in many aspects of life, I still hear things like, “I trust my doctor too much to give up the statins and start eating fats.” Or “I’m lazy, undisciplined, and I love good food too much to be able to change this late in my life.” Hey, me too! So for those of you who are looking for more detailed rationale why living Primal is best for everyone (including your doubting spouse and your parents), here are my 10 Real-Life Reasons Why the Primal Blueprint Works for Me.

1. I’m lazy.

Ironically, I spent 25 years of my life pursuing high level fitness and peak health through hard work, discipline, sacrifice and misery. That didn’t work out for me. I’m over it. Now I just want the best results with the least amount of pain, suffering, and sacrifice. I jokingly tell my ex-triathlete buddies, “I’d rather look fit than be fit.” Of course, the irony is that when you actually do what it takes to look fit (eat right, cut the Chronic Cardio, sprint a bit now and then and lift intensely two or three times a week ) you become VERY fit. And healthy. And happy. And more productive. The best part of Primal Blueprint living is that you can get appreciably better results with significantly less time, less effort and less sacrifice. Instead of the old 20-30 hours a week I used to put in training, I now train less than three hours total a week. I try to play the rest of the time.

2. I love good food.

Some people mistakenly think the Primal Blueprint requires giving up eating good food. Nothing could be further from the truth. When I was a college endurance athlete, my buddies nicknamed me “Arnold,” after Arnold Ziffle, the pig on Green Acres. I could eat more than just about anyone in school (including the football linemen). I ate everything and enjoyed it all. But I became a slave to the carbs and to the hunger that they generated every three hours of my life. Later, when I retired and researched the damage I was doing eating grains, sugars, hydrogenated oils and all the other stuff I consumed to fuel my massive cardio efforts, I feared I might have to suffer a lifetime dearth of gustatory delights if I wanted to keep my boyish figure. Never happened. Primal eating reprograms the genes in a way that takes the edge off hunger, while assuring more-than-adequate energy and stable blood glucose levels. Now, I eat as much as I want, whenever I want from a list of fabulously tasty foods. I just avoid eating most things from that other list. Hunger doesn’t drive my life the way it used to. When I sit in a restaurant with a rare 20-ounce rib eye steak, a bowl of butter-sautéed mushrooms and a glass of fine Cabernet in front of me, I never feel sorry for myself that I didn’t order pasta or that I won’t be having the bread or potatoes or rice. And for dessert, if I’m still hungry, I’d really rather have another lamb chop or a bowl of berries than a slice of cardboard cake or mucous-inducing ice cream. Worst case, I can have a small taste of the latter and be satisfied.

3. I like to play.

I spent a fair amount of my life training for grueling endurance contests (marathons, Ironman triathlons, 24-hour relay running events). Only just recently did it occur to me that I NEVER really had fun while I was competing or while I was training. Admittedly, I could sometimes get into “the zone,” but that’s really only a temporary zone of less pain. I did appreciate the valiance of my efforts and certainly felt pride in my accomplishments, but from the time the gun went off until I crossed the finish line, I never once could truthfully say, “Isn’t this fun?”  In contrast, today I plan most of my (minimal) training around being able to participate in fun activities later. And while I don’t necessarily see play as “workout time,” it is most assuredly contributing to my fitness. Primal Blueprint training gives me the functional strength and endurance to jump into an aggressive Ultimate Frisbee game, stand-up paddle and surf for two hours, take a 90-minute trail hike with sprints thrown in, play a round of golf, or snowboard for five days in a row. I stay fit so I can play at stuff I find FUN.

4. I like to sleep.

I used to feel guilty if I slept too much. As if I were missing out on something that might be taking place while the lights were still on somewhere. Now I get at least eight hours every night and embrace the idea that I am NOT wasting time, but am recharging the batteries and will probably live longer as a result. I think most people would prefer to get adequate sleep, but feel like it’s a sign of weakness that they “need” eight or nine hours. It’s not. Sleep is integral to health.

5. I don’t like being sick.

No one does. At the peak of my endurance career, I got colds and flus five to seven times a year. I also had severe seasonal grass pollen allergies. The nature of Chronic Cardio training (all that cortisol) and the obligate high carbohydrate diet (all that sugar) kept my immune system so trashed that anything that was going around was going to take me down with it. And stuff is always going around. The Primal Blueprint works because everything about it is contemplated to support or boost the immune system and not trash it. My allergies have long since disappeared. I rarely get any kind of cold or flu now and, if I do, it’s with no real down time and over quickly. Many people argue that this benefit alone is worth the switch to Primal.

6. I’m vain (I want to look good naked).

The Primal Blueprint exercise laws are designed to sculpt a lean, muscled and balanced look without being overly “huge” or disproportional the way bodybuilders can get. It works perfectly for both men and women. I often say here that 80% of your body composition is determined by how you eat. The remaining 20% is a combination of genetics and exercise. If you dial the eating in properly, it doesn’t take very much exercise to optimize muscle size and strength, and to cut the last few percentage points in body fat. Notice I said optimize and not maximize. Think Calvin Klein underwear and SI Swimsuit models as opposed to swollen Muscle&Fitness or WWF cover models.

7. I like to be tan (vain part 2).

Sorry, I never understood the porcelain skin thing. I notice the dramatic effect a lack of sun has on my disposition as much as I notice it on my skin if I skip a few weeks (winter sucks – except for snowboarding). Getting adequate sunlight daily is an integral part of the PB as it has been for humans for millions of years. Vitamin D is critical to maintaining good health. As I say in my book, I honestly believe we’ve seen an increase in overall cancer incidence as a result of (ironically) heeding the advice of doctors to stay out of the sun. I think everyone would rather be outside for a while every day if they knew it was not only NOT harmful, but beneficial. A slight tan just looks good, and it’s indicative of a healthy Vitamin D status. Getting sun also improves mood and productivity as numerous studies continue to show.

8. I’m not organized.

If you saw my desk you’d probably cringe. Stuff all over it everywhere. Same goes with my training style these days, and I love it. I almost never train with anyone, because I like being able to head out the door on a whim and go sprint or hike or bang off a few hundred pushups. I hate having a set training schedule or the idea of having to meet someone at such and such a time to work out together. Don’t get me wrong, I do train with friends once in a while, but the Primal Blueprint training outline fits my fractal, sporadic, random, intermittent, flakey and spontaneous nature. If I don’t feel like training today, the PB says “take the day off – you’ll be stronger and more focused tomorrow.” Not to be outdone, the Primal Blueprint eating style is also unorganized. Not set meal times, no regimentation, no calorie-counting or portion control. Eat when you want and as much – or not – as you want. Of course, none of this is to say you HAVE to be disorganized to benefit from the PB. If you’re organized, it works that much better. But for those who eschew schedules, the PB is perfect.

9. I want to stay uninjured.

Downtime from injury sucks. As I said earlier, I want to get more play time now as I get older. I recognize that my body doesn’t recover from workouts as easily as it used to. I also notice that I have to pay attention to potential soreness a bit more. PB fitness provides a set of guidelines and workout styles that foster balanced, functional strength. It actually focuses on injury prevention and avoidance, while building muscle and burning fat.

10. I like certainty.

I’m a skeptic at heart (OK, I’m actually a cynic). I hate investing my precious time, money, energy or emotion in anything I don’t feel confident will yield dividends. It has to be based in science, rational thought and real results. Conversely, I hate thinking that some of my choices in exercise, diet and health may have been wrong (as they were so egregiously when I followed Conventional Wisdom). I need to have confidence that my choices are good ones. The research backing the PB is the most solid there is. Evolutionary biology and modern genetic – and epigenetic – science are proving that we have remarkable influence over how our genes express themselves throughout our lives. Stuff we do and things we eat turn genes on or off. It’s that simple. Intervals and Tabata work have been proven over and over to be more effective at increasing speed and stamina than Chronic Cardio. The dietary science of low-carb is nearly irrefutable now, as more and more researchers and docs begin to understand the true nature of insulin and they rethink the cholesterol hypothesis. Look, there is no right or wrong here. You can eat Twinkies and smoke cigarettes for the rest of your life and you still might reach 90 or 100. But I have never in my life been more certain of anything than I am that the Primal Blueprint way of eating, exercising and living is the optimal way to have the most energy, the most fun, look the best and live the longest. And I know I can do this for the rest of my life.

What would you add to this list? Let me know in the comment board and thanks for reading!

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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Just curious, have you had any blood work done recently and what did it look like?

    Dave wrote on August 30th, 2010
  2. 11. i like bacon

    cynthia wrote on September 22nd, 2010
  3. Legumes make my stomach stormy, i feel hungry almost straight after eating rice, and bread makes me feel like a slug. If i eat a homemade, grass fed beef burger with shredded, unsweetened cocunut and vegetable(almost raw, not over cooked in any case), then i don’t have these issues. I’m a third through Mark’s book, and although i knew much of what ids written through previous research, it’s an extremley readable…..read. Really doesn’t take himself seriously, no pressure, but very well informed book. Damn glad i bought it.

    Rollo wrote on September 23rd, 2010
  4. Number 1 is really ironic. What I used to consider good food now gives me stomach pains and makes me feel lousy. It’s only through eating primally that I have discovered what really good food is like.

    Steve wrote on October 2nd, 2010
    • Oops, I meant number 2

      Steve wrote on October 2nd, 2010
  5. Wow, Mark, I really *loved* this article …

    Part of what I love is your honesty. Isn’t it amazing people can go for years doing something they *hate* without ever really questioning it, because someone along the way told them it was “good” for them? Lol, thank goodness we are all putting that sort of thinking behind us …

    I listen to my body. If my body doesn’t like it, if I’m not getting joy out of the process, then I’m not doing it anymore. This is why I cancelled my gym membership some years ago … and I *love* to ski so I’m out there in the mountain air all winter long :)

    Some of your other points, I feel the same way about energy healing … it makes everything so much easier … I use my acupressure system every single day, and it keeps my vitality at peak levels. Among other things that happened, effortlessly, just like with your program, my blood pressure dropped, my weight dropped (no need for a scale anymore), my skin healed, my emotions stabilized, I felt happier, and my chronic pain went away … now this is something that feels inherently motivating to do every day because the benefits are so wonderful and so obvious.

    I’m glad we connected over the summer, and I’m going to be dropping by here more often to hear what you have to say :)

    cheers,
    Erika

    Erika Awakening wrote on October 8th, 2010
  6. mcdonalds and laziness will make you a ruin 😀

    alecs wrote on October 15th, 2010
    • mcdonalds it’s cool:)

      Yaboon wrote on October 16th, 2010
  7. All these points describe me exactly!

    Joan wrote on November 3rd, 2010
  8. Great reasons, I also think this should be the way to go

    Jeff wrote on November 10th, 2010
  9. im a filipino, and i love the fact that i can cook all the meals that i grew up with just minus the wheat and carbs. i lost 20lbs in a month just cleaning up my diet with this. thank you!

    alvin wrote on November 17th, 2010
  10. The more I read about primal eating the more i am finding it is solid advise.
    One of my clients has agreed to become the guinea pig for our guinea pig project where we are going to test out different workout and eating solutions to help him lose weight and get healthy. I think I am going to go with HIIT style training and primal eating and to be honest I’m not sure I will need another strategy.
    We are going to post his results online so others can see the results! So the proof will be in the pudding. Thanks for the great post that shows why this is the best approach for the average guy!
    Jeff

    Jeff wrote on November 22nd, 2010
  11. I found this PB lifestyle while researching ketogenic diets for the treatment of epilepsy. My neurologist said while she didn’t see any harm in giving it a try, she also didn’t see why I would bother given that my seizures are under good control on meds. What I want is to be able to cut back on the meds that are undoubtably putting a strain on all my organs.

    So the prospect of being seizure free and less pill dependent would be my # 11 on the list. I’ll see how it goes and report back. Anybody else out there in a similar situation?

    Robin Beers wrote on November 27th, 2010
  12. Mark,

    It has been over a year since I adopted the primal blueprint. I have lost about 30 pounds and look and feel great. Thanks for all you do!

    David

    David Grim - Get Fit Get Lean wrote on January 4th, 2011
  13. Hi!
    I navigated to your page by way of StumbleUpon, and while I was pleasantly bemused on why I would fall on to this page which I have no interest at all in, I realized that it was in fact a “sponsored stumble”. I found this to be highly unethical as well as quite annoying, since it seems like you don’t really grasp the idea of the service in the first place. People don’t use SU to find glorified ads such as yours, and when they do, I can personally guarantee that they will want nothing to do with your product. I say this for the simple fact that you wasted their time and insulted their intellect.

    Thanks for perverting a once great service!

    Kent

    Kent Brockman wrote on January 14th, 2011
    • I stumbled upon this site a while ago, and I love it. I use stumble to find things I didn’t know existed, and if I don’t like them I just go about my day without letting it bother me. And I can’t see how helping people live healthier lives is wasting their time, or intellect. I do, however, think it might be a waste of time to post a mean comment that doesn’t actually describe this site.

      a tenrec in disguise wrote on April 30th, 2012
  14. How about more love, and less cranky?

    More love people, more love!!!!

    Fit-Kitty wrote on February 2nd, 2011
  15. So many guys I know feel like you have to suffer and deny yourself to be in shape. I’ve always felt that overdoing anything is just no good. I do what’s right for me and an Ironman competition or anything extreme is out.

    John wrote on February 8th, 2011
  16. This post has inspired me. yes, I do love my carbs but reading through the comments it is clear that many people “get over this” – so that eventually it does not feel as if you are denying yourself.

    I bought a copy of Mark’s book a while back but – one thing and another – never sat down and read it. Big mistake, I’m thinking.

    So long as I can still eat my fermented foods because I do believe they are critical to health, I believe that me and primal might get along fine.

    Dawn wrote on February 9th, 2011
  17. Fantastic article! I’m new to this lifestyle too and learning all that I can- amazing resource!

    allie wrote on February 18th, 2011
  18. Awesome blog! I’ve been following the good ol’ primal blueprint recommendations for a little over a year and it rules. I post all of my eating and training here

    http://www.strengthfoodlife.blogspot.com

    believe me this stuff works. I’ve got some pics in the blog to prove it.

    Dan Pope wrote on February 22nd, 2011
  19. thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and for making this website!! it has helped me learn and understand I am so grateful!

    nadia wrote on April 16th, 2011
  20. I came across PB while in Iraq and looking deeper into crossfit/Diet change and improvement/Celiac issues for my wife back home. I’ve made a concerted effort to come as close as possible to a Paleo/Primal diet while I’m deployed. WOW, what a change!!! After about a week I really noticed a change in how I felt, I slept better and inspite of varying work schedules I wasn’t near as tired as previously. In fact once a week I left myself have some ice cream for after a dinner meal. After not doing that for 2 weeks I had a bowl yesterday, bad idea. I felt bloated and overfull afterwards, plus I didn’t even want to eat it all. I guess my body knew best and I was finally able to hear it over all the c@%p I had been eating before. My fellow Soldiers are actually jealous of the way and quantities I eat and still stay fit and healthy, while they struggle to lose weight. If they would just put down the cheeseburgers and fries and pay attention.

    John wrote on April 17th, 2011
  21. Hi Mark,
    Love your list of reasons here – good enough for me! Like you I was a chronic fitness fanatic for years, transitioning now into the ‘look fit rather than be super fit’ phase that you talk about :-)
    I follow a pretty much alkaline diet and find it to be excellent – I am 31 now and look as young as when I was 22. It’s definitely helped to keep me youthful. Same for others I know too.
    Anyway, great post
    Laura

    Alkaline Diet Junkie wrote on May 2nd, 2011
  22. Hi Mark. I love your site and your posts. So down to earth and real. I also believe in what you speak about. Having an alkaline body is really the key to a healthy life. I cherish the sun and fell that most people get skin cancer because first their body is not alkaline, and they put all that crap on their skin, which probaly in turn causes cancer because of the junk they put it in. I personally go in the sun everyday and just use organic coconut oil on my skin (without any added smell so I don’t smell like a coconut at all). The first thing everyone says is that you would fry and burn. Since I have been doing this for the past 3 years I have not burned once. I used to burn all the time. No one should put anything on their body that they can’t eat. look forward to your next post. gael.

    Gael wrote on May 2nd, 2011
  23. I don’t see alot of posts on MDA from 2011 so I hope people are still “listening” and wouldn’t mind commenting on my post.
    I have read here, multiple times, how following the Primal diet can help you gain a lean and healthy body. I started following it 4 days ago and have not seen much change yet. (I realize these things take time so I am not obbsessed with instant gratification). But i wonder: how long does it really take to start seeing outwardly physical results?
    So many that post here report losing quite a bit of weight in a short period of time. I would love to see thatbas well.

    Wendy wrote on May 3rd, 2011
  24. Hi, I’m a Primal newbie who adds a little dairy, lentils and sprouted grains to her Paleo diet. To keep within the 100-150g carb range, I feel like I do need to be careful. Do you think it’s important to count carbs on a daily basis?

    Pinkie wrote on May 5th, 2011
  25. Some aspects of this stuff are outstanding – HIIT/fartlek/sprints, resistance work, the miportance of good fresh vegetables… plus the debunking of the lipid hypothesis (yet another example of public policy made on the fly based on completely bogus science).

    All that said… the only thing that makes PB a no-go for me is all the death (of animals).

    I’m a veggie – not for health, but to prevent death and cruelty (in that order). To the extent that I pay a health penalty for not consuming meat (and I doubt that I do) the price is worth it (as Madeleine Albright once said about killing 500k Iraqi kids).

    I’m all for the Primal way of conflict-resolution, though: if someone gives you a bad day, you stick a spear in him (it’s what Grok woulda done). Just not for chickens or cows, who have never done me no harm. As Mike Mahler shows, there is no performance penalty to veganism. Mike is the vegan advocate of ‘Aggressive Strength”… looks to go about 230 on the old scale: I’m not a fan of kettle-bells, but I’m not going to argue with him.

    So it’s Golden Pea protein shakes, home-made tofu/okara, and other stuff with an amino-acid profile of 100 (or more); at 46 years old and 6’1″ I have no problem maintaining 230-240lb with a flat gut, good ‘bloods’, RHR of 60 and a beep test of 10 (but I was being lazy last time I did a beep test; I can get an 11 on a good day).

    Yesterday I had to carry home my new dumb-bells (77lb – 17.5 kgs times two), walking a total of almost 2km thus laden; broke a sweat but never panted until climbing the last 3 flights of stairs to my apartment.

    So… you don’t gotta eat dead animals to be a big hairy galoot (I know – I is one).

    Plus, I seriously doubt that the archetypal ‘Grok’ was as good a hunter as is made out… he ate a WHOLE bunch more plant-based foods that most of us would believe. Hunting animals is seriously bad risk-return for a slow biped; I have heard it said that early man scavenged bone marrow more often than he made his own kills – even hyena tend to leave behind the femur, which tool-making man cracked to his benefit.

    Yes, I miss bacon, pork chops and so forth – until I think of the unimaginable suffering they cause.

    GT wrote on May 19th, 2011
  26. I LOVE not being ruled by food any more.
    I LOVE being able to function on less sleep.
    I LOVE not having reflux any more.
    I LOVE having an hourglass figure at last!

    When I ate the CW diet I noticed that I would get fat in all the wrong places. I desired a feminine figure but all my fat was around the upper arms, stomach and chin and my bum was getting worryingly flat. I had no shape. Now its like my body KNOWS to store any fat in the CORRECT places -ie my BUM, hips and upper thighs so I at last have nice curves around that area and now I have a waist too!! I cannot tell you how great it is to finally have a waist!! I feel like Beyonce!!! I never had a shape in my life before!

    Polecatz wrote on May 20th, 2011
  27. This just made me convinced to go all out PB. A friend of my told me about your site, I never really dived too much into it all because I was skeptical. “this wasn’t for me was” was my first thought.

    After reading this, and how you remind me of myself. I’ll give it a full-out go.

    Jack wrote on June 27th, 2011
  28. I love the energy and the way I always feel stong and fast feeling of super powers!

    Bel wrote on July 4th, 2011
  29. What is PB? Paleo…?

    Crispy wrote on July 6th, 2011
    • PB stands for Primal Blueprint. I was confused at first too, thinking it meant Peanut Butter (hmm)

      Ayana DaCosta wrote on March 30th, 2012
  30. This works perfectly for me. I’m an outdoorsy sort of person and I like to eat a lot!

    I thought I’d never be able to give up my sugar/carb addiction, but now I don’t even flinch when I pass a bakery, the stuff has no appeal for me whatsoever. We were at a buffet place recently and for dessert I went back for more rare steak. Nom nom nom. Juicy, flavorful and filling. How can a piece of sugary cardboard compare?

    Milla wrote on August 26th, 2011

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