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

The Primal Blueprint Carbohydrate Curve

GraphYesterday, low-carb blogger Dr. Michael Eades (he of Protein Power) posted a message from his friend and fellow low-carb guru Richard Feinman as sort of a call-to-action in public policy-making for upcoming 2010 USDA guidelines. Dr. Eades and Dr. Feinman have suggested that we ought to quickly find a way to help the USDA arrive at a sensible recommendation for carbohydrate consumption. Feinman asked:

“how can the benefits of carbohydrate restriction that you have experienced personally or in your immediate environment be translated into reasonable recommendations that the USDA could put out?”

In conjunction with my forthcoming book “The Primal Blueprint”, I have been working on an easy-to-understand explanation of how carbohydrates impact the human body and the degree to which we need them (or not) in our diet. I have also developed a chart (not the one above) that is intended to assist those who want to go “Primal” in visualizing the impact of carbs consumed within certain ranges. I was going to hold off on releasing this information until my book is published, but decided to introduce it here in response to Dr. Eades’ post. Since the choice of how many and what types of carbs in one’s diet depends on the context of one’s life (current weight, disease condition, activity levels, etc), I see carb intake as a “curve” ranging from “allowable” to “desirable” to “unhealthy”.

The following descriptions illustrate how carbohydrates impact the human body and the degree to which we need them, or not, in our diet. The ranges represent daily averages and are subject to variables like age, current height and weight and particularly training volume. For example, a heavy, active person can be successful at a higher number than a light, moderately active person. In particular, hard training endurance athletes will experience a greater need for carbs and can adjust their personal curve accordingly. This is a topic I address further in the book (e.g. – experimenting with adding 100g of carbs per hour of training per day), on and in a future “primal” book dedicated to endurance athletes. Here then is my “Primal Blueprint Carbohydrate Curve.”

300 or more grams/day Danger Zone!

Easy to reach with the “normal” American diet (cereals, pasta, rice, bread, waffles, pancakes, muffins, soft drinks, packaged snacks, sweets, desserts). High risk of excess fat storage, inflammation, increased disease markers including Metabolic Syndrome or diabetes. Sharp reduction of grains and other processed carbs is critical unless you are on the “chronic cardio” treadmill (which has its own major drawbacks).

150-300 grams/day – Steady, Insidious Weight Gain

Continued higher insulin-stimulating effect prevents efficient fat burning and contributes to widespread chronic disease conditions. This range – irresponsibly recommended by the USDA and other diet authorities – can lead to the statistical US average gain of 1.5 pounds of fat per year for forty years.

100-150 grams/dayPrimal Blueprint Maintenance Range

This range based on body weight and activity level. When combined with Primal exercises, allows for genetically optimal fat burning and muscle development. Range derived from Grok’s (ancestors’) example of enjoying abundant vegetables and fruits and avoiding grains and sugars.

50-100 grams/day – Primal Sweet Spot for Effortless Weight Loss

Minimizes insulin production and ramps up fat metabolism. By meeting average daily protein requirements (.7 – 1 gram per pound of lean bodyweight formula), eating nutritious vegetables and fruits (easy to stay in 50-100 gram range, even with generous servings), and staying satisfied with delicious high fat foods (meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds), you can lose one to two pounds of body fat per week and then keep it off forever by eating in the maintenance range.

0-50 grams/day – Ketosis and Accelerated Fat Burning

Acceptable for a day or two of Intermittent Fasting towards aggressive weight loss efforts, provided adequate protein, fat and supplements are consumed otherwise. May be ideal for many diabetics. Not necessarily recommended as a long-term practice for otherwise healthy people due to resultant deprivation of high nutrient value vegetables and fruits.

Drop me a line in the comment boards. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Further Reading:

The Definitive Guide to the Primal Eating Plan

The Definitive Guide to Insulin, Blood Sugar and Type 2 Diabetes (and You’ll Understand It)

Primal Fitness

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. Ok so I know this is a bit off topic but it does pertain to carbs and being fat. I believer I have a theory on how you get fat with little or no fat diets. However, from what I understand our body is ultimately pretty inefficient at turning carbohydrates into fat. So my question is how do those people on low fat diets get fat. (i understand that it happens) but what are the underlying processes that do it? i.e. mobilized fats don’t get oxidized and are just restored and the body uses the excess sugar in the blood as energy instead?

    any insight would be appreciated :) thanks

    brett reinhard wrote on March 29th, 2012
  2. Trying to prescribe everyone in one blog post is dangerous…

    What happens when you caloric expenditure increases beyond the requirement for 300grams? Where do you go for calories then?

    Philip wrote on April 9th, 2012
  3. I’ve been vegan for a couple years. I eat primarily fruits, vegetables, and grains. I eat about 70% carbs a day (almost up to 300), 15% fat and protein. Over the course of my veganism, I’ve lost over 40 pounds. I used to eat a lot of processed foods, meat, and dairy products. But that was terrible for me, and after reading some health books, I could see that the processed carbs and animal protein was destroying my health. I would look into books about veganism, especially “The Engine Two Diet” or “The China Study”. Both involve extensive scientific research, and have proven a connection between animal products and cancer, heart disease, and other health conditions. Just remember, your beloved Dr. Atkins had a heart attack 😉

    Maya wrote on April 11th, 2012
  4. Sorry for not reading the earlier comments, if this question has already been answered. But could someone point me to the (original research) evidence for these values? How do you know, for example, that below 150g is good and above 150g is bad?

    Orielwen wrote on April 20th, 2012
  5. I’m 23, female. I injured my legs and couldn’t run for 3 weeks so to stop any weight gain I followed the low carb steps, 20g first week, then 100g  for 2 weeks and now I have 150g carbs each week I lost a healthy 7lbs and still lose weight now  back to running and eat a bit of everything but not consuming over 150g of carbs a day. Im now losing weight at a steady pace.

    This low carb plan was a great way to realise i ate too many carbs before and everything should have its limits in order to have a healthy lifestyle 

    Thanks Mark

    Pittsy wrote on April 24th, 2012
  6. u said it right

    kiruthika wrote on April 28th, 2012
  7. right

    kiruthika wrote on April 28th, 2012
  8. Question: do the amounts listed include carbohydrates from fiber, or are you supposed to subtract the fiber?

    Promise McEntire wrote on May 2nd, 2012
  9. Ok, this is day one wish me luck !!

    Dena wrote on May 12th, 2012
  10. We started doing primal for my husband who was wanting to lose weight. Seems like a great program but I am having trouble. At 5’4″ and 110 pounds I do just fine on the min of 1200 cal per day. How can I eat primal when so much is high fat?? I don’t need to lose but I don’t want to gain. I don’t know how to fit it into my life. Its easy for my husband who is 6’5″ and 250 lbs. He loves the meats and the fats. Please help!

    joan wrote on May 14th, 2012
    • I’m 5’7″ and 130 pounds, and I usually eat about 1500 calories a day (you’re smaller than I am, so that makes sense). I have fatty meats, bacon, and coconut milk regularly and eat tablespoons of butter and olive oil daily on my meats, vegetables, and salads. I also probably eat a few more carbs than many primal people, although they’re of the “safe” variety, because I don’t want to lose weight. According to the calculator on, my diet is approximately 25% carbs, 25% protein, and 50% fat. I weighed the same as I do now when I first started the primal blueprint in May 2010. You’ll be okay! You don’t have to force high-fat foods if you don’t like them, but don’t avoid them because you think they’re bad either.

      Erin wrote on January 16th, 2013
  11. People should beware of sites like this:

    It told me I should be consuming 399 grams of carbohydrate PER DAY. Yikes!

    This was one of the first sites that I came upon when doing a benign “carbohydrate calculator” search (out of curiosity).

    Great site Mark, your methods have really been beneficial to my health and well being!

    Edward Brown wrote on May 15th, 2012
  12. I was 218lbswhen i started(im a 48 year old man). I lost 10 lbs in a week. was prob eating 50-100g per day

    John Evans wrote on May 16th, 2012
  13. Talk about low class, how about No Class! This woman should be put away; far,far away from New Jersey! Danielle, you either love her or hate her: I hate her!NJ DYFYS should watch this show and take her girls away from her. The emotional abuse she puts them through is disgraceful.The only change she has made is for the worst! I grew up poor, am poor again, but I have more class in my little finger than Danielle will ever have! I really think she is a paranoid schizophrenic! I feel so sorry for her daughters. I can’t believe any of these people would be in this “Reality” show. Do they need the money that much? Kudos for Danielle’s female entourage. She put up a brave front for someone who was probably revolted by the rest of the entourage(Goons)!!! I’ve lived in NJ all my life and I love it, but let’s face it: The Reality is, there are Mafia members in NJ.

    Raye Mantegna wrote on May 21st, 2012
  14. I wonder if anyone else has had blurred vision on a low carb diet? My right eye becomes nearly blind when I sharply restrict carbs. Any idea why this happens?

    Annette wrote on May 27th, 2012
  15. I am just starting a low carb diet now, and it seems to make such good sense, because the foods I absolutely love are cheese, meats, nuts, vegtables, seeds, beans, and fish. They are such satisfying foods, much more so than a high carb low-fat diet. My biggest problem is going to sleep hungry. I can’t. That’s why weight watchers won’t work for me very well and I find it too tricky to balance out my allowed “points”. I am really hoping thew low carb lifestyle will help me lose weight. Thanks for the tips.

    Katie wrote on May 31st, 2012
  16. if i am trying to get my six pack to show more should i eat from 50-100 or 100-150? does anybody know? I am unclear on that. I am 5 foot 8 and 155 pounds and workout about an hour each day (either short HIIT workot, a good long run, or some bodyweight strength training, sometimes even jump rope if i am short on time). help appreciated because i dont want to unknowingly limit my carbs lower than i should

    Luke wrote on June 4th, 2012

Leave a Reply

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

© 2016 Mark's Daily Apple

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