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

Meet Grok

The Definitive Guide to Grok

He’s the oft-cited star of our Paleolithic backdrop, the poster-persona of the Primal Blueprint itself. We would be remiss (and a little rude, don’t you think?) to overlook formal introductions. “It’s about time!” some of you might be saying to yourselves. Let’s meet the man of the eon!

First off, he is simultaneously his own person/personality (incidentally male) and an inclusive, non-gendered representative of all our beloved primal ancestors (male or female who spanned the primeval globe). It’s Grok as both construed individual and collective archetype, you might say. In either capacity, Grok serves as our primal exemplar, a figurative model for evolutionarily tried and true lifestyle behaviors: diet, exercise, sleep, stress, etc. And, as Mark’s Daily Apple itself has evolved over the last few years, we’ve grown quite attached to him, you might say. A likeable fellow, really, who, incidentally, also has a charming family – a strong, resourceful wife and two healthy children (a young boy and infant girl).

Grok, as we have come to know and love him, is a rather typical hunter-gatherer. He hearkens from, say, the San Joaquin Valley of (now) California. Born before the dawn of agriculture, he lives the life of a forager – hunting game and gathering all manner of roots, shoots, seeds and fruits for both himself and his family/small band. He’s perhaps 30 years old, on the upper end of life expectancy in his day, but he has the remarkable health to live far beyond that if he can avoid the traps of his time: accidents, predators, illness – far different threats than ours today.

You see, by modern standards, he would be the pinnacle of physiological vigor. Picture a tall, strapping man: lean, ripped, agile, even big-brained (by modern comparison). And as for what’s underneath? An enviable workup: low/no systemic inflammation, low insulin and blood glucose readings, healthy (i.e. ideally functional) cholesterol and triglyceride levels. “Hmm,” you say, closing your menu. “I’ll have what he’s having.”

And what would that be exactly? Hardly the fare of our modern diet. Wild seeds, grasses, and indigenous nut varieties. Seasonal vegetables and leaves. Roots (once he mastered the art of cooking). Berries and other fruits when they were available. Meats and fish whenever he could get them: small animals like rabbit and squirrel as well as occasional big game like bear, bison, deer, and mammoth. Grok and his clan knew a good thing when they had it. No wasteful, finicky butchering methods here. Everything remotely edible was eaten: organs, muscle, marrow.

Grok, to be sure, works hard for his dinner. Chasing game has made him a solid, nimble sprinter. Regular foraging (for food and firewood, etc.) as well as the occasional necessary migrations have developed impressive physical endurance. The obligatory lifting, hauling, and building of primal life have made him tough and burly. Regular exposure to the elements has made him robust and resilient.

But in spite of all of this, he leads a life of relative peace, consistent rhythm, adequate sleep, little stress. There are times of scarcity, to be sure, but his body is adapted to generally weather their strain. There are the physical threats of predators, but he has the savvy and fitness to usually avoid these. On his side are the biochemical capabilities to, by and large, handle the demands of his day: a fine-tuned, selected-for orchestration of hormonal release and up-regulation that works efficiently for day-to-day activities and surges into action for necessary crises.

Lucky for him, his diet and activity supported those physiological processes. As hard as he worked for his food, he gained an optimum compilation of omega-3 rich protein, unpolluted fats, and peak antioxidants (those wild varieties of fruits and veggies, as opposed to watered down cultivated versions we moderns usually eat). The intermittent shortages activated subtle but powerful up-regulating mechanisms that could typically keep him healthy until the next feast could be earned. His efforts in obtaining sustenance and maintaining basic shelter and security healthily challenged his cardiovascular system, built his muscles, strengthened his bones and bolstered his immune system. The primal life demanded a steady balance of sprinting, weight lifting and nearly constant low level labor.

And stress? Life in his era might be called short and brutish, but we think that’s not the full story. Laborious, yes. Taxing, yes. Precarious, yes. Strenuous and at times perilous, but not defined by the chronic stress to which we moderns often find ourselves chained. Grok and his kind – by necessity – lived primarily in the moment addressing this need, this meal, this danger. It was a life of simple sustenance, but he lived and worked within a family and tribe to share the load. And in between these efforts, he was also free to live, rest and enjoy his own moments of peace walking by a river or sitting by the fire. A short life? For most, yes. A brutish life? Some of the time. But Grok’s life, for all its uncertainty and simplicity, also offered the basic human enjoyments of happiness, family, quiet, even beauty. As arduous as Grok and his clan’s life was, there was a certain freedom in living for daily sustenance rather than for future acquisition. As imminent as death might have been in his world, it’s also true that those of his era rarely lived a day in ill-health.

And that is a glimpse of our good man Grok, official primal prototype – his life, his practices, his physiology, his disposition. How different our lives seem in comparison. But how possible the lessons for health. The artless health of his day fused with the know-how and the plenty of ours. (Grok couldn’t have imagined it so good.) Grok’s guide, our gain – what the PB is all about. Thanks, dude.

Have your thoughts on the primal personage? Grok thanks you for your support. “It’s good to be among friends….”

Further Reading:

Did Grok Really Eat that Much Meat?

Would Grok Chow the Cheese Plate?

Didn’t Grok Eat Raw Meat?

Prefer listening to reading? Get an audio recording of this blog post, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast on iTunes for instant access to all past, present and future episodes here.

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. Oh Grok. I might have a crush on him.

    Holly wrote on January 27th, 2009
  2. I must say, I’m envious!

    Steve wrote on January 27th, 2009
  3. p.s. sweet Grok design. anyway we could get that on a MDA t-shirt? anyone else want one?

    Holly wrote on January 27th, 2009
  4. Mark,

    Where did the idea of calling this primal being ‘Grok’ come from? Having read “Stranger in a strange land” I was surprised to find the use of Grok as it is in the Primal manking world.

    Any ideas?

    fatehunter wrote on January 27th, 2009
  5. I’ll buy one!

    Owen wrote on January 27th, 2009
  6. Great question, fatehunter. You’ll have to read the book to find out!

    Holly, Owen –
    There will likely be T-shirts in the future for all the Grokkers out there. Keep checking back. I’ll let you know when they are available.


    Mark Sisson wrote on January 27th, 2009
  7. BTW – What does everyone think of the Grok graphic? It is going on chapter title pages in the upcoming book. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    I may end up having a more 3-D type character of Grok designed somewhere down the line, but for now I am just looking for something that is more of a simple logo for our role model than anything.

    Thanks in advance for your comments.

    Mark Sisson wrote on January 27th, 2009
  8. Mark,
    I must say that I LOVE the graphic on this page. It’s simple, striking and succinctly sums up the lifestyle: that of a vigorous, capable, leaping, bounding hunter. I can’t imagine an image that says so much on first glance.
    I’d wear it on a suit lapel. :)
    Thank a million for ALL of this.


    Owen wrote on January 27th, 2009
  9. It is nice to meet Grok, but there is one problem. People who actually live like this nowadays:

    I don’t think you get anymore nutrient-dense than Amazon plants and animals. They don’t look like you Mark,nor any of the Paleo/Primal/EF followers. but they follow the Primal Blueprint.

    Although, Arthur Devany makes some good points about diets in primitives.

    JE Gonzalez wrote on January 27th, 2009
    • That is an interesting point about the Amazonian people. Having done some study on North American Native Indians, I was always amazed at how healthy and fit they looked in old pictures from the 1800’s that I came across. They were hunters and gatherers (with a little horticulture mixed in). To me they resemble what Grok looks like.

      Kevin wrote on May 12th, 2011
  10. Mark:

    I really like the logo as is. I think the “shadow drawing” quality makes it look like a cave painting—superficially simple, but much more complex at a second (or third) glance. Kind of like the primal blueprint, in fact!

    Lewis wrote on January 27th, 2009
  11. Mark,

    I like the graphic! Another “Grok” image that really caught my attention was on John Berardi’s site. He wrote an article on the fitness of Neanderthal Man. The image he used on the first page he got out of some periodical. Here’s the link to the article with the image he used.

    Clint wrote on January 27th, 2009
  12. I like the silhouette. Maybe add a sunburst behind him?

    Robert M. wrote on January 27th, 2009
  13. Hi Grok. I am your misguided, messed up, convoluted and “westernized” offspring. I am trying to recover though 😉

    I like the logo. It is maybe a little too graceful and “Ballet” for me… but good. lol

    The SoG

    Son of Grok wrote on January 27th, 2009
  14. Oh mighty Son of Grok!

    Know ye that ballet is very primal! The jumping! The lifting! The throwing! The music its set to . . . not so primal. But the speed the strength the grace . . . that’s very primal. Mikhail Baryshnikov with hair extensions and a spear? Think about it!

    Most ‘umbly submitted,


    Lewis wrote on January 27th, 2009
  15. I like the image.

    Grok, pleasure to meet you!

    Martin wrote on January 27th, 2009
  16. Nice Grok likeness.

    As someone new to this Primal idea I can’t wait to read the book!!

    I wonder what time frame of existence Grok belongs to and how he relates to Indigenous cultures that still maintain some resemblance to their traditional diets.

    I have read studies of Aborigines that have been relocated to traditional lands and ways of life for even short periods that have been “cured” of obesity and regained health and that studies of the Inuit demonstrate high fat, low carb diets can lesson diabetes and related heath issues.

    What do you think of the notion of diet based on your place of origin? There are cultures which have eaten and even cultivated potatoes and maize (however different from today’s varieties) and have them written into their creation stories and legends.

    Will any of these ideas be covered in the book?


    onelasttime wrote on January 27th, 2009
  17. “A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words”
    I see Grok’s graphic expresses itself, i really like it!

    Donna wrote on January 27th, 2009
  18. I love the graphic!

    I’d also love to meet lady Grok. I bet she’s nice.

    Jeff wrote on January 27th, 2009
  19. Jeff,
    Don’t forget that lady Grok was unaquainted with razors 😉

    The SoG

    Son of Grok wrote on January 27th, 2009
  20. i too like the image and would like to see it on a t shirt. perhaps it can be released with the book??? thanks for the site and all the hard work involved.

    mike wrote on January 27th, 2009
  21. Good article Mark. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with stress. The more technologically advanced we become the more comfortable but stressful our lives seem to get.

    Tom Parker - Free Fitness Tips wrote on January 27th, 2009
  22. The Amazon Indians pictured in the link provided by JE Gonzales don’t look like well muscled physical specimens. The Masai look much healthier. I wonder what accounts for this.

    Kevin Clark wrote on January 27th, 2009
  23. Grok like Mark. Mark almost correct. Grok tell it like is.

    Grok no eat plants unless run out of meat. Grok mate gather bugs, reptiles like lizards, snakes, turtles, and small mammals. Only pick up plants if can’t find good stuff.

    Would eat all meat all the time if could.

    Also, life not so perfect as Mark say. Spend lots of time fighting with other humans. Much more than fighting with animals. You not in my band? You danger! I probably kill!

    Grok wrote on January 27th, 2009
    • Grok is a bit presumptious to define HIMSELF” as being functionally illiterate.
      How does he arrive at the idea that our Paleo-Ancestors were challenged in both thought and verbal communication.
      UGGG! Maybe Grok Watch Movies Too Much?

      BOBSTOUFUS wrote on July 28th, 2010
  24. Maybe some rocks or a stream in the graphic would make it look less like a ballet dancer? Or a tree maybe.

    I like the spear, though.

    No razors… well, this might have to be an updated cavewoman, SoG. Sort of like Nova in Planet of the Apes. Sure I’m primitive, but my hair looks GREAT, just messed up enough. If she looks like Lucy the mother of mankind, I’m gonna be scared.


    TrailGrrl wrote on January 27th, 2009
    • Whats the big debate about Grokeena?
      Jeeze didn’t anybody watch the original 10,000,000 BC? I am absolutely positive she looked like Racquel Welch at 23.
      Now where did I leave my blueprints for that Time Machine again??

      BOBSTOUFUS wrote on July 28th, 2010
  25. I like the simplicity of The Leaping Grok (without any background images), launching through the air with greatest of ease.

    Ellen wrote on January 28th, 2009
  26. The only sprinting I do is for the bus. Need to grokanize my day more lol


    Yavor Marichkov wrote on January 28th, 2009
  27. I came by this post by way of Grok’s biography (by way of explaining the late comment). Question: What on Earth led you to believe that the human body has stopped evolving? We likely didn’t evolve the capacity for introspection until about 3,000-3,500 years ago (the time of the Odyssey, the oldest books of the Torah/OT, the Vedas, etc.). If such a gigantic evolutionary change took place so recently, what makes you think that our digestive system suddenly reached a “final blueprint” by the time we started cultivating grains (and squash, roots, beans, animals, etc.)?

    A lot of your arguments make sense and the Primal Blueprint is a pretty good recipe for healthy living, not least because of how much it advocates play, exercise and sleep. Lots of anecdotal evidence obviously supports that. But the “Grok” explanation, that somehow we’ll be living like our ancestors if we change our diet and activities, doesn’t really seem to me like the most tenable. If the agricultural lifestyle were really so unhealthy, then why didn’t people suddenly start living shorter lives after the advent of agriculture? There was probably a dip in life expectancy in the neolithic and bronze ages, but after that it rose again to paleolithic levels and stayed pretty much constant for the next 6000 years. Wouldn’t that seem to indicate that we adjusted just fine to living on an agricultural (that is, high-grain/carb) diet? And doesn’t it seem at least possible that the advent of agriculture, which allowed for leisure time and specialization thanks to storable excess calories, contributed to the rise of the very ability that allows us to reflect on the consequences of our evolutionary history?

    My (wordy, sorry!) two cents for the day.

    curious wrote on January 28th, 2009
    • Great points.

      Also, is Grok a different species from us? Could I mate with him and produce an offspring? If not, should I still be concerning myself with a diet of another species? Just curious….

      Yokoso wrote on January 6th, 2011
      • Yes, grok is still the same species. If you run into him, go for it. 😉

        Curious asks some worthwhile questions, to be sure, but the fact is that there are answers to those questions available in the anthropological record. And they point to humans still being poorly adapted to a carb-heavy diet based on grains (particularly gluten grains). Evolution never stops, but 10,000 years on that timescale is a VERY short time (and that’s just since the first established agriculture anywhere; many populations have been eating grains for less than 100 years, and their health invariably plummets when grains are introduced). If the bones of our ancestors have anything to say, it’s that early agricultural societies DID live shorter lives with much higher incidences of degenerative disease than their predecessors. And we still have shorter healthy lives (extended by our safer environments and modern medicine) with high rates of diseases and conditions that hunter-gatherers never experienced.

        Grains can sustain a population to consistently survive at least long enough to reproduce in reasonable health, so the fact that we’ve managed on them for this long does not by any means indicate that we’ve adapted to do well on them. They’re a slow killer.

        The biggest piece of evidence: humans have not developed any natural defense against the chemical effects of gluten. Some are more sensitive than others, but everyone’s bodies are slowly but surely damaged by gluten. Gluten is a toxin produced by grains to discourage consumption. Other plants that we’ve been eating for millions of years also have toxins for the same reason, but our bodies have chemical adaptations for dealing with those toxins. We know of chemical adaptations that rodents and birds have to deal with gluten and other lectins, but humans quite simply don’t.

        fwiw, most anthropologists have concluded that paleolithic humans enjoyed more free time and deeper social connections than most people in ancient and even modern agricultural societies. Hunter-gatherer societies today still do, so it’s not as if that’s wild conjecture. The question of the rise of the capacity for introspection, however, is highly suspect. Modern hunter-gatherer societies that have never known a system of writing or literature or significant specialization have not been shown to be any less self-aware than modern humans from agricultural societies. Such an argument has no foundation. What we do know of worldwide paleolithic cultures (particularly paleolithic art) certainly suggests self-awareness, either way.

        Erik wrote on January 6th, 2011
  28. Oops, meant to post this on the “Would Grok eat a cheese plate” entry. Please ignore the first sentence.

    curious wrote on January 28th, 2009
  29. i know it’s not the specific area, but i was wondering if the book is still projected for april? thanks.

    mike wrote on January 28th, 2009
  30. mike –

    It sure is. As long as there aren’t any major hiccups things are still planned for April. In fact if the stars align both the book and redesign of this site may end up being launched even earlier – maybe mid-March. Thanks for the interest, mike!


    Mark Sisson wrote on January 28th, 2009
  31. To grok (pronounced /ˈgrɒk/) is to share the same reality or line of thinking with another physical or conceptual entity.

    Author Robert A. Heinlein coined the term in his best-selling 1961 book Stranger in a Strange Land. In Heinlein’s view of quantum theory, grokking is the intermingling of intelligence that necessarily affects both the observer and the observed.

    From the novel:
    “ Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science—and it means as little to us (because of our Earthly assumptions) as color means to a blind man. ”

    The Oxford English Dictionary defines grok as “to understand intuitively or by empathy; to establish rapport with” and “to empathize or communicate sympathetically (with); also, to experience enjoyment.” Other forms of the word include “groks” (present third person singular), “grokked” (past participle) and “grokking” (present participle).

    In an ideological context, a grokked concept becomes part of the person who contributes to its evolution by improving the doctrine, perpetuating the myth, espousing the belief, adding detail to the social plan, refining the idea or proofing the theory.

    Neal wrote on January 28th, 2009
  32. the fact that it is the only image ever to show up in the home screen of google reader means its a keeper for me!


    Ryan Denner wrote on January 28th, 2009
  33. Curious, we’ll be detailing much of this in the forthcoming book. Meanwhile, interesting to note that in early grain-based societies, life expectancy dropped to 18. Plus, stature decreased, as did bone density. Much more to come…

    Mark Sisson wrote on January 30th, 2009
  34. We need a Grokette !!

    EW wrote on February 1st, 2009
  35. OK, although I think that the Paleo Diet is a generally good idea, there are a LOT of assumptions in this “Grok” creation.

    1) “You see, by modern standards, he would be the pinnacle of physiological vigor. Picture a tall, strapping man: lean, ripped, agile, even big-brained (by modern comparison).”

    If you look at modern counterparts to this supposed Grok, (somebody posted a good link:,
    they are not all
    a) tall, in fact the average non-Grok is probably taller, maybe due to all the growth hormones in our beef and other meats, nor are they all
    b) ripped, although none of them are morbidly obese, their “ripped-ness”, God I hate that term, does not quite live up to your hype.

    “But in spite of all of this, he leads a life of relative peace, consistent rhythm, adequate sleep, little stress. There are times of scarcity, to be sure, but his body is adapted to generally weather their strain. There are the physical threats of predators, but he has the savvy and fitness to usually avoid these. On his side are the biochemical capabilities to, by and large, handle the demands of his day: a fine-tuned, selected-for orchestration of hormonal release and up-regulation that works efficiently for day-to-day activities and surges into action for necessary crises.”

    Relative peace? Relative to what? Certainly not relative to what most people in modern civilization consider normal. Unless you are living in Baghdad, Darfur, or some other warzone/shantytown, your life is a hell of a lot more peaceful than Grok’s. I understand that living in this comfy setting can make us long for the zest of adventure, danger, etc. of an existence in the wilderness but it is likely a case of biting off more than you can chew, or the grass being greener on the other side of the fence. Once placed in such a precarious and unforgiving environment, I suspect one would quickly want out and to return to cushy old civilization. That’s probably why Grok eventually domesticated animals and began the whole agriculture thing.

    “And stress? Life in his era might be called short and brutish, but we think that’s not the full story. Laborious, yes. Taxing, yes. Precarious, yes. Strenuous and at times perilous, but not defined by the chronic stress to which we moderns often find ourselves chained.”

    Not knowing where, if or when your next meal is coming day in, day out would qualify as chronic stress, wouldn’t you say? What about not knowing if the neighbouring tribe is going to come attack you and take your wife as a trophy or take your kids for slaves/concubines? Just a thought.

    All in all, I do think that eating as our bodies have more or less been “designed for”, yes bad terminology, but whatever, is a good idea, but to elevate “Grok”-style living is a little overboard.

    Feel free to chime in.

    George wrote on February 7th, 2009
  36. George, you make some interesting points. Note first that “modern Groks” you cite are not necessarily exemplary of 10,000 year-old ancestors. We don’t really refer to modern Groks here that often. There are very few true hunter-gatherer societies left on earth. Many of the South American and African tribes have become quasi horticulturalists or pastoralists as a result of having been forced by civilization into increasingly smaller spaces. That has certainly affected their growth and stature.

    Grok’s people in northern climates grew to probably the same height as an average person today (We like to think Grok himself was a little above average – hence use of the term tall. But we’ll agree that he wasn’t taller than today’s average tall guy). Stature declined for thousands of years after him as agriculture took root. All the literature indicates that Grok was more muscular or “robust” than today’s average person. To us “ripped” means a decent amount of mass and low body fat – not excessive body-builder muscle.

    As for stress, we can’t truly “know” that he had lower stress because we can’t measure it. But we can surmise that his stress-response system wasn’t nearly as overly taxed the way ours is today (Robert Sapolsky’s book “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” is a great resource in that subject). We think it was Grok (not a New Yorker) who first coined the phrase “yo, it is what it is…” Stuff happened and he just dealt with it.


    Mark Sisson wrote on February 7th, 2009
  37. Mark,

    Perhaps “modern Groks” aren’t NECESSARILY exemplary of 10,000 year old ancestors, some might be. At the very least, they are more exemplary of them than city-dwellers, country-farmers, etc. While are are very few hunter-gatherer societies left on Earth (by the way if anyone has any informative or interesting links on this topic, please post them), of those that are left we can’t say “Oh, they aren’t as physically robust as I thought they would be (Conan the Barbarian, perhaps), so they must not be exemplary of “real” Groks. I understand that there are probably important clues from the fossil record in regards to skull thickness bone mass, density, height, etc., so I could be proven completely wrong. As far as height goes, from all that I’ve read (granted, maybe not an extensive list by any means) modern humans are taller than our ancient Grok forefathers, from way before agriculture took root.

    Again I may be spewing nonsense, since I have not read “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” , but maybe Zebras don’t get ulcers because they get eaten before they have a chance to develop them. Or perhaps their brains aren’t developed enough to contemplate and worry about the future the way humans do. True, some animals may “plan” for the future by gathering enough nuts for the winter, or hibernating through winter, but humans worry about a time frame far beyond just the next winter. If humans were “freed” of our modern trappings of desk jobs, mortgage payments, yadda, yadda, and went to live in the wilderness a la Grok-style, we may see a radical drop in deaths caused by chronic stress-related illnesses, but we would also see a radical increase in deaths caused by animal maulings, malnutrition due to not being able to effectively compete for food, exposure to the elements, and who knows what else. And someone who survived long enough may just end up dying of those built-up chronic stress-related factors. Or they may not, simply because they are very healthy and fit individuals (as evidenced by the very fact that they survuved all those dangers and challenges).

    “We think it was Grok (not a New Yorker) who first coined the phrase “yo, it is what it is…” Stuff happened and he just dealt with it.”

    Perhaps, but this surely isn’t confined only to Groks. There are modern humans who take this attitude to life and also live relatively stress-free. And not all humans or Groks were the same. There must have been some who did have chronic stress problems. In our cousins, the apes, chronic stress is more prevalent than one would think.

    Link to “Emotional Stress in Monkeys”:,M1

    I haven’t read the whole thing (just started), but if you start reading it, it may shed some light on some notions about Grok.

    Please feel free to comment.

    George wrote on February 11th, 2009

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