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. great book!

    tim horthorn wrote on September 10th, 2011
  2. Hey everyone,

    A friend of mine recommended the lifestyle and enthusiasm and figure speak volumes! And i want in!

    What do you sweet tooths sbstitute sugar in your tea/coffee with??

    Great website, loving how informative and gnerous everyone is :0)

    Layla wrote on October 11th, 2011
    • I use xylitol as sweetner when I drink coffee. I don’t drink coffee every day though now. Only about once a month these days. Xylitol is my sweetener of choice though for coffee and tea

      Gayle wrote on October 11th, 2011
  3. How is this different from the Atkins diet?

    JEANNE wrote on October 16th, 2011
  4. You need to show the second picture of Otto and Ewald and look at how much bigger Otto’s calves were. I remember seeing those photos and reading that Otto was a track runner, which is how he got those massive calves.

    Chris wrote on October 19th, 2011
  5. #11. I love bacon!

    Bacon is delicous and makes most foods taste better by association.

    Dan Pope wrote on December 5th, 2011
  6. Hi (:
    So I’m 16 years old and I’ve pretty much been overweight my entire life. Yea, I have more muscles than fat in my body but wayyyy more “water”. I am an athlete, no doubt ! I am on a swim team (captain) and I play with a German soccer team (I live in Germany right now). When soccer season comes around in the spring, I play first string goalie there.
    The thing is, I never had an easy way with losing weight, becoming fit and eating healthy foods. A couple years ago, I didn’t like meat at all but now I’m becoming more fond of it. I don’t eat nuts and rarely any veggies…I guess I need to change that but I do need advice on how I can make this enjoyable for me. Fruits are no problem! I could be a fruitarian for all I know (if…that even existed!)
    As many of you know, teens definitely do not have it easy with eating healthy. I do bring home made lunch and I rarely eat fast food even though McDonald’s is right down the street from me.
    My mom and I joined weight watchers August 2010. I tried it out but it only worked for me for a couple months until I started gaining my weight back. I was too ashamed to tell my mom but then I stopped all at once with it. It was too much for me to bother with writin down every meal and points and weighing it all. Sports was no problem, just eating healthy. I do eat healthy for the most part, it’s just hanging out with my friends and eating healthy…that’s really not easy.
    I bought the 21 days to going primal book yesterday and I read through it all night too. I thought it was brilliant and I felt positive about it until the end..I lost some of my hope when I thought about the food changing and everything … How would I tell my parents, friends and German grandparents that I won’t be eating a LOT of the foods I used to eat all the time?
    I really eat want to try this, but I’m not really sure how to start. I can’t clear out the pantry and put away all that stuff. Weight Watchers worked for my mom, she used to weight about 112 kilograms and now she ways less than 70 kilograms. My dad is overweight and he pretty much gives up with trying to improve himself – he’s 57. My brother is fit and muscular and a gym/health freak.
    I seem to have the genes like my dad did. When he was younger he used to be very fit – he’d go running everyday and so on but now he’s over 110 kilograms..
    I weigh about 90 something kilograms and never in my life have I weighed that much. I feel ashamed of myself and I am always self conscious. I just really want I try this but I do not know how to start. I did read mark’s letter to us youngster, asking us to start now and like I said before, I really want to but I just do not know how to start. I know my family won’t try it with me, maybe my brother will but I’m unsure. I haven’t told them anything about this and oh wow..I’m sorry that I had to write so much but I was hoping that you guys could please give me some advice.
    Thanks, I’d really appreciate this. I no longer want to be fat and always be self conscious around guys and skinny girls..

    Laura wrote on December 29th, 2011
    • Hey there, I see you posted a few months ago and I am wondering if anyone got back to you.

      My first piece of advice is to start small. Choose eggs, meats, and veggies whenever you can over carbs. No need to try a drastic overhaul all at once.

      Send a message if you never got a response … I started small and am now pretty darn Primal (under 20 carbs per day and those are fruits and veggies). I’d love to help.

      Nicole wrote on March 27th, 2012
  7. I ate primal for 5 days and felt good (except adjusting to the higher fat diet, which meant a little upset stomach in the morning), but I don’t like eating meat, seafood, etc. I was grossed out by day 5 and felt very unsatisfied, not in that I was hungry, but that I was eating foods I don’t like the taste or texture of. I have been this way since a kid. Has anyone had a similar experience? I know I’d feel better if I stuck to this way of eating, but it’s just not doable when you hate the food. Any suggestions?

    alexia wrote on January 12th, 2012
  8. The root of your writing while appearing agreeable in the beginning, did not sit perfectly with me personally after some time. Someplace throughout the sentences you managed to make me a believer unfortunately only for a very short while. I still have got a problem with your leaps in assumptions and one might do well to help fill in all those breaks. If you can accomplish that, I will undoubtedly be impressed.

    jimmy choo handbags sale wrote on February 13th, 2012
  9. What is the difference between the Atkins Diet and Primal Blueprint? It seems like the same thing to me packaged in a different wrapper.

    Larry88 wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  10. These are all great points. The chronic cardio would have left you more hungry. I also prefer the less eating, less exercise approach. When your busy trying to make a life for yourself, killing yourself in the gym is not the answer but working out a few times a week is great.

    Michael @ somebodylied.com wrote on March 10th, 2012
  11. i think the veggies and fruit come into play more for their roll in nutrients!

    Primark bremen wrote on March 13th, 2012
  12. Very good article. Have just stumbled across your site having started my own blog, http://www.fat-2-fitblog.blogspot.co.uk, on my journey to losing weight. Will definitely be reading some more of your site with interest. Thank you.

    Mike wrote on March 28th, 2012
  13. My dad has been on the Primal diet for about two years. I haven’t started myself, but it seems very interesting and something I might start doing with my mother.

    This morning I drank this chocolate “milkshake” from Eat Like A Dinosaur from my Kindle. I used
    2 dates
    1 can of full fat coconut milk
    1 cup of ice
    1 avocado with the skin and pit removed
    1 ripe banana that was frozen
    1/4 cup cocoa powder
    The “milkshake” was delicious and only concludes that I think going Primal is a great idea!

    Ayana DaCosta wrote on March 30th, 2012
  14. Cool article (BTW, who isn’t vain?). I don’t follow all principles of primal eating, but I introduced quite a few changes in my diet thanks to your blog and I believe that it significantly improved my health. Thanks!

    Peter McK wrote on March 31st, 2012
  15. I’m a vegetarian and not about to give it up. Is Paleo for me?

    Jerry wrote on April 30th, 2012
    • Sorry, Jerry, but not so much. That said, one of the primary criticisms I see for the primal/paleo life is the belief that we’re all eating gobs and gobs of meat. I don’t, and I think I eat more vegetables than most vegetarians I’ve known, about 10-12 servings a day on average.

      If you’re interested in trying to make a more paleo version of vegetarianism check out No Meat Athlete’s blog post on the topic: http://www.nomeatathlete.com/vegetarian-paleo-diet/

      I disagree strongly, however, that the “Paleo diet is by no means veggie-friendly”.

      Tina wrote on April 30th, 2012
  16. Thanks for an awesome website and a great article. I started off with a Whole 30 by Whole 9. My cousin was doing it and posted on Facebook. I am seriously overweight, so I figured it was worth a shot. I already knew I had issues with dairy, and was fairly certain that wheat wasn’t sitting well with me either. After the 30 days, I realized I just could not go back to my old way of eating. I’d lost 12 lbs and felt great.

    Since starting this just 2 months ago, I’ve lost 21 lbs and am so pleased. I still am not sleeping enough, and I haven’t started adding in the exercise. I’ve started to read the PBF guide, and I’m looking forward to getting started with that. I have to admith that I don’t have a ton of energy, but I think that once I start getting adequate sleep, and exercise, that will improve.

    Some friends and I are going on a cruise in March – I still have 100 to 110 lbs to go, but I don’t doubt for a second that I will get there.

    daizymom wrote on May 4th, 2012
  17. Ok, I’ve been reading more and more about paleo and have decided to take the plunge this week. Here’s mine reasons—
    I want to NOT think about food all the time. Seriously. I spend waaay too much time making all our food for our family from scratch. I want to lose weight, but have finally figured out that all my focus on food and working AGAINST me. I’ve been walking A LOT the last three months and LOVING it as well as working weights.
    I want to live my life and ENJOY it being healthy and STRONG.
    Plus—you all are having A LOT more fun than the rest of the people trying to live a healthy life I know.

    Kimberly wrote on June 7th, 2012
  18. I’ve only been eating primal for a week and I can honestly say I am already reaping the benefits. I don’t really have any “weight” to lose. I switched to the primal lifestyle so I didn’t have to “work” so hard at maintaining my weight, so I didn’t have to embrace hunger, and to rid myself of inflammation and random bouts of arm eczema. I already look way more cut since I don’t have all those useless card stores taking up space under my skin and with all the extra fat I’m eating my skin looks amazing (first time in my life I have not had to put lotion on) and (excuse my bluntness) I am pooping the best I ever have!! Who knew it was grains reeking havoc on my body. Thank God I gave up that unhealthy vegan diet. Why do people do that to themselves?

    Mindy1986 wrote on June 19th, 2012
    • I meant to say carb stores :)

      Mindy1986 wrote on June 19th, 2012
  19. 3 reasons why Primal blue print works for me:

    – I’ve stopped hypoglycineating, meaning my blood sugar levels stopped spiking and instead of NEEDING to eat every 2 hours, I eat when I’m hungry…
    – Constant energy levels. Constantly high.
    – Weight loss to a very comfortable 13 stones, 1 stone lighter than 3 months ago. I actually try not to loose more weight!

    Best part is, I know you’re trying to get to 10m people helped, I’m up to 8 people who’ve started living Primal after seeing the results for me. Here are some of their changes:

    – Rich: after 5 years on very strong antacids, stopped taking them on day 3 of new lifestyle
    – Mike: stuck at 110kg for ages and no change, after 1 month primal, at 105kg but A LOT more muscle replacing that fat
    – Patrick: Feeling bloated and tired for years, 5 days in, looks distinctly better already and more energy
    – Pete: After 15 years of very bad IBS needing steroids treatment (with all issues associated), getting better and considering coming off the meds.

    Amazing stuff, and yet so logical. It’s like we’ve been conned into eating badly for years…

    Patrice wrote on June 25th, 2012
  20. I’ve been doing paleo and crossfit since jan 2012 with amazing results lost 20 + lbs plus I’m getting very lean. I eat all I want. Just eat the allowable foods.

    Don P wrote on June 27th, 2012
  21. My father-in-law would disagree VEHEMENTLY about skin cancer being a result of “avoiding the sun.” That doesn’t make sense. He worked outside for a good portion of his youth, had sunburns all the time, etc etc. As a result, he will have to have his skin checked once a month for the rest of his life, and he has to have pieces removed at least every other time.

    Unless you’re a dermatologist, please don’t try to be an expert about skin cancer. People will believe you, and you might very well kill them.

    Beth J wrote on July 19th, 2012
  22. He Loses His Erection When He Wears A Condom

    aheartmedicine wrote on July 24th, 2012
  23. Unfortunately, when an MD gives nutritional advice it´s akin to a plumber giving you advice on fixing an electrical outlet. Generally speaking (although some schools are adding nutrition to their core curriculae), an MD´s nutritional background is limited to a couple of days on the basics of nutrition. Even my husband, who is a DC and also has a BS in Human Nutrition, admits that at least 50% of what he learned about nutrition was pure, unadulterated bunk. Outdated at best, and dangerous at worst. Hopefully, things will change but for now we must rely on cutting-edge resources for sound nutritional knowledge. This site is a great start!

    Edible Harmony wrote on August 14th, 2012
  24. I,ve been primal now for just 6 weeks, but have lost about 6.5lbs. I am not a big girl, small framed, but I seem to be unable to loose the bulgy little belly! Go to the gym twice a week for hour and a half, work out hard with fair amounts of weights, eat a clean diet…meats veggies coconut oil, olive oil, eggs etc…does anyone have any other tips as to how to get the “gut gone”? need a bit of help here!!!! :)

    Barbara Malevitch wrote on August 15th, 2012
  25. Cosnochta, Ceannochta, Fiannta.
    My grandmother used to call us these things. Barefooted, bareheaded and wild (or free!). That’s what I was as a child. I ran around barefoot most of the time, I had the healthiest skin colour of all the local kids, I climbed trees, rode bikes, sprinted during water fights and honestly, ate the most primal diet ever. Eggs, cheese, fish, veg. My father used to say: eat your meat, best part of the dinner, and never cared if we left the spuds behind. My mum cooked us eggs/bacon/sausages every morning of our lives. I was super healthy and super happy. Then I became a teen, discovered take-aways were fun places to find boys, eat chips and smoke cigs. And I’ve been battling my weight problem ever since. Low fat, no fat, high carb, points, syns, soups etc. etc. etc. Sinusoidal peaks and troughs of success and failure. Shin splints and plantar tendonitis from years of pounding the roads, bad skin, lethargy, digestive problems. Problems, problems, problems, you name it, I had it.
    In October 2010 I re-joined Weight Watchers for the umpteenth time. By Xmas I had starved myself into a miserable 17 pound loss. By March that was back on again. In July, fed up of 20 years of the raging mood swings, the venomous petty jealousies aimed at others, the feelings of inadequacy drowned out by bottles of JD and bags of weed I decided to do something different. I rediscovered Primal food, I went barefoot every chance I got, I admitted that whilst I loved hill-walking and beachcombing, I actually hated running. I picked up a racquet again, bought a bike, did random spontaneous exercise and free healthy eating and I once again went Grokking in the free world.
    I lost 40 pounds without trying and I once again became that barefoot, free child I had once been, rooted to the earth and sure of my place. I became, dare I say, serene, for the first time in 20 years.

    #11 I love being me again.

    Cailín Álainn wrote on August 15th, 2012
  26. Just curious as to why no legumes or beans? Over the past 16 years I’ve slowly but surely adapted my eating to an almost Paleo diet on my own anyway but still eat beans, and some sprouted grains.

    Emily wrote on August 16th, 2012

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