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

The 2013 Primal Blueprint 21-Day Challenge Begins Now

21Day Challenge Graphic

If you want to lose weight, gain muscle, reduce stress, increase energy or just generally look and feel healthier you’ve come to the right place. Oh, and you can win lots of cool Primal gear, too. That’s right, it’s the annual Primal Blueprint 21-Day Challenge!

Before we get to all the details, let’s kick things off with a simple contest. Click on over to this page and share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Google+ by using one of the icons on the left side of the page, AND leave a comment in the comment board below with your commitment to this year’s challenge. That’s it! Help spread the word about this year’s challenge and leave a comment, and you’ll be entered to win a $200 gift certificate to

This contest ends at midnight (PDT) tonight, Sep. 16. A winner will be selected at random and everyone around the world is eligible.

Now, on to the challenge details…

What Is the 21-Day Challenge?

What’s the challenge? To get Primal, of course! As you’ve already seen if you clicked the link above, this year I’ve put together a nifty infographic that summarizes the Primal Blueprint 21-Day Challenge. Click here or the image below to see the full version. (I encourage any bloggers out there to share this infographic using the html I’ve included below it.) Additionally, you can dig deeper into each section of the infographic by visiting this more detailed Primal Blueprint 21-Day Challenge page.

The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Challenge Infographic

In brief, this is the Challenge. Do it for just 21 days and the results will speak for themselves.

  1. Eat real food.
  2. Avoid sugar, grains, unhealthy fats, beans/legumes.
  3. Align your carb intake with your weight goals and activity levels.
  4. Move frequently at a slow pace: Get between 2-5 hours per week of moderate aerobic exercise.
  5. Lift heavy things: Conduct 1-3 brief, intense sessions of full-body functional movements.
  6. Sprint: Go “all out” once a week.
  7. Get 8 hours of sleep every night.
  8. Get 15 minutes of direct sun exposure each day.
  9. Play! Find time to let go, disconnect, unwind and have fun each day.

No sign-up required. Anyone can participate. Just commit to the challenge, and check back every day for motivation and guidance. Articles over the next two weeks will be about taking steps to align your lifestyle with the Primal Blueprint. The third and final week of the challenge will be entirely comprised of reader-created content. That’s right, MDA readers (you!) will be running the show. Stay tuned.

Above and beyond the challenge as outlined above, I encourage you to make your own personal challenges. Whether it’s eliminating or adding a certain food to your diet, losing weight, going barefoot more often, getting better sleep, or anything else, customize your goals to fit your needs and commit to 21 days starting now.

Who Is the 21-Day Challenge For?

I hold this 21-Day Challenge every year to encourage Primal beginners to give this way of eating, moving and living a try because I know it works, I know how empowering it is, and I know it changes lives.

I also do it to motivate those that have been dabbling with the Primal lifestyle for a while, but haven’t fully committed or still have some room for improvement (myself included!), to go all in and resolve to finally take control of their health.

There’s something here for Primal veterans, too. It’s a good idea to revisit the basics from time to time. And hey, the chance to win free stuff isn’t half bad either.

Why 21 Days?

After many years of training clients and interacting with hundreds of thousands of Mark’s Daily Apple readers, my team and I have found that 21 days is the sweet spot for eliminating old habits and replacing them with new ones. It’s long enough to make legitimate progress toward reversing years of adverse lifestyle habits, long enough for most people to get past the low carb flu (if you experience it at all), and long enough to give the Primal Blueprint a fair shake, but not so long as to be seen as a daunting undertaking. In other words, anyone, including you, can give this a go for three measly weeks, and in that time you are bound to see results. If you have weight to lose, it’s reasonable to expect a reduction of three to seven pounds of excess body fat during this period, and to continue at that rate safely until you reach your ideal body composition.

I’m confident that you can transform your life in just 21 days with the Primal Blueprint. So confident that I wrote an entire book about it…

The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Total Body Transformation

This 21-day Challenge perfectly complements The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Total Body Transformation. The Total Body Transformation is all about making Primal living easy – distilling the philosophy of The Primal Blueprint (detailed in the 2009 hardcover volume) into 8 Key Concepts, 5 Action Items, and a lively 21-Day Challenge of daily endeavors in the areas of Diet, Exercise, and Lifestyle – with corresponding journal exercises. You’ll be shown exactly what to do and when to do it – eliminating any guesswork – to get and stay Primal for life.

If you can spare an hour a day for just 21 days, I guarantee that you will reprogram your genes and transform your life with this guidebook.

Order a copy today to enhance this year’s challenge, and for added guidance and direction.

The 21-Day Challenge Contests

The main challenge itself isn’t competitive, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some friendly contests along they way!

Over the course of the next three weeks Mark’s Daily Apple and sponsors will be giving away thousands of dollars in prizes.

Here are some rules and answers to FAQ:

  • There will be new contests on Mark’s Daily Apple every day for the first two weeks (through Sep. 29) of the 21-Day Challenge, so check back daily!
  • New to this year, there will also be contests held exclusively in the Mark’s Daily Apple newsletter, the Forum, and on Facebook and Twitter. Subscribe, create an account, or follow today for chances to win.
  • All contest prizes relate in some way to the Primal lifestyle. You won’t find any miracle weight loss pills, tummy crunching sling-a-ma-doo-dads, or whole wheat health blast jazzer snackers.
  • Some contests will require a bit of leg work while others will require something as simple as commenting on a blog post.
  • There is no limit to how many contests you can participate in.
  • The duration of any one contest depends on the nature of the contest. Some will last a couple weeks (to give you time to complete the contest task) while others will be as short as one day. All deadlines are Pacific Daylight Time.
  • Contest prizes will be awarded either by a random drawing, by reader voting/polling or by an executive decision (who I think should win!).
  • Some prizes will only be available to United States residents. If you live outside the U.S. and win a prize that can’t be shipped internationally an alternate prize of equal value will be awarded.
  • I’m not being paid by any company for being featured in a 21-Day Challenge contest.

To track all the contests visit the 2013 Primal Blueprint 21-Day Challenge Contest Page for daily updates.

New to the Primal Blueprint and Mark’s Daily Apple?

If you are new to the Primal Blueprint and Mark’s Daily Apple and don’t know where to begin, here are some resources to get you started:

1. Primal Blueprint 21-Day Challenge page – On this page you’ll be introduced to the basics of the Primal Blueprint and can follow numerous links to learn more.

2. The Forum – I highly encourage you to use the forum during the challenge. In it you can start a “Primal Challenge Journal” to publicly state your goals and track your progress. Create a journal to receive positive feedback, advice and help along the way from the Mark’s Daily Apple community.

3. The Books

4. What to eat? – Primal Blueprint Recipes on MDA, The Primal Blueprint Cookbook, Primal Blueprint Quick & Easy Meals, Primal Blueprint Healthy Sauces, Dressings & Toppings

5. The Newsletter – Sign up on this page to get 9 free eBooks, a 7-day course on the fundamentals of lifelong health, and more.

6. Have a question? – Contact Me

Tell your friends and family about the challenge so they can get Primal too! And don’t forget. Share this infographic across social media by using one of the icons on the left side of the page, AND leave a comment for a chance to win a $200 gift certificate to

Best wishes and good luck on your first day of the Challenge. Check back tomorrow for a new contest and an article on going into the Challenge with the right frame of mind. Grok on!

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’ll try anything for 21 days! :)

    Meierjo wrote on September 18th, 2013
  2. Day 2! Made arugula goat cheese chick roll ups last night! Yum!

    Melissa wrote on September 18th, 2013
  3. After a year of checking out MDA and celebrating other’s achievements every Friday it is time for me to get off the pot and get going!

    Stephanie wrote on September 18th, 2013
  4. In I am.


    PaleoYoda wrote on September 18th, 2013
    • Nice touch that is, PY. :)

      Gilly wrote on September 18th, 2013
  5. I hope this motivates someone to try it, you can’t believe the results until its happening to you!

    Cheryl wrote on September 18th, 2013
  6. We’ve been doing paleo for a while, but I could get a bit stricter on avoiding the carbs and sweets! I’ll join in!

    Laurie K wrote on September 18th, 2013
  7. I am psyched to begin the Primal 21 Day Challenge!

    LInda Markarian wrote on September 18th, 2013
  8. Good timing! Let’s roll…

    MzVic wrote on September 18th, 2013
  9. I’m in!

    Mary wrote on September 18th, 2013
  10. Great graphics on this post! I did the 21 day challenge a few months ago, and the fitness transformation was very surprising for just three shirt weeks. Been living primally ever since, but have missed a few workouts and weekly macro tracking, so I’m looking forward to this refresher.

    Jen wrote on September 18th, 2013
  11. Let’s do it!

    Cristina Picardi wrote on September 18th, 2013
  12. I’m in! WooHoo!

    Jura16157 wrote on September 18th, 2013
  13. I am a newbie with a loooooong way to go. But I am excited to learn and make life long healthy changes to my diet.

    Abigail wrote on September 18th, 2013
  14. Ready to go. A few days late, but 21 starts now.

    Donna wrote on September 18th, 2013
  15. The time for me is now!! I’m in!

    krystyne wrote on September 18th, 2013
  16. I shared this on my fb page. We are almost two years into primal. Hubs lost 35 pounds in the first six months, and I lost only 12. But, this past April my awesome chiropractor reviewed my labs (I am upper 40s) and put me on strict paleo (primarily this meant going without the nuts and fruit, butter, raw dairy, and high glycemic veggies) for six weeks. By end of July, I had lost 30 pounds. Now, I stay pretty strict (but successfully added raw dairy back in), but my husband is 80/20 and is doing great. His gum disease reversed within the first six months, too. His blood work is awesome for age 50! I read Rob Wolf’s book, but MDA has been my go to resource and greatest motivator since starting paleo in Jan 2012. Our exercise continues to stay pretty close to that recommended on the infographic.

    maggie wrote on September 18th, 2013
  17. I’m so glad to get notice of this challenge in my email box. I am already doing the Whole Life Challenge with my Crossfit group but I find I’m using the ‘loopholes’ too indulgently and eating too many carbs, not enough veggies. That challenge is for another 6 weeks so I’d love to do this one also over these 3 weeks to really sharpen up my commitment.

    Shannon wrote on September 18th, 2013
  18. Bring on the fat loss!

    Haley wrote on September 18th, 2013
  19. I stopped eating all grains, sugars, milk products, and even potatoes a few months back after getting a rash that was diagnosed as yeast. I was also getting frequent episodes of “brain fog”, due to the improper diet and the toxins from the yeast.

    I already ate a good bit of meat, and never bought into the whole idea that animal fat is bad for you, so I didn’t really have a problem with the diet except getting used to no / very low carbs. During that time I ate lots of steak, chicken, butter, coconut oil, and vegetables.

    When I first started the, what was then known to me as the ‘candida diet’, I went from nearly 170 pounds to 152 in around 2 – 2.5 weeks, without doing much if any exercise.

    Now that things are much better, I am consuming all of the above, as well as:
    – sweet potatoes (with lots of butter)
    – home made full fat Greek yogurt
    – other fermented foods
    – small amounts of coconut sugar (a small spoon of it with some yogurt)
    – watermelon and other fruits in moderation.
    – Celtic sea salt
    – Almonds

    I’ve been holding at around 152 – 153 pounds and I think I’m starting to gain muscle mass, because this morning I weighed 154.7, while eating properly, exercising, and no visible adipose tissue accumulation around my torso. :-)

    I’ve even converted my work environment to allow me to stand, and I’ve been taking semi-hourly breaks to do squats, pushups, and short walks around the office.

    At home I do pull ups and butt lifts to target lower back and am beginning to incorporate the mobility exercises. Oh, and lots of play with my son. 😀

    I now feel like I have more energy, strength, and endurance than I had previously, except for when I exercise too frequently. Then I just eat a couple hand fulls of almonds, and drink some water, and I’m back to normal, but I should probably space the workouts (err… playouts) a bit.

    I read your blog daily, to glean all of the pearls of information I can. Thank you, Mark, for starting this blog and giving so much practical information out for free.

    Jared wrote on September 18th, 2013
  20. I’m in! I’m getting ready to participate in a women’s fun mud run next April and this is a great way to kick-start my preparations.

    Karen wrote on September 18th, 2013
  21. I’ve been about 75-80% primal for almost two years now and am ready to go all in!

    Sandy wrote on September 18th, 2013
  22. This will definitely help keep me on track with my new lifestyle change!!

    Tanya A. wrote on September 18th, 2013
  23. I’m in. Starting a few days late, but better late than never, right? Have been getting a bit too lax lately and this contest is always a good way to get back on track. Good luck everyone!

    John Fotheringham wrote on September 18th, 2013
  24. Been slacking for 6 months. Ready to get back on track!

    Melinda wrote on September 18th, 2013
  25. Have bone on bone arthritis and zip cartilage and have been feeling whiny about having to change my diet to improve my condition. No weight problems and have been active all my life, so can’t stand all this enforced inactivity. This challenge is just what I need to get a good swift kick in my motivation!! Good luck to all of you, stay strong in your determination and you will succeed! Keep us all posted.

    Sam wrote on September 18th, 2013
    • I have had the same. I did go through knee replacements and am more active than ever before. The paleo way of living enhances my activity and abilities more than I ever knew possible.

      Donna wrote on September 18th, 2013
  26. I lost 18 pounds earlier this year by going Primal. Time to kick it back in gear after the summer!

    Leana wrote on September 18th, 2013
  27. In 2012 I was very successful on this plan. I was totally into it until a health issue (unrelated to the diet) knocked me for a loop. I’m back into it and I had actually forgotten how good I feel after eliminating grains and sugar. This works and I recommend it to everyone.

    Brian Stern wrote on September 18th, 2013
  28. Shared on our Crossfit box Facebook page. Many of us are already participating in an 8 week Crossfit/paleo challenge. This line right up with it! Thanks!!

    MoniqueWS wrote on September 18th, 2013
  29. This is the 3rd day in a row I’ve tried to sign up and don’t see my comment turn up. Argh. Anyway, been mostly primal since February 2012, and this is a good time to reboot myself back on track. And not, for example, fall into the “well, at least it’s gluten free” spiral.

    Julia wrote on September 18th, 2013
    • Yay. it worked this time!

      Julia wrote on September 18th, 2013
    • I see you! Page 16, but I see you.

      Donna wrote on September 18th, 2013
  30. Perfect timing. I was just renewing my commitment to Primal eating – although I’m cutting back on the animal protein and upping my veggie intake. Goal is to lose five pounds and exercise at least five days a week.

    Amanda Hutchins wrote on September 18th, 2013
  31. Really excited to start a program I know in my heart I believe in ! Turn 60 end of next May, and plan to be able to run, jump, and play like I did in my forties ! I have a lot of work to do, but confident with the support of Marks Daily Apple I will succeed !
    Lets Get Primal ! ! !

    Andrew J. Sellery wrote on September 18th, 2013
  32. I need to be back to eating what’s right. I felt better. I was happier. I slept more peacefully.

    I’m on it! 21 days! And then some :)

    Jonnelle wrote on September 18th, 2013
  33. I’m in. I have to start tomorrow, but this will be great. I did a Whole 30 challenge in July (similar to this, but absolutely no dairy, alcohol, chocolate) and I felt so good afterwards. Unfortunately, I slowly crept back into my old eating habits and lost the benefits I reaped. I dig this more because it feels slightly less restrictive. I’m also excited to lift heavy things, sprint, and get 15 minutes of sun a day. Good luck everyone!!

    Michelle wrote on September 18th, 2013
  34. I’m excited to get back to the paleo eating habits and lifestyle. This summer has been bad with travel and home renovations.

    Allison wrote on September 18th, 2013
  35. +1

    KiP wrote on September 18th, 2013
  36. I am in, have been for about a year and a half, going to be hard to stay on track during my honeymoon the first week of Oct!

    Seth wrote on September 18th, 2013
  37. I’m a few days late, but better late than never!

    Chris wrote on September 18th, 2013
  38. I completed this challenge a year ago and felt great…. Time to get back on track and excited to buckle down with the same challenge that started it all!

    Jeri Garcia wrote on September 18th, 2013

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