Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...Tell Me More
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….”
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.