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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...

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July 30, 2008

The Definitive Guide to the Primal Eating Plan

By Mark Sisson
710 Comments

Food Scale

Do the Math

In my recent Context of Calories post, I explained how the different macronutrients we eat at each meal (fats, proteins, and carbohydrates) have different effects in the body. I suggested that, despite their raw calorie values, it’s far more important to get a lasting intuitive sense of how much of each macronutrient you need and when you need it (or not).

But how do you do that? How do you figure out the proper number of calories – and breakdown of fats, protein and carbs – to accomplish your fitness and health goals? To lose weight? Lose fat? Gain muscle? Maintain status quo? Run marathons?

In fact, most popular daily diets look at overall calories as the main factor in weight loss and weight gain. The age-old conservation of energy Conventional Wisdom says that “a calorie is a calorie.” From there most diet gurus generally prescribe some formulaic one-size-fits-all breakdown of fats, protein and carbs. A classically trained Registered Dietician will tell you that protein should be around 10-15% of calories, carbs should be 60% (and mostly from whole grains) and fat under 30%. This macronutrient breakdown stays the same regardless of how much weight you need to lose or what other goals you might have. Barry Sears has his 40/30/30 “Zone” diet. The USDA bases everything on a choice of between 2,000 and 2,500 calories a day. But, as I said earlier, it’s not that simple. Calories do have context.

The human body uses these macronutrients for a variety of different functions, some of which are structural and some of which are simply to provide energy – immediately or well into the future. Moreover, with regards to energy conservation or expenditure, the body acts as both an efficient fuel storage depot (and as a toxic “waist” site) as well as a potent generator of energy, depending largely on the hormonal signals it gets. It will store glycogen and/or fat and it will build muscle – or it will just as easily tear them all down and use them for fuel – based on input from you: what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, what you’re doing before or after you eat – even what you’re thinking when you eat. Yet because your body always seeks to achieve homeostasis over time, the notion of you trying to zero in on a precise day-to-day or meal-to-meal eating plan is generally fruitless (yes, Charlotte, some fruit is allowed). The good news in all this is that falling off the wagon once or twice this week won’t have the immediate disastrous effect that you might imagine – as long as you can keep your average intake under control and understand how the various macronutrients function over time.

Which brings me to the crux of today’s discussion. Not only is it nearly impossible to accurately gauge your exact meal-to-meal calorie and macronutrient requirements, doing so will drive you crazy. In fact, to accurately figure your true structural and functional fuel needs (and hence to achieve your goals) it’s far more effective to look at a much larger span of time, like a few weeks, and aim for an “average” consumption. Then you can review that average daily intake over weeks or months and adjust accordingly. Below, I’ll give you a way to figure a “jumping off” point to start with, but remember, our genes are accustomed to the way our ancestors ate: intermittently, sporadically, sometimes in large quantities, and sometimes not at all for days. Their bodies figured out a way to maintain homeostasis and preserve lean tissue and good health through all this and so can we. Our genes want us to be lean and fit. It’s actually quite easy as long as we eat from the long list of Primal Blueprint healthy foods and try to avoid that other list of grain-laden, sugary, processed and otherwise unhealthy foods. Realistically, we also want to allow for the occasional party-splurge, a pre-planned (or accidental) intermittent fast, an over-the-top workout or even a week of laziness. Where most people get into trouble is in miscalculating their energy needs over extended periods of time – not day-to-day. They don’t see the average amount of carbs creeping upwards, or they figure they need x amount of calories, but don’t have a clue as to what kind of food those should be coming from.

I start with these four basic principles to guide my Primal Blueprint eating style:

1) 80% of your body composition will be determined by your diet. Yes, exercise is also important to health and to speed up fat-burning and muscle-building, but most of your results will come from how you eat. I’ll write more on this later, so just trust me on this one for now. Suffice to say, people who weigh a ton and exercise a ton, but eat a ton, still tend to weigh a ton. I think I’ll have that made into a t-shirt…

2) Lean Body Mass (LBM) is the key to life. I’ve said it many times on this site: lean mass (muscle and all the rest of you that is not fat) is directly correlated with longevity and excellent health. Rather than strive to “lose weight”, most people would be better off striving to lose only fat and to build or maintain muscle. Since other organs tend to function at a level that correlates to muscle mass, the more muscle you maintain throughout life, the more “organ reserve” you’ll have (i.e. the better the rest of you will work). Refer back to rule #1 and eat to build or maintain muscle.

3) Excess body fat is bad. Most human studies show that being significantly overweight increases your risk of nearly every disease (except osteoporosis – because ironically it responds to weight-bearing activities). Fat just doesn’t look that great either. See rule #1 and eat to keep body fat relatively low.

4) Excess insulin is bad. We’ve written about it here a lot. Chronic excess insulin may be even worse than excess sugar (and we know how bad that is). All animals produce insulin, but within any species, those that produce less insulin live longer than those who produce a lot. Eat to keep insulin low.

Here is how I use these principles to guide my individual macronutrient intake:

Protein

Raw Steak

Protein takes priority. If there is ample glycogen (stored glucose) and the body is getting the rest of its energy efficiently from fats, protein will always go first towards repair or building cells or enzymes. In that context, it hardly seems fair to assign it a “burn rate” of 4 calories per gram. It’s like saying the 2×4 studs that support the walls of your house can burn nicely if you run out of firewood. They will, but I prefer to burn other fuel first. At a minimum you need .5 grams of protein per pound of lean mass/per day on average to maintain your “structure”. If you are moderately active you need .7 or .8, and if you are an active athlete you need as much as 1 gram of protein per pound of lean mass. That’s at a minimum, but it’s on a daily average. So a 155 lb moderately active woman who has 25% body fat (and thus) has 116 lb of lean body mass needs 93 grams of protein on average per day (116 x .8). If she gets 60 or 80 some days and 110 on others, she’ll still be in a healthy average range. And even if she exceeds the 110, it’s no problem if she’s eating low carb because the excess protein will convert to glucose, which will reduce her effective carbohydrate needs (see below). At 4 calories per gram, that’s between 320 and 440 calories per day in protein. It’s not that much.

Carbs

Vegetables

If you’ve forgotten everything you ever learned in biology, just remember this and “own” it: Carbohydrate drives insulin drives fat (Cahill 1965, and Taubes 2007). The idea in the PB is to limit your carbs to only those you need to provide glucose for the brain and for some reasonable amount (certainly less than an hour) of occasional anaerobic exercise. And the truth is, you don’t even need glucose to fuel the brain. Ketones from a very-low carb diet work extremely efficiently at that task. Either way, ideally, we would like most of our daily energy to come from dietary or stored fats. Typically, (if you are at an ideal body composition now) I use a rule of thumb that 100-150 grams of carbohydrate per day is plenty to keep you out of ketosis (and ketosis is NOT a bad thing) but away from storing the excess as fat if you are the least bit active. Don’t forget that your body can make up to 200 grams of glycogen from fats and protein every day, too. On the other hand, if you are looking to lose body fat, keeping carbs to under 80 grams per day will help immensely in lowering insulin and taking fat out of storage. On the other other hand, if you are insistent on training hard for long periods of time, you would add more carbs (say, 100 per day extra for every extra hour you train hard). It becomes a matter of doing the math and experimenting with the results.

Ironically, it’s tough to exceed 100 grams of carbs even if you eat tons of colorful vegetables – as long as you eat like our ancestors and consume no grains, no sugars and few starchy vegetables (potatoes, yams, beets, legumes, etc). Even if you eat a ton of vegetables AND a fair amount of fruit, you’ll be hard pressed to exceed 150 grams of carbs on average per day. Our remote ancestors couldn’t average 150 grams of carbs a day if they tried, yet they had plenty of energy and maintained their lean mass. At 4 calories per gram that’s only between 400 and 600 calories per day. Add that in to the protein above and our sample girl is barely at 1,000 calories on the high end. So where does the rest of the fuel come from?

Fats

Olive Oil

Learn to love them. They are the fuel of choice and should become the balance of your Primal Blueprint diet. Fats have little or no impact on insulin and, as a result, promote the burning of both dietary and stored (adipose) fat as fuel. Think about this: if protein and carbs stay fairly constant (and carbs stay under 150), you can use fat as the major energy variable in your diet. Feeling like you need more fuel (and you’ve already covered your bases with protein and carbs)? Reach for something with fat. Nuts, avocados, coconut, eggs, butter, olive oil, fish, chicken, lamb, beef, the list is a long one. 100 grams of fats per day would only add 900 calories to our girl’s daily average, putting her at between 1620 and 1940 calories a day. Even if she averages somewhere between 1400 and 2200 calories per day over a few weeks, as long as she pays attention to protein and carbs, her body composition will shift to lower body fat and more desirable lean mass. If she decides to do some walking, a few brief intense weight sessions and a sprint day here and there, that process would accelerate greatly. If she gets to a point where she’s content with her body fat, she can even add in a little more fat to provide energy that she previously got from her stored fat.

The main thing I’ve figured out from eating this way for years is that I don’t need nearly as many calories to maintain health, mass, and body fat as I once thought I did – or as the Conventional Wisdom says I do. I eat 600-1000 calories per day less than when I ate a carbohydrate-based diet, yet I maintain slightly lower body fat and slightly higher muscle mass on even less training. Remember: 80% of body composition is determined by diet. The best part is that I don’t ever feel hungry because I base my eating on exactly what my 10,000-year-old genes want me to eat.

For a look at my upcoming book, The Primal Blueprint, click here. I’ve included a sneak peek at the jacket artwork, a PDF of the table of contents and full chapter summaries.

Further Reading:

Definitive Guides to:

The Primal Blueprint

Grains

Fats

Cholesterol

Insulin, Blood Sugar and Type 2 Diabetes

Stress, Cortisol and the Adrenals

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.

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710 Comments on "The Definitive Guide to the Primal Eating Plan"

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Varangy
Varangy
8 years 1 month ago

Good piece Mark. Question for you:

What about the insulogenic effects of protein? Peter at Hyperlipid* favors fats over proteins, if I am not mistaken, for this (among other) reasons.

http://high-fat-nutrition.blogspot.com/2008/01/what-do-i-eat-fitday-analysis.html

Hyperlipid is a great blog BTW.

Abel James
4 years 11 months ago

Don’t forget that protein’s insulinogenic effects are largely counterbalanced by the release of glucagon, a hormone that helps us burn previously stored fat, after protein consumption.

This is in contrast to carbs, which unapologetically raise insulin, and fat which is essentially biologically inert.

Kris Gunnars
3 years 8 months ago

There’s also the fact that even though primal/paleo diets contain more protein, the amount doesn’t come close to the amount of carbs that were removed.

For example, you might remove 200 grams of carbs but add 50 grams of protein. The total amount of foods that stimulate insulin goes way down.

You’re mostly replacing carbs with fat. Carbs raise insulin, fat does not.

dianespeaks
3 years 2 months ago

What about the fact that animal protein is very acidic, and cancer thrives in an acidic environment, and that we should keep our bodies alkaline. I’m referring to Dr. Robert Young, THE PH MIRACLE.

quackwatch
quackwatch
3 years 1 month ago

dianespeaks, that is not a fact.

See “Acid/Alkaline Theory of Disease Is Nonsense”
http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/DSH/coral2.html

Richy
4 years 8 months ago

Best Guide to Eating Ever. Highly Recomended

TFM
4 years 21 days ago
I have to ask do we really need that much protein? I use to follow this .5 for every pound of lean muscle and when doing that I barely have room for any other food. That’s a lot of protein. Most of the centurions say they have eaten modest amounts of meat is any. Watch Forks over Knives. I definitely looked fitter and was lean but my immune system was under-active. I believe we need some protein but not this much to be healthy, maybe only to look a certain way. Saying all that I have your approach to eating… Read more »
Tammy
Tammy
4 years 7 months ago

I have just started this program and have a question about the blood type diet. My fiance picked up the blook type book from the organic food store where he picked up some things for us to begin the primal blueprint and it said in the blood diet for my type A, I should not eat meats and only vegetables, some fruit and some seafood. It said meat was bad for my digestion system. I would just like some feedback on this so I can be sure the primal blueprint program will work for me. Thanks,

Eric
Eric
4 years 6 months ago
To be frank, the blood type diet is complete junk. It is not based on scientific fact and only a ploy to make money.Sure you may lose weight but the weight loss would be the same regardless of what your blood type is and what path of the diet you follow. Not only does d’Adamo have a poor grasp of genetics but also a poor grasp of nutrition. The blood type diet is based on a single gene that is irrelevant, while the paleo/primal diet is based on the other 23,000 genes that have shaped the human body and its… Read more »
Mary
Mary
3 years 6 months ago
I don’t understand, how Mark keeps saying it is tough to eat 100 carbs of veggies, etc. here is a day that is NOT finished of eating vegetables and some fruit: 1 cup kale = 7 carbs 20 brussel sprouts = 20 carbs 2 cups of carrots – 24 carbs 1 med. banana = 51 carb pineapple cup = 20 carb raisins 1 ounce = 22 g 20 + 51 + 24 + 20 + 7 + 22= 144 So far up to 144 carbs…. and that was NOT very difficult, nor a ton of food…. so what am i… Read more »
Mary
Mary
3 years 6 months ago

Please someone…. answer… this is very frustrating!

Jay
Jay
3 years 6 months ago

it is tough to eat 100g of carbohydrates from just veggies. it isn’t, however, tough to do so from fruit. Do not avoid fruit, Just dont over do it.

Mary
Mary
3 years 6 months ago

Thanks Jay, I think i need to not eat fruit, because if throughout the day i ate:
kale 3 cups = 21 carbs
brussel sprounts, 20 = 20
2 cups eggplant = 10
1 cup diced tomatoes = 7
med. onion = 10
zucchini = 7
1 sm. head pureed cauliflower = 14

then the total carbs = 89… i think lack of fruit needs to be emphasized for persons close to their ideal weight, but still wanting to lose fat.
thank you for your comment. 🙂

Ken
Ken
3 years 5 months ago

Mary,

There are a few issues, for one you banana measurement is twice the carbs. One medium banana equals about 27 grams of carbs. If you eat fruit you need to stick to the berries, most of them are low carbs with maybe the exception of blueberries. Over all in the primal diet, fruit should be more like a treat/desert, not part of your everyday diet with maybe the exception of one being really active.

Mary
Mary
3 years 3 months ago

Ken, thanks for noticing the banana calculation… I got that from “My Fitness pal” where i track my food, and for some reason they have 2 listings for a medium banana, and one is 200 calories and 51 carbs, the other is 105 calories and 27 carbs.
weird…

j
j
3 years 4 months ago

pineapple bananas carrots n dried fruit are too high in sugar and carbs… he says non starchy fruit and veggies. trade those for berries and celery… low sugar.

Ava
Ava
3 years 2 months ago

You might also need to limit portion sizes of “sweet” vegetables, such as carrots, onions, and tomatoes, and even of a benign veg such as cauliflower.

Adam
Adam
3 years 3 months ago
Also, in addition to reducing fruit consumption, perhaps you’ve consumed less carb than you think. Perhaps you also should not be counting the dietary fibre content of these veggies you’re eating. In the UK we don’t count the fibre as a carbohydrate on nutrition labels (the fibre is listed separately). My understanding is that americans (and so, many websites also) include fibre in the carb listing. So you say that a small head of cauliflower contains 14g carb, but when I check it on the nutritiondata website I see that 7g of this is fibre, which wouldn’t be digested by… Read more »
Laura
Laura
2 years 11 months ago
First, let me say that I am by no means an expert. I only started eating Paleo 3 weeks ago, but here is my take on it & if there is an expert out there that disagrees with me please post. 1) Most low carb diets count net carbs. What the definition of that is depends on who you ask, but most people agree that it is the carb content – the fiber, So if you have a veggie that is 7 carbs a serving, but 5 grams of fiber, the net carbs would only be 2, not the full… Read more »
josh
2 years 13 days ago

You’re eating the wrong fruits. Avoid dried fruits, bananas and citrus.

Josh
Josh
1 year 5 months ago

You have to remember, dietary fiber is indegestible and can’t be broken down into a simple sugar. Most vegetables have great amounts of dietary fiber. So subtract the fiber #away from the carb count and you get your real carb count. Also, I recommend not eating as much fruit for the reason it contains fructose, which is a fairly simple sugar that can give you an insulin spike and store fat after 5 grams

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
3 years 5 months ago

I’m a huge carb lover, grew up eating cereal and noodles every meal. Parents never bought veggies or fruit beyond bananas and grapes. I’m really interested in trying this diet, just unsure of where to begin or where to get protein. I’m not a big meat eater and am unsure of how to be creative. I can’t even look at myself in the mirror anymore. Please help

Art
Art
3 years 1 month ago
For starters, cut out all processed foods. Eat whole foods. Concerning meat, just try it out, Have some cuts of beef, chicken or pork. I’m personally more into fish – salmon, sardines, tuna, trout. You’ll find out what you like best, don’t worry,, just give it a try. Add in some leafy greens (spinach, lettuce, …), some nuts and berries once or twice a week, and you’re fine. If you still feel hungry though, drink half a cup of olive oil / macadamia nut oil to very meal (feels gross, I know, but it’s healthy and you’ll get used to… Read more »
Cory Marsh
3 years 1 month ago

Oh My God. Drink a 1/2 olive oil if you have low energy? Eat bacon because it’s healthy? Have you had any blood work done? If you have been consuming that much fat, you should really see a doctor and make sure you are not on an even earlier track to heart disease.

S. Quinn
S. Quinn
3 years 1 month ago
Yes, Cory Marsh, both my husband and I visited the doctor and found that all our too-high bad numbers WENT DOWN. Many, many primal eaters have had this same experience, and the same of experience of having their doctors say, “what the heck? What’s the name of that book again?” Just search this site. It’s not anecdotal – it happens over and over. Even a little research shows that we are meant to be fat-burning animals, not carb-burning, and that REAL fats are infinitely better for you than industrial fats. So much of the conventional-wisdom scholarly “research”(often paid for by… Read more »
Richie
Richie
3 years 1 month ago

I think Cory Marsh is trying to troll.

Mallory
Mallory
2 years 6 months ago
Not an expert, but I recommend making eggs a staple in your diet. They are easy to make and can be made many different ways. If I have time, I will make a scramble or omelette with whatever I like to add to it (sausage, bacon, spinach, mushrooms, etc). I also keep hard-boiled eggs on hand for snacking or on-the-go. When I want something warm and soothing, I make a basic egg-drop soup (chicken stock, green onion, a little soy sauce, couple drops of sesame oil and egg). Poached or fried eggs also work for a quick meal. I buy… Read more »
Mallory
Mallory
2 years 6 months ago

oh yea! I also love to make tuna salad with whatever additions I like…I do mayo, celery, onion, scallions, cilantro and cracked pepper. I also buy smoked salmon or lox to snack on. Just wanted to give you some specific ideas to get started!

Bill
Bill
8 years 1 month ago

So some one wonting to lose a lot of fat say 120 lbs can do it on 80 gram’s of carbs a day?that’s way to high to calm the insulin down because the truth be told carb’s are non essential to the human diet.All carb’s do even veggies is flood the blood strem with insulin to make you fat and store it as fat.Is this true i dunno can someone explain to a guy who get’s easly confussed.Because the body only has so much room to store carbs in the liver and muscles.

lisa
lisa
5 years 6 months ago

i think the veggies and fruit come into play more for their roll in nutrients!

lisa
lisa
5 years 6 months ago

oops I meant role not roll ,no grains here lol

marlene
marlene
3 years 7 months ago
You are absolutely right! I am prediabetic and my doctor has me on a 60 carb a day diet…She gave me books to read and studies show that you can literally live without carbs, not recommended but you can. Carbs do raise the insullin level…they need to be limited, especially the complex carbs and the ones that are white! I am on a 60 carb a day diet and I have lost 20 pounds in less than a month. I have more energy and am healthier now than I have every been and my lab results prove it!! Read the… Read more »
Mark Sisson
8 years 1 month ago

Bill,

Depends on your goals and how agreesive you want to be. I said “under 80” grams, meaning that is a high-end number. If you shoot for 20-50 grams a day, I guarantee you’ll lose the fat. But even if you were at 120 grams a day, you’d lose fat (provided you keep calories under control) just at a slower pace.

lee
lee
5 years 2 months ago

you said “provided you keep calories under control” – so does that mean you have to count calories even if you’re controlling the number of carbs?

cat
cat
5 years 22 days ago

So basically you say that if you eat less calories you will lose weight? mmm, I heard that before….

Sarah
Sarah
5 years 9 days ago

If you control your carbs to a lower number, then calories don’t matter so much because your body is then a “fat burning” system…as you increase your carbs (such as the 120 carbs in question) it stands to reason that calories would then come into play because you’re transitioning your fuel system from a fat burner back over to a calorie burning system. At least that’s my understanding of how it works.

Shary
Shary
4 years 2 months ago
Forget about calorie counting. That’s an archaic system that is a pain in the patoot and doesn’t work in the long run, probably because it displays zero understanding of how the human body actually works. If you stick with a primal system that is very low in carbs (as stated in the article), you will lose weight like crazy without counting anything–guaranteed. Anybody who tries to tell you they couldn’t lose weight on a primal, Atkins-type diet was absolutely, unquestionably cheating! My son was on a ketogenic diet for seizure control a number of years ago. This is a very… Read more »
Valentina
2 years 6 months ago

And lots of gym and cardio!

Mark Sisson
8 years 1 month ago

Varangy,

I really like what Peter does at hyperlipid in terms of self-experimentation and research. He is definitely on the leading edge of the “truly high fat” diet.

I agree that protein can have insulinegenic properties and that excess protein can be converted to glucose, but I still feel that it’s better to err on the side of a little too much protein (especially if you train intensely on occasion. Don’t recall that Peter trains intensely ever, but I could be wrong. And the micronutrient benefits of fruits and vegetables can’t be overstated either.

nina
nina
4 years 3 months ago

I love peppers and usually eat them raw daily. Do you think organic peppers are healthy and contain nutrients?

Mallory
Mallory
2 years 6 months ago

Absolutely! Red bell peppers are especially loaded with nutrients! The colors of fruits and veggies usually represent some part of their nutrient breakdown…for example, orange-colored fruits/veggies (pumpkin, cantaloupe, carrots, mango, etc) contain the antioxidant nutrient Beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is converted in the body to the ever-important Vitamin A, used for eye health among other things. Most fruits/veggies contain multiple nutrients, but it is still important to vary what you eat. Superstars are broccoli and leafy greens (such as spinach and kale)…they seem to contain nearly every vitamin and many minerals!

Varangy
Varangy
8 years 1 month ago

Thanks Mark.

I know this site has discussed nightshades occasionally but what are your thoughts on plant poisons/toxins?

http://www.plantpoisonsandrottenstuff.info/content/toxins.aspx

Geek2Freak Brandon
8 years 1 month ago

Excellent post as always Mark.

I’ve been gradually lowering my carbs a little more each week.

I’m going to reanalyze everything this week via FitDay, but I’d estimate I’m down to about 100-150, with ALL of them coming from whole, natural foods.

Mark Sisson
8 years 1 month ago
Varangy, Most plants have some type of toxin that acts as a defense mechanism. Some are worse than others, but if we avoided all plants for that reason, we would perish. As for nightshades. some are worse than others and some people are more susceptible that others. I would suspect that many of today’s bell peppers, for instance, are bred for color and sweetness and retain very little of the potentially offending alkyloids found in wilder versions. Same for tomatoes. And, having said that, I would still probably moderate my consumption of these, since they are but a small portion… Read more »
Darla
Darla
4 years 5 months ago

Don’t forget also that nightshades are NOT vegetables. They are fruit. More veg, controlled amounts of fruit. Peppers, tomatos and other things that have the seeds INSIDE the item are fruit. Vegetables do not contain seeds. That is why things that contains seeds are GENERALLY higher in calories. Even cucumbers are much higher in calories (and carbs) than say radishes or lettuce and they are one of the less caloric options.

charlotte
8 years 1 month ago
Love what you said about tracking your macronutrient ratios and calories over the course of several weeks and adjusting them based on your goals. very sensible advice that gets lost amidst all the calorie screaming in the media. Also loved your emphasis (again) that calories DO have a context. One question tho (and I’m sure I’m reading you wrong) but when you said that you now eat 600-1000 less calories per day than when you were higher carb but still maintain a healthy physique it sounds to me like most people would say “so I can eat 600-1000 MORE cals… Read more »
BillP
BillP
3 years 11 months ago

No, I think he meant that he wasn’t hungry for more than the calories he consumed, due to the satiation from a greater percentage of protein and fat in his diet.

(At least that is the way it works for me)

Binko
Binko
8 years 1 month ago
The main problem I have with continuing to increase my protein and fat consumption is that commonly available meat is of such low quality. The feedlot and industrial produced meat we buy at our supermarkets is from animals that have been abused, pumped full of chemicals and fed any number of really nasty Things. How many of us have the resources to seek out top quality grass-fed and naturally raised meat? The other reason is that I decided to embrace the Primal or Paleolithic eating system because I’m very leery of theory spinning regarding what is best for our bodies.… Read more »
Just My Thoughts
Just My Thoughts
7 years 2 months ago
Oh Boy! Somebody seems to have issues with eating meat; just doesn’t want to admit it. The Inuit, the Masai as well as the Polynesians ate a diet that was both high in animal/fish or animal/fish derived products. Their diet was also very very high in Saturated Fat; especially Saturated Animal Fat as in the case of the Inuit and Masai. In the case of the Polynesians it was very high in Saturated Fat from vegetative sources – Coconut – yet it still is Saturated Fat. In all cases there was an abundant intake of Animal Protein as well as… Read more »
Joe
Joe
5 years 10 months ago

I don’t understand, are you saying that it’s pointless to be concerned about quality of meat then? Or was it just a desire to insult rather than inform that prompted you to reply?

BT
BT
4 years 11 months ago

Hi ..my take is also is to not concentrate wholely on the diet, while not paying attention to the “move slowly and often” piece…if you are moving your body the natural appetite and feeling of wellbeing at the end of the day is almost as important. If you can keep to the low carb guidelines don’t sweat it out counting calories unless it is wildly obvious that you have a problem in that area…eating 5 steaks is problem in that area…when a single one would do. Good luck and hope it all goes well ( or went well )

Anon
Anon
4 years 30 days ago

I am almost certain that much like animals the world over that primal men would also eat absolutely as much of their kill as they could. Five stakes should not be out of the question.

anon
anon
4 years 9 months ago

Paleolithic man had a life expectancy of 18 years.

Bob
Bob
4 years 8 months ago
Life expectancy can be misleading. If you looked at the age that adults lived to you’d probably find that they were comparable to our own. High infant mortality drives down life expectancy. You have 10 kids, 3 survive. Do the math. Also, hunter gatherers were on the move most of the time, and children needed to be able to track along behind migrating groups from a fairly young age. Those that couldn’t keep up didn’t survive. Diet has no relation to this. The idea is not to abandon modernity, it is to combine the benefits of modernity with the benefits… Read more »
Jo-Anne
Jo-Anne
4 years 6 months ago

Supermarket meat is better than organic wheat any day and stressing on the right or wrong of it is just as bad…..buy the best when you can. Relax a bit…..the portions of guilt, judgement, anger, resentment we take in as we eat does more damage than the toxin….I read somewhere that if you give thanks [or bless or pray or be grateful for or white light your food….or whatever your belief system calls it] as your prepare and before you eat it raises the energy of the food…..works for me.

justadream
justadream
4 years 3 months ago
Commonly available meat is low quality, but its still better for you than a carb diet. There is tones of local farms, if you do research that sell beef jerky, steaks, meats and even the dairy farms aswell you can buy cheese at half the price of the local grocery. If you read more into History no its not hard to determine exactly what Paleolithic man ate, because depending on climate and location it differs. And especially in Canada the majority survived on deer, moose, elk many others that are hugely available. Hunting was never scarce until the white man… Read more »
Paula
Paula
3 years 11 months ago
It’s not that hard, at least where I live, to obtain good grass fed, antibiotic and hormone free, free range meat… I did some googling, checked out some Slow Food websites, and asked around. I met some farmers in the nearby area, and visited the farms. These producers have become good friends, I buy directly from them, (often 1/3 to 1/2 of retail prices) and I can visit the farms any time I like (well, I call ahead to make sure they’re not busy) to see how the animals are, sometimes even help out with chores. I know everyone doesn’t… Read more »
Jennifer
8 years 1 month ago
I’ve been reading MDA for a while now, I’ve never really taken the PB to be ‘low carb’ in the stereotypical ‘low carb’ way. In fact, I’ve read several times that Mark puts vegatables at the base of the PB food pyramid. Take my Fitday for today (crustless spinach quiche, monster kitchen sink salad, and I’m planning to have a handful of almonds if I have time and then salmon and asparagus for dinner). Comes out to only 63 grams carbs, 114 grams protein, 86 grams fat (hello homemand olive oil dressing!) I don’t often track on Fitday, but this… Read more »
Varangy
Varangy
8 years 1 month ago
But every single hunter-gatherer society that we have encountered has eaten a wide variety of plant foods unless plant foods simply weren’t available. Most hunter-gatherer societies that have been studied, people who live in a way very similar to the way our Paleolithic ancestors are thought to have lived, gather and eat a great variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and tubers. 1) As one of my anthro professors noted, it is common mistake to equate contemporary or near-contemporary hunter-gatherers with our paleolithic ancestors. They are not one and the same — and these hunter-gatherers most likely do not make good… Read more »
Jane
Jane
4 years 7 months ago

My Sleep has improved so much I find it hard to believe that it can’t be the way I’m eating. Having been an insomniac for 20 years, I now sleep like a babe, and wake refreshed after 6-8 hoours.

Tam
Tam
4 years 4 months ago
My Sig-o used to snore all night and feel miserable in the morning; his dad has sleep apnea and he was worried about the same. We started eating based on Fallon’s “Nourishing Traditions” which is a low carb, whole-food, high fat, good healthy meats kinda diet (which eventually lead me here)and he immediately noticed how much better he slept; shoot, I sleep better too, without all his snoring! 😉 He wakes feeling refreshed, alert, and eager to start his day (also a refreshing change from Mr. Grumpy-pants). I can’t speak for sleep schedules because I work a split-shift that has… Read more »
Berinja
Berinja
8 years 1 month ago

Varangy-

n=2

I used to think I was doomed to a lifetime of restless nights. I’ve been Primal for 4 months now and have seen vast improvements. I still have trouble getting to sleep every once in awhile (which seems to correlate with straying from Primal eating) but most nights I sleep like a baby. Everything is connected. Get the big things right and it is sort of like a domino effect. Everything begins to fall into place.

Jen C.
Jen C.
8 years 1 month ago

“Fats have little or no impact on insulin and, as a result, promote the burning of both dietary and stored (adipose) fat as fuel”.
Mark, I am sorry to have to ask you this (I am knew here) but I have been told all my life that fat is exactly what is sounds like, fat! Now you are espousing the belief, and I can see that you have done your homework, that I can have 120 grams of fat and still lose weight??? I just don’t see how that is possible? Can you put into simple terms how this works?
Jen

Varangy
Varangy
8 years 1 month ago
@Jen C. Not to answer on behalf of Mark, but we have all suffered under the massive mis-information cascade of ‘low-fat’ diets. Read Gary Taubes’s book for a fantastic review. 8. We get fat because of an imbalance—a disequilibrium—in the hormonal regulation of fat tissue and fat metabolism. More fat is stored in the fat tissue than is mobilized and used for fuel. We become leaner when the hormonal regulation of the fat tissue reverses this imbalance. 9. Insulin is the primary regulator of fat storage. When insulin levels are elevated, we stockpile calories as fat. When insulin levels fall,… Read more »
Binko
Binko
8 years 1 month ago
The old fashioned notion was that the your body simply burned calories as they were consumed and stored the excess as fat. But the body is actually a much more complex machine than that. In simple terms the body will store fat when it is in fat storage mode. When it is not in fat storage mode excess calories simply pass through or burn off. It seems that anything that spikes your insulin, mainly simple carbs and sugars, will tend to move the body into fat storage mode. In Dr. Steven Gundry’s new book “The Diet Evolution” he goes into… Read more »
Katzenberg
Katzenberg
5 years 4 months ago

Never thought of it that way, brilliant.
I have to order the book!

Mark Sisson
8 years 1 month ago
Charlotte, good question. When I ate carbs I did have to work out longer and harder…and then I had to eat more to replace the lost glycogen. A viscious cycle of working out more than I needed to and then eating more than I needed to. Life is much easier this way. I CAN get by on less, but as long as I keep carbs low, I can also eat more fat and not have it affect me. For a guy whose college buddies still call him “Arnold Ziffle” (after the pig on Green Acres, because I could eat so… Read more »
Carls
Carls
5 years 2 months ago

Hi Mark,

Thank you so much for the information that you’ve put out here. I’m new to Primal eating and have just started your book. You may have answered this question elsewhere, so please forgive me if you have. In eating 50-100g or 100-150g of carbs a day, how do grams of sugar fit/add in? Are the numbers for carbohydrates and sugars you’d find on a nutritional label simply additive? Would the molar difference be only slight because of a loss of water in the polysaccharides?

Thanks so much for your help with all this!

Bill
Bill
8 years 1 month ago

Mark,
there is a guy on jimmy moore’s forum named charles he eats 0 carb’s and is a marathon runner,i listened to his interview by jimmy it was interesting.Can someone survive on 0 carbs 0 fiber and 0 veggies.

Shary
Shary
4 years 2 months ago

Chances are that “Charles” wasn’t making a distinction between sugar/grain/starch carbs and healthful fruits and vegetables, which are also classified as carbohydrates.

Fact is, a longterm zero-carb diet will eventually lead to emaciation, chronic exhaustion, and various serious health issues, not the least of which would be constipation like you wouldn’t believe.

Mark Sisson
8 years 1 month ago

Bill, I’ll check it out. YOu can live on zero carbs, but you’d have to be very careful what you ate (grassfed, organic, etc) and you’d definitely have to take a high-potency multi-vitamin. I think the fiber thing has been way over-done, so I wouldn’t be so concerned with taking a fiber supplement. 0 carbs is just a tough way to live…he also can’t be very fast as a marathoner.

Autumn Auston
Autumn Auston
8 years 1 month ago
Dear Mark, I have embarked on my no grain “way of life”. I am keeping it low carb and adding in the fats to keep the ball rolling. I am scared to even take a bit of fruit however because I am not sure how the insulin thingy works. I want my body to burn fat efficiently and get off the carb burning roller coaster. Can you give me an idea of how I am able to add any carbs (that are not grains) but fruit ect. to my meal w/out raising my insulin and storing the fat I am… Read more »
Mark Sisson
8 years 1 month ago

Autumn, dairy is one of our “sensible vices”. Grok didn’t consume dairy, but many of us who don’t have lactose intolerance (or casein issues) can have a little refined or fermented dairy now and then. For that reason, a little feta on a salad, whole cream in coffee and the occasional Greek-style yogurt will be fine.

Susanne
Susanne
8 years 1 month ago

So what happens if I drink lots of 1% or skim milk? I’m lactose and casein tolerant, and put down between 1 and 2 quarts per day as a teenager. At 35, I still LOVE milk. What’s the effect of 16 or so ounces per day on top of low fat cheese, hormonally/biochemically speaking?

Mallory
Mallory
2 years 6 months ago

Many of the nutrients in milk are found in the fat! You should be drinking at least 2% fat milk, or even whole milk…skim and 1% do not contain as many nutrients (gram for gram…or quart for quart). Remember: FAT IS NOT THE ENEMY HERE! That is conventional wisdom telling you to drink skim milk to avoid “excess calories”. Among its many beneficial functions, fat also has a very high satiety factor (i.e. fat keeps you full longer because it takes longer to move from your stomach to your intestines…in other words, takes longer to digest).

Mark Sisson
8 years 1 month ago

Susanne, maybe you are one of the few who can truly tolerate a ton of dairy. I’d be concerned if you are consuming that much factory-farmed, hormone-and-antibiotic-laden product, though.

Marna Ehrech
Marna Ehrech
5 years 1 month ago

Susanne, I hope you’re drinking raw milk, at that rate!
Check out http://www.notmilk.com if you’re drinking commercial milk.

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[…] The 80% rule I copied these principles from a great post on Mark’s Daily Apple: […]

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[…] The Definitive Guide to Primal Eating (for Humans) […]

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[…] good doctor’s story got us thinking. We all chat quite a bit about the best diet, the ideal exercise routine, even effective sleep strategies. Yet, our personal environment, […]

John Fit
8 years 1 month ago
Mark, I like the information here.. This is very similar to a “Paleolithic Diet” or Caveman Style Diet, which I endorse & write often about on JohnFit.COM Fitness Blog.. Fats have such high anti-inflammatory effects on the body that they make for “calming” features on your internal tissues.. Also, switching to this style of eating is great for a less bloated look and lean appearance.. My body fat stays around 8%, but I’ve noticed that I often look 10%+ from the bloating features of wheat and grain products.. This may also be linked to a “Wheat Allergy” that I have,… Read more »
larry
larry
4 years 7 months ago

great info!!!

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[…] often have highly unpleasant side effects (we’re looking at you cabbage soup diet!). Stick to a Primal eating plan and you’ll never be tempted into an unhealthy and unproductive extreme fad […]

Tammy
Tammy
8 years 23 days ago
Hi Mark. Very interesting take on nutrition, and one I will be trying this year. In the past, I have been guilty for over-emphasizing carbs and taking in too little fat, mostly because I have been concerned with lacking the fuel needed for long workouts. Which brings me to my question: what exactly do you mean by training hard for long periods of time? For example, is it training more than 1 hour per day? 2 hours per day? I am an Ironman Triathlete so typically training is from 2 hours to 6 hours per day. Also, am I right… Read more »
Mark Sisson
8 years 16 days ago

Tammy, I have done a few posts on this, but basically, my theory is that unless you are training to compete, anything over an hour is counter-productive. In your case, you will need the carbs. Generally, I say 100 grams for every training hour over the first hour.

Patrik
Patrik
8 years 16 days ago

@Mark

What carbs do you suggest for a 100 gram post work-out snack?

A sweet potato?

Your input is much appreciated. TIA.

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8 years 15 days ago

How Simple: Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint…

As I’ve tried to emphasize in this new venture of mine, I owe a lot to others. I intend to make good on it. Nothing disappoints me more than to see other bloggers out there ripping stuff off, presenting it as their own….

Mark Sisson
8 years 15 days ago

Yes, Patrik, a sweet potato is a good choice.

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[…] especially for you tea lovers out there. I use tea myself and recommend it as a great addition to a good Primal diet. The fact is tea has only 1/4-1/2 of the typical content of brewed coffee. Besides, even if you […]

Gina
Gina
7 years 11 months ago

Any guidelines for a vegetarian/vegan diet? Same idea? Or are you wholly against that?

MR! Stoner2udude
4 years 11 months ago

I’m a vegan also but Mark’s advice is still excellent imo. For protein I’m drinking Spirulina. I know, it tastes horrendous but right now I just can’t eat animals. I take flaxseed oil which single handedly eliminated my fatigue and muscle soreness. Avacados also are wonderful fat source.

niique quarcoopome
niique quarcoopome
7 years 11 months ago

all i need is your help to loose about 50 pounds please i am counting on you

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[…] The Definitive Guide to the Primal Eating Plan […]

Jennifer
7 years 8 months ago
Hi there, just going through your archives over the last bit and have a question for you. I have PCOS (Insulin resistance as a result/cause?) and am quite over weight. I am trying to add muscle mass, exercise etc to get down to a normal weight. I’ve done the atkins thing in the past and it made me feel sick. As a female, with about 48% BF, what would you suggest carb intake to be at to burn fat? Still the same 100-150/day? I’ve got the protein needs figured out (same as your example woman) but I just need to… Read more »
Ashley
Ashley
4 years 24 days ago
Jennifer, I know exactly what you are talking about! It is frustrating and seems impossible at times. I found just cutting out almost all sugar and grain, even cutting back some on fruit, but eating plenty of raw veggies, protein and some fat is what’s finally working for me. I also had to get a glucometer. I started testing my blood sugars and the numbers on the meter made me realize I was indeed insulin resistant (I didn’t think I was because I was so active). It also helped me determined what foods I could handle well and what foods… Read more »
Owen
Owen
7 years 8 months ago

Hi Mark: I just have to say what an incredible site you have really outdone yourself. I have started on this about 4 days in now and I can just say WOW!. The first couple of day’s you have cravings but after that you just start feeling so great you just do not want to eat that stuff anymore. Keep it coming and the recipes sound awesome can’t wait to try a few.
Thanks Owen.

May God Bless you and you family.

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[…] The Definitive Guide to the Primal Eating Plan (less restrictive than Paleo, but very similar) The Definitive Guide to Grains The Definitive Guide to Insulin, Blood Sugar & Type 2 Diabetes (and you’ll understand it) The Art of Compromise Published in: […]

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[…] followers of the Primal diet, you know that there is a big emphasis on protein. The reason for the cold water? On a chemical […]

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[…] followers of the Primal diet, you know that there is a big emphasis on protein. The reason for the cold water? On a chemical […]

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[…] The Definitive Guide to the Primal Eating Plan […]

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[…] makes up a big part of that Primal eating plan. We love fat, and we’ve always known it plays a key role in our diet. This is just more fuel for […]

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[…] feeding family members that are used to starchier foods, or when you are making the transition to Primal eating and are finding it difficult to not revert back to eating your usual biscuits, pasta dishes, […]

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[…] raises a red flag for you that says that you – more than most – need to pay strict attention to eating and moving Primally. Of course, there’s no guarantee that the rest of us are immune either. Genes […]

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[…] store to stock up. Remember: Don’t buy the hype of fad “super foods.” Eating a Primal Diet that periodically includes these foods and other vegetables and fruits will naturally give you all […]

Fixed Gear
7 years 3 months ago

counting calories and following the usda food pyramid is HOPELESS. It’s too bad so many people have been nothing short of brainwashed and don’t realize there is a better way!

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[…] simple way to do this is to follow a primal or paleo […]

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[…] lifestyle can help you turn to healthful foods in your time of need.  I recommend a paleo or primal lifestyle. For more information on adopting this lifestyle you can also check out my Anarchy in the USDA […]

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