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

How to Succeed with the Primal Blueprint

So you’ve decided to join the challenge. You’ve created your own Primal Challenge Journal and have publicly stated your goals for the next month. Now what? First things first. You have to know the basics. If you’re new to the Primal Blueprint the following article will be like gold to you. Revisit it again and again until you’ve committed the concepts to memory. The graphs and charts are visual representations of the principles that are at the core of the Primal health philosophy and give you a taste of what it is in my new book, The Primal Blueprint.

You’ve defined the “what”. If your goal is to lose weight, build muscle, increase energy or just generally look and feel healthier these graphics explain the basics of the “how”.

The Primal Blueprint Carbohydrate Curve

What’ll It Be? The “Sweet Spot” or the “Danger Zone”?

Carbohydrate intake is often the decisive factor in weight loss success and prevention of widespread health problems like Metabolic Syndrome, obesity and type 2 diabetes. These average daily intake levels assume that you are also getting sufficient protein and healthy fats, and are doing some amount of Primal exercise. The ranges in each zone account for individual metabolic differences.

  • 0-50 grams per day: Ketosis and I.F. (Intermittent Fasting) zone. Excellent catalyst for rapid fat loss through I.F. Not recommended for prolonged periods (except in medically supervised programs for obese or Type 2 diabetics) due to unnecessary deprivation of plant foods.
  • 50-100 grams per day: Sweet Spot for Weight Loss. Steadily drop excess body fat by minimizing insulin production. Enables 1-2 pounds per week of fat loss with satisfying, minimally restrictive meals.
  • 100-150 grams per day: Primal Maintenance zone. Once you’ve arrived at your goal or ideal body composition, you can maintain it quite easily here while enjoying abundant vegetables, fruits and other Primal foods.
  • 150-300 grams a day: Insidious Weight Gain zone. Most health conscious eaters and unsuccessful dieters end up here, due to frequent intake of sugar and grain products (breads, pastas, cereals, rice, potatoes – even whole grains). Despite trying to “do the right thing” (minimize fat, cut calories), people can still gain an average of 1.5 pounds of fat every year for decades.
  • 300+ grams a day: Danger Zone of average American diet. All but the most extreme exercisers will tend to produce excessive insulin and store excessive fat over the years at this intake level. Increases risk for obesity, Metabolic Syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

The Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid

For effortless weight loss, vibrant health, and maximum longevity

New Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid

General Guidelines: 80% of body composition success is determined by diet. Limit processed carb intake (hence, insulin production), and obtain sufficient protein and fat to fuel and rebuild.

  • Protein: Average .7 – 1 gram per pound of lean body mass/day – depending on activity levels (more at times is fine).
  • Carbs: 50-100 grams/day (or less) = accelerated fat loss. 100-150 grams/day = effortless weight maintenance. Heavy exercisers can increase carb intake as needed to replace glycogen stores.
  • Fat: Enjoy freely but sensibly for balance of caloric needs and high dietary satisfaction levels.
  • Avoid Poisonous Things: Conventional Wisdom’s dietary guidelines promote fat storage, type 2 diabetes, inflammation and obesity!
  • Eliminate: Sugary foods and beverages, grains (wheat, corn, rice, pasta, breads, cereals, etc.), legumes (soy and other beans), trans and partially hydrogenated fats, high-risk conventional meat and produce, and excess PUFA’s (instead, increase omega-3 oils).
  • Modern Adjustments: Some modern foods that Grok didn’t eat can still be included in a healthy diet
  • Moderation: Certain high glycemic fruit, coffee, high-fat dairy products, starchy tuber vegetables, and wild rice.
  • Supplements: Multivitamin/mineral formula, probiotics, omega-3 fish oil and protein powder.
  • Herbs, spices and extracts: Offer many health benefits and enhance enjoyment of meals.
  • Sensible indulgences: Dark chocolate, moderate alcohol, high-fat treats.

The Primal Blueprint Fitness Pyramid

For functional, diverse athletic ability, and a lean, proportioned physique

Exercising according to the three Primal Blueprint laws will optimize gene expression and promote Primal Fitness.

  • Law #3: Move Frequently at a Slow Pace strengthens the cardiovascular and immune systems, promotes efficient fat metabolism and gives you a strong base to handle more intense workouts.
  • Law: #4: Lift Heavy Things stimulates lean muscle development, improves organ reserve, accelerates fat loss, and increases energy.
  • Law #5: Sprint Once in a While stimulates the production of HGH and testosterone, which help improve overall fitness and delay the aging process – without the burnout risk of excessive prolonged workouts.

The Conventional Wisdom approach to fitness is clearly not working! Stress is excessive, weight loss goals are compromised, and many are misguided to pursue narrow fitness goals that are unhealthy.

  • Avoid Chronic Cardio (frequent medium-to-high intensity sustained workouts)
  • Avoid Chronic Strength Training (frequent and/or prolonged sub-maximal lifting sessions ending in exhaustion)
  • Avoid Regimented Schedules (instead, allow for spontaneous, intuitive variation in type, difficulty and frequency of workouts)

All this and much more can be found in my new book, The Primal Blueprint. Order a copy today and start getting Primal!

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. I put a link to this info graphic in my latest “I’m finally going paleo blog” post. Surely this has got to be one of the most helpful pages in the history of the net.

    I also referred to Mark as the “pop-king of primal”. Woo-whoo. Wee-hee.

    100% Paleo wrote on February 16th, 2012
  2. Salmonman wrote on February 19th, 2012
  3. I would put fat grams instead of carb grams in that graph:

    carb-g fat-g
    300 77 danger
    250 100
    200 122 gain
    150 144 maintain
    100 166 lose
    50 188 keto
    0 211

    Assuming 2000 calories/day & 100 grams protein. Otherwise you’ll end up in hibernation.

    tam wrote on March 1st, 2012
  4. Mark,

    When you say you should not stay under 50 carbs per day for very long are you referring to total carbs or net? I just started Atkins and my total carbs are @ 40, but it’s 20 net. I’m perfectly happy in this zone: losing weight, not hungry, not craving. What’s the probem with staying here? I’m getting lots of veggies (tons) but no fruit yet. The only reason I’ve been able to get from Atkins that it’s important to steadily increase carbs is because you’ll get bored if you don’t.

    Well, I don’t think the addition of a cup of milk, a few nuts and some strawberries is going to make much of a difference for me either way if I don’t desire them. Is it really unhealthy to stay in the “induction” phase if you’re doing well with it? Why does my body NEED more carbs when I already feel like I’m about to burst with the many and varied veggies I already consume?

    Joanne wrote on March 2nd, 2012
    • From what I can tell..there really is no such thing as a “Net Carb”. A carb is a carb is a carb. It seems like Atkins gets you a little closer to a PB than the regular American diet, but doesn’t take you home, so to speak.

      If you are smaller, maybe you are closer to your optimal than it would appear…the amounts in the chart, from what i have read, are ranges…and those ranges can vary a little I would guess.

      The blueprint is about the optimal way to achieve a healthier lifestyle. The best thing to do, is listen to Your body.

      Misty wrote on March 12th, 2012
  5. 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.

    Primark online shopping wrote on March 13th, 2012
  6. I calculated that my lean body mass is about 135 lbs. So even if I use the 1 gram/lb per day of protein as a guideline, this means I should be having less than 5 ounces of protein a day? How can it be so little when protein is the bulk of what I should be consuming in a day?

    Adam wrote on March 17th, 2012
  7. Adam, it’s the amount of protein in the food, not the weight of the food.

    Carol wrote on March 25th, 2012
  8. So, I know it’s somewhere on your site, but short of sitting at my computer longer than I need to hunting down info, how can fruit be so unhealthy for you. I have a pretty big salad for dinner every day and it includes apples, strawberries, blueberries, and other various veggies. Plus, I eat other fruits here and there. Yes, I know it has sugar, but it’s natural sugar as opposed to table sugar. What other info do have to offer on a low to no fruit option in your diet? I just don’t see cutting out the fruit.

    Gina wrote on April 20th, 2012
  9. Mark, I just don’t think this diet is healthy with protein at the bottom of the pyramid. Too much protein will lead to a highly acid forming diet which is not healthy. Surely vegetables should be at the bottom of the pyramid. FYI I do agree with you about carbohydrates. Maybe this diet helps you stay thin, but you are doing long term damage to your organs. Why not just reduce the amount of protein to that which you need to maintain muscle mass etc?

    I look forward to your reply (if you have one).

    Damian McE wrote on May 5th, 2012
  10. is there a no exercise diet plan? What if you are disabled or paralized?

    Laurie wrote on May 9th, 2012
  11. Hi i am currently new to the PB’s diet and just trying to order all the main elements I will need. Cocunut oil is down as an essential. However from further research there seems to be main different types HELP. Do i need:
    – Refined coconut oil
    – Virgin coconut oil
    – Pure coconut oil

    Becky wrote on June 11th, 2012
  12. is it more beneficial to IF in the morning, afternoon, or night? Or does is not make a difference?

    John wrote on June 26th, 2012
  13. I was wondering how could i accostume this diet for someone who´s vegetarian? I have a hard time eating lost of veggies and i think i´d end up starving. Do you (or anybody) have any ideas for how to follow the primal diet the healthy way,while still being vegetarian?

    Grati wrote on July 3rd, 2012
  14. Mark, I’ve been a fan and subscriber to your website for a while now and noticed something strange when I went to order the Primal Blueprint book. On the website article here these comments go with Meal, Fish, Fowl, etc is on the bottom of the pyramid at the base. When I went to purchase the book (unsucessully due to computer issues – trying again later) it showed a free PB Food pyramid poster with it, that featured Meat, etc on the next to bottom layer and Veggies, etc were now on the bottom. Is this a mistake, change of concept or a new way of thinking?

    Robert wrote on July 20th, 2012
  15. So I’ve decided to cut my carb intake down because on average I was eating 150-200g carbs a day on a roughly 3000-3200 calorie diet. Those carbs came from a couple of fruits and dairy products. I’m attempting to go almost complete primal/paleo by cutting out all dairy except for at max 2 cups of whole milk a day immediately after my workout.

    My goal is to keep my total carb intake between the 50-100g range. I crossfit 5 days a week also.

    What I don’t seem to understand is this: will cutting the carbs down but eating roughly the same amount of calories allow me to shed the fat I have? Or will i still need to cut the calories down slightly to stimulate weight loss

    I’m currently 201 lbs, and 6’1 at 28 years old.

    Any help is appreciated!

    Chance wrote on July 24th, 2012
  16. How about Oats ? I feel satiated with oats and can completely replace rice / wheat with oats. Has any one tried it and had successful weight loss with the paleo diet ?

    faceinthecrowd wrote on August 19th, 2012
    • Yes, started out in the healthy range but with a body composition I wasn’t happy with and I was getting married so wanted to look great in my dress. I was the leanest and in best shape I have ever been in from eating Paleo and doing Crossfit.

      Kathryn wrote on October 18th, 2012
  17. I’ve been eating clean for a year before transitioning to PB in March 2012. The one question I have is with the foods in the Moderation category. In 1 day I could eat 2-3 fruits, 1 cup HF Greek Yogurt, 1 sweet potato & 2-3 servings of nuts and nut butters. As I’m writing this it sounds excessive for 1 day. And…yes Weight Loss is a major goal. Should I cut back on this food group?

    Rachael wrote on September 10th, 2012
  18. Thanks for the great website and the very enlightening information. I am diligently trying to get fit, lost the weight and eat right! I have so many questions…but this article is a great start for me. I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance a year ago. Just staying off pasta, grains, bread, cereal and anything with gluten has helped me lose 30 lbs. That’s halfway to my goal but I want to do more to maximize this effort and to eat correctly forever! Thanks for your tips. Can’t wait to get my book.

    Pam wrote on October 2nd, 2012
  19. Mark, I’ve been fighting hypoglycemia for years. In the past, breads and such have always made me feel better, and a recent calorie-restricted diet always left me dizzy and shaky, in between the lack of calories and starchy gluteny things. I’m day 3 on the Paleo diet and the ability to eat as much as I want is really helping, but I’m curious if you have recommendations as far as fasting? I’m wondering if the PD will help even out my blood sugar, since eventually my body won’t be overreacting with the insulin, but will a day of fasting affect this? Currently, I can’t go more than 3 hours without eating or I’m a hot mess of low blood sugar.

    Morgan wrote on November 21st, 2012
  20. I don’t know if it’s already been mentioned but I want to know Mike’s opinion on my plan. I would like to combine juicing (to make getting the right carbs and vitamins and minerals easier) with a primal eating plan. Say, one fully loaded juice a day and almost no edible carbs for the rest of my meals. Any advice or opinions? Currently my juice includes apples, lemons, limes, spinach (they were out of Kale), celery, cucumbers, carrots, ginger, and a couple of those Naked smoothies (all in a big pitcher to pour a glass).

    Brewer wrote on November 28th, 2012
  21. Hi Mark!
    Im one of the many in dire straights! My worst symptom of wheat-indulgence over the years is severe asthma (and yes, fat too). If I were to sprint or try to lift heavy items, my asthma would kick in and Id end up in the hospital. Any “starter” suggestions for those of us just too sick to do more than eat Primal?

    Vlacaille wrote on December 7th, 2012
  22. So Mark, how do we get this message across in schools? We have a huge tidal wave of health problems comingour way.

    Maria wrote on December 16th, 2012
  23. Mark hey, i was wondering how come olive oil is not under the category of oils for cooking. is there anything wrong about using olive oil as a cooking oil?

    Bar Kohavi wrote on January 25th, 2013
  24. So I’m curious to try the primal lifestyle out. Im a vegetarian with dairy/wheat/soy allergies so I’m mostly primal(sans meat). I do crossfit and bikram about 3-4 times a week. I haven’t really leaned out as much as I would like and Im wondering what I need to change. I bike to work and try to get about 3 miles of walking in a day. Thanks for any help.

    Jo wrote on February 15th, 2013
  25. Hi! I am not new to low carb living but I am taking my second run at it. This is largely due to the fact that I was a ery committed vegan for a long time until I had to admit to myself that it just didn’t work for me. I lived on whole grains and beans. I have non-celiac gluten intolerance and that combined with the rice and beans… well you can imagine how bloated, uncomfortable I was and how much I struggled with my weight.
    About ten years ago, in absolute desperation I did the Atkins diet and lost thirty pounds. I felt great. What derailed me was that around that time I was finding out about my gluten intolerance and I got sidetracked baking all sorts of things with gluten free baking mixes, forgetting that they were high carb.
    I am back at it again, determined to feel better. I have to add that I also have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and have lived with it for a few decades. I do not expect to cure it with diet, but I do know that I can help myself to feel much better and to function much better with a change in my diet.
    Within 24 hours of giving up gluten I felt significantly better.

    My question, is this. As a former vegan I developed a love of black beans and garbanzo beans. For me those will be really hard to give up. When I get to the point of maintenance for my weight, I will not be introducing any small amounts of wheat into my diet. It is a no-go for me. What do you think of making black beans or garbanzo beans a sometimes treat if I keep the quantity small and have them maybe once a month?

    By the way, I am following your blog now using the Bloglovin’ site. I prefer that method since I follow a large number of blogs and am not good at checking my e-mail.

    Thank you so much for your help and your wonderful blog.

    Shawna wrote on February 24th, 2013
  26. What would you say the daily carb count for a growing 11 year old boy should be? I was losing weight for awhile, and now I’ve figured out why I’ve stopped. So I want to reduce my daily carbs a little bit to continue that a little longer, but my son probably has different needs than I do. Most of this information is great for us adults, but I’m having a hard time finding any info on raising paleo/primal kids.

    Jen wrote on April 18th, 2013
  27. Got to this link from Lesson #2 where you explain that grains have anti-nutrients that disrupt digestion. What about soaking/sprouting grains? This supposedly gets rid of the anti-nutrients and makes the grains digestible and healthier.
    What are your thoughts on this? Does soaking or sprouting grains make them acceptable for the primal lifestyle?

    Catie wrote on May 28th, 2013
  28. I was just wondering if the amount of carbs is your total intake of carbs, or my net carbs? (Carbs (minus) fiber)?

    Katie wrote on June 5th, 2013
  29. Hi Mark,
    This information couldnt have come at a better time. I am absolutely convinced that I’ve been killing myself with my high carb and sugar intake and using extreme exercising to try to keep the weight down. I’ve been eatting primal for a couple of weeks now and I gotta say, I’m beginning to crave this food. I’m slowing losing my desire for the other stuff as well. My question is this, I’ve recently have a major knee operation and am bed ridden for a few weeks and then I am allowed to use crutches for 6-8 weeks following. What things (if any) do I need to do to adjust to such a low activity level that can help me still achieve my weight loss goals? Is it even possible?

    Jennifer wrote on June 20th, 2013
  30. i am a do i get protein?

    ASHOK wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  31. Hi Mark,

    I love this post and the visuals. However I can I work the PB as a vegetarian?

    Any vegetarians out there who have had success with PB?

    Many thanks!

    SM wrote on August 13th, 2013
  32. Hello,
    I am doing bodybuilding and my diet is adjusted ideally for my needs (carbs/fat/pr.)
    I dont have problems about be linear but i am concerned about the health aspect of my diet.. So i hope that your site will help me to know which foods/ carbs are better to consume for health?
    Also its first time that i see someone say that 200g of carb per day it isnt good??
    Thats the daily amount that i eat ofcourse come from sterchy carbs and i have a solid 6 pack all year. I eat a lot of legumes and less vegies, and you suggest to not eat legumes (starchy) and eat exclusive vegies? Then i must eat a hell of vegies to cover my needs (200gcarbs). Please some light here.
    (Sorry for my language i dont speak good english, hope you inderstand)

    Ch. BigGuy wrote on October 22nd, 2013
    • Oh sorry i forgot to say that i am lifting heavy weights 3 times a week (4-5hours/week).Once a week sprint for 5-10mins and walking everyday for 20-30mins. Also my diet consist of:
      Protein Intake: mostly from high quality sources chicken,fish,meat (in that order)
      Carbs: most from lagumes (starchy) and on POST some simples
      Fats: Omega3 (from Supplement) and Omega6 (from almonds,olive oil) and less unhealthy fat like from milk or meet. Also i am trying to keep the analogy of om3-6 to 2-1 with the best days to 1-1)

      Ch. BigGuy wrote on October 22nd, 2013
  33. Hey my friend!
    Can I use your picture for my web about lowcarb?
    Best Regards!

    Xose wrote on November 11th, 2013
  34. ive had gerds for 20yrs, about 5 of those year’s ive studied or tried to gain some insight. this is one of the biggest information websites out there and it’s free “thanks”. i haven’t read much here yet because i only found this site last night, i doubt i’ll take everything at face value, i don’t believe in the cave man diet or theory. mankind has been on earth no longer than an estimated 13.000yrs but i definitely agree that excess wheat is the main trigger in gerds and should be limited not cut out completely for the reason high protein and fat diets are bad for the heart and kidneys and overall health, getting carbs from vegetables is not so convenient for a single male who doesn’t cook! also vegetables are mainly simple carbs not complex and simple carbs “sugar” is known for it’s acidic conversion. what’s your take on getting some carbs from rice potatoes and oats?

    last week i increased carb intake by 20 grams from wheat, oats and potatoes this slight 20 grams “accidental” increase gave me morning dry mouth, excess wind mostly trapped! from information gained here last night i realised the reason i couldn’t swallow more than 2 spoonfuls of ground ready brek oats is because 1 the dry mouth and 2 the wind was not letting my food go down instead trapping and forcing food to stay around the esophagus. i’ll have to go now!!! i’ll finish by saying around 25 grams of ready brek oats are better for me than replacing with wheat, basically if i balance my carbs from oats, potatoes, and wheat i get less acid refluxing, if i got all carbs from wheat i’d be hospitalised even though i take ppi’s, but still i have to limit those different carb sources.

    what a life ruining experience gerd’s can be i hope gerd’s disappears from earth for good in these end days. i was saddened to read some other stories last night of long time gerd’s sufferers. get well soon from this disease ve nomar amen.

    michael solomon wrote on December 9th, 2013
  35. New Guy here, I have one question about the Paleo regime; Legumes, it seems these would have been consumed in large quantities by any self respecting caveman, yet they are frowned upon in this lifestyle. Sorry if this has been asked before I just have not seen it addressed yet.

    Roland wrote on December 16th, 2013
  36. Help!! Can some one tell me if this is right? I feel like I’m eating too much fat, by the numbers. I log food in My username is HDRockerCgirl if someone wants to take a look at my diary. I’d just like to know if I’m doing this right.
    This is from today’s diary but is close to the same for the last 3 days.
    Fat. 113g
    Carbs. 51g
    Protein. 96g
    I am new to PB it’s my 3rd day and lost 1.6 lbs. I’m very happy about it but I don’t want to crash and burn later. I haven’t gone totally primal, just getting the swing of things first and trying to understand it all.

    Barbara wrote on January 8th, 2014
  37. I try to eat healthy, though not Primal. I eat few simple carbs, very little sugar, and almost nothing “in a box”.

    However, after being on LIpitor for about 20 years, I convinced my doc that statins, in general, are not healthy. The problem is that now that I have stopped taking the statins, my cholesterol, HDL, LDL, trig, etc. are way out of whack. Scarry! So, now what do I do? It’s hard to imagine adding more fat and potentially cholesterol raising food to my diet.

    Linda wrote on February 14th, 2014
  38. Hi Mark,
    I hope this isn’t a silly question, but when you mean keep your carbs in those zones, would you count the carbs in almond milk, or fruits like banana? And would these levels be lower for high-glycemic foods? Thanks.

    Regina wrote on March 6th, 2014
  39. If I want to lose weight, I should only count carbs and not calories? How do I know how many carbs I’m eating in the first place? A bit confused with this concept. Any advise would help. Please and thank you!

    Emma wrote on March 28th, 2014
    • You could count your calories on My Fitness Pal. Whenever you log your food it also counts your micro nutrients like protein, carbs, sodium, and sugar intake. I’m going to start counting my carbs on there.

      Amanda wrote on March 31st, 2014
  40. Mark,

    Thanks for the articles you have created. But all of these have the purpose to lose weight? I am thin/ectomorph/hard gainer. How about for those who want to gain weight? Is your advice still applicable? Thanks.


    McRyker wrote on April 4th, 2014
    • I have been eating primaly for 2 years and have lost weight. My husband started a year ago, he has been underweight his whole life, and he has gained 15 lbs. This is the highest he has ever weighed. He looks great – fitter not fatter.

      Stephanie D wrote on April 23rd, 2014

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2015 Mark's Daily Apple

Subscribe to the Newsletter and Get a Free Copy
of Mark Sisson's Fitness eBook and more!