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

What Does it Mean to “Grok On”?

We like to throw “Grok” around pretty liberally. It’s the name of our prototypical human ancestor, sure, but it’s also become a rallying cry of sorts: Grok on! What does it mean when we say “Grok on”? Do you know? Do I know? I have something in mind, but I’ve never really expounded on it in any detail. In fact, I’ve purposely left it ambiguous; to Grok is partly, I think, something very personal and subjective for each person.

What does the dictionary say (and what would it say if MDA was a household name?)


/grok/  /grohk/  [from the nutrition blog “,” where it denotes the archetypal Paleolithic man; also from Robert Heinlein’s novel “Stranger in a Strange Land,” where it is a Martian word meaning literally “to drink” and metaphorically “to be one with”]


Mark Sisson’s (proprietor of name for the collective and individual ideal of nutrition, fitness, behavior, and health.


To understand profoundly through intuition or empathy.

We’re all familiar with the noun. We’ve already defined who Grok is (or was). But what about that other meaning – Heinlein’s verb? When I – or anyone else – implore you to “Grok on,” what am I really saying? Does it matter? Is it better left unsaid and unsubstantiated? Is “to Grok” merely an ambiguous, indefinable abstraction, the careful parsing of which would only serve to destroy its strange effectiveness? For a while now, I’ve pondered these questions and wondered if this post would amount to explaining the proverbial joke in excruciating detail (and thus ruining it – think John Kerry’s sense of humor).

But MDA isn’t about cryptic hunches. Sure, we value anecdotal and self-experiential data, but we also love a good controlled study. Fact and intuition rule the roost simultaneously in some kind of two-pronged oligarchy – and that’s what makes the phrase “to Grok” so completely perfect for our goals. Heinlein’s “grok” carries two meanings, but we’re only interested in the second, figurative one. To Grok is to know something to be innately, incontrovertibly true; it is to feel that something is so using intuition, as opposed to mere sensory observation. Grokking a concept means you understand it so well that it is absorbed into your very being. You dig it. It’s become second nature, an integrated part of you.

Doesn’t that sound a bit familiar? I get daily emails from readers expressing that exact sentiment regarding the Primal Blueprint. I’ll often maintain running discussions with these people, fathers and mothers and neighbors and students and professionals who may have had some measure of success with another diet or life plan – but never enough that it sticks for good. Atkins and CrossFit stragglers are incredibly common. These are people who did the Atkins induction and probably saw some weight loss, but could never maintain the rigorous monotony of the permanent eating plan. These are people who happened across CrossFit, got motivated, did a few weeks of strict WODs, but couldn’t keep up with the advanced levels of conditioning that it requires. Any diet or exercise plan will work to a certain extent, but not every plan is sustainable for everyone. The PB, though, is sustainable. Heck, it’s built in to us from birth! Our very genes – Grok’s genes – were forged using it as a, well, blueprint. Is it any surprise, then, that slipping into the lifestyle feels like going home again?

You know that feeling. Once you’ve completely ditched the grains, the legumes, and the sugar, and lots of delicious fat and protein are all you need to finally sustain you and it all just feels right, you’re Grokkin’ it. When you stop the obsessive calorie counting and find yourself eating the right amount of food while still effortlessly dropping or maintaining extra weight, you’re Grokkin’ it. Once following the Primal precepts becomes second nature, and avoiding temptation becomes impossible because temptation no longer even exists like it once did, you have officially ascended. You have dug in. You’re living it. You have Grokked on.

“Grok on.”

It’s like a secret handshake. An inside joke. Except it isn’t, not really. It’s not an exclusive, exclusionary thing, the PB. Each of us is already encoded with it; we just have to realize it. When we do – when we finally understand those basic laws of fitness, diet, sleep, stress, sun, solace, and sport that govern our genes and make the motivations behind certain behaviors and instincts clear as day – we are able to successfully Grok on.

As one character from Heinlein’s novel says:

Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed – to merge, blend, intermarry… It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science – and it means as little to us (because of our Earthly assumptions) as color means to a blind man.

When we first hear about the Primal concept, it sounds alien. It sounds wrong. Our initial reaction upon hearing that saturated fat is actually benign, that healthy whole grains are anything but, and virtually everything we’ve ever been told about diet, fitness, and health is founded upon bad science is to deny, gasp, guffaw, gape, and disbelieve. But that’s just the blind man’s reaction to an artist’s description of color. We aren’t blind anymore, though, once we get past those “assumptions.” To Grok is no longer a uniquely Martian construct. It’s pretty much our only choice, and it’s about as Earthly as you can possibly get.

Grokking goes way beyond academic knowledge. If you claim to grok a piece of knowledge or a concept, it’s become an essential part of your very being. When you Grok on, you are signifying that you’ve become wedded to your Primal heritage. It’s no longer just a detached way of considering nutrition and fitness; it’s your identity. And really, it always has been our identity, ever since we began walking upright and using tools to shape our surroundings and make life easier. A little too easy, perhaps, because we eventually forgot all about that part of us – or at least learned to ignore it.

No more. That innocent ignorance stops here. From this point forward, you can choose willful ignorance, or you can choose to continue the lifestyle path set in motion over 250,000 years ago.

I dunno about you, but I’m definitely going to Grok on!

Let me know what you think. Do you Grok the Primal Blueprint? Thanks, everyone! Check back tomorrow for a brand new fitness routine.

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. Grok On means to be innately primal all the time! Go forward and feel great, eat healthy and enjoy life.

    Michele Carley wrote on September 15th, 2009
    • I can’t help but think that to “grok on” would include spreading the word to others as I plan to do now as a second career in my retirement (from teaching–go figure)!

      Deidre Edwards wrote on May 14th, 2012
  2. Interesting – computer programmers use the term “grok” in the Heinlein sense but I never made that connection with PB’s usage. Very cool – glad you pointed that out.

    Mark wrote on September 15th, 2009
  3. I have always thought of “Grok On” to imply a living that is back to our roots, as in refreshing and a living that is more in tune with our body and nature

    From @kwakthisway

    dennis wrote on September 15th, 2009
  4. To grok on means to eat what was out on earth by the source. To rely on mother nature and her wisdom to steer is to natural health!

    heather Odeh wrote on September 15th, 2009
  5. Can we “Grok long and prosper”?

    Sylvie O wrote on September 15th, 2009
    • It is the only logical thing to do.

      Bourgogne wrote on September 15th, 2009
  6. Grok On means that its alright to party like primal man has never partied before!

    Dena wrote on September 15th, 2009
  7. “Grok on” to me means to “keep being your bad A$$ primal self!!!”

    Dennis wrote on September 15th, 2009
  8. ‘Grok On’ means keep on living the primal way to the best of your ability and spread the groking word!

    Lovestoclimb wrote on September 15th, 2009
  9. to grok on! to rise above the current hologram of misinformation and false twinkie/noodle culture and tap into that ENERGY, that only comes from primal eating and primal living. great forensic observation mark!

    rachel wrote on September 15th, 2009
  10. This article is grokkin!

    christian Chun wrote on September 15th, 2009
  11. Life is so simple, we mastered it 10,000 years ago. Today, too many try to fix what isn’t broken. To “Grok On!” is be focused on the simple steps to a fullfilling life.

    Russ wrote on September 15th, 2009
  12. Grok On to me means to know the reasons behind what you eat, how you exercise, and why you play.


    brycebolt wrote on September 15th, 2009
  13. Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus…
    Grok is from Earth!

    Aaron Blaisdell wrote on September 15th, 2009
  14. Grok On: to strive for one’s personal primal perfection.

    As an affirmation, an encouragement to begin or continue the primal journey.

    Bourgogne wrote on September 15th, 2009
  15. Grok On= question conventional wisdom, read & write on MDA, live the PB. So easy a caveman could do it (I know, I know!)

    marci wrote on September 15th, 2009
  16. Grok on: Eat primal, exercise primal, sleep primal, laugh primal, BE primal!

    Alcinda Moore wrote on September 15th, 2009
  17. Not to steal from Zero Mostel, yet, it’s ” To Life “. A true life. Understanding the pitfalls and holes that we try to avoid. Yet, In the big picture to simply give, seek and cherish as purely and passionately as one can.

    Boylston wrote on September 15th, 2009
    • Zero Mostel didn’t write Fiddler on the Roof, numbskull. Sheldon Harnick wrote “To Life.”

      DajM wrote on November 1st, 2010
  18. “Grok on”-To wish someone the best in their personal journey of finding a simpler way to sustain a healthful, energetic, and more peaceful way of life (through following the PB, of course).

    Pauley wrote on September 15th, 2009
  19. To Grok is like trying to define “to be” as part of the natural kingdom yet simultaneously able to master it on its own terms without reservation, precepts, emotional or intellectual clutter. To thrive. Think of it similarly to the spirit of a wolf.

    joe s wrote on September 15th, 2009
  20. GROK ON
    Means to totally embrace the Primal Lifestyle, however one defines it in their own personal world without needing approval from anyone.

    An acknowledgement that one is aware of the implications of the SAD.

    A greeting to other practitioners of living primally.

    Dextery wrote on September 15th, 2009
  21. i love these comments today! lol

    missavocado wrote on September 15th, 2009
  22. To Grok On, an evolution of Rock On…which many of us use when we encourage each other despite that fact that we do not play rock or any other kind of music. “Rock On!” is often said to someone when we think they’re doing something awesome and they should continue to do so. “Grok On!” as I see it and use it from this site is often said to someone or readers in general when we’re encouraging each other to keep on being primal in our ways.

    Christina wrote on September 15th, 2009
  23. We will, we will, grok you!

    Ace Bucko wrote on September 15th, 2009
  24. To me, because this is all essentially personal, Grok on! is kind of like the zen concept of letting go of the rock and floating. Yes, it is an encouragement but it is also a call to simplicity. How much more simple could it get to eat REAL food, MOVE your body, PLAY, SLEEP. So simple a child could do it.

    Lisette wrote on September 15th, 2009
  25. You briefly mentioned the literal meaning of “grok” in the vocabulary of Heinlein’s fictional martian culture, and I think it’s quite relevant. From page 213 of the Google Books result for STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND:

    “Take this word: ‘grok.’ Its literal meaning, one which I suspect goes back to the origin of the Martian race … means ‘to drink.'”

    The primal community’s not much of one for finding those mega-bottles of Evian watter, I know. But considering (if one’s familiar with the book) that Heinlein’s Martian culture is defined by a terrible scarcity of water, “grok” can be extended to mean “nourish,” or “nourish oneself with.” “Consume,” “absorb,” “feed” on.

    When we “grok on,” we chow down. We do and incorporate and express healthful and nourishing things. We make ourselves better with pieces gleaned from the environment. We recombine with our primal source. We drink the world.

    Paul wrote on September 15th, 2009
  26. “Groking On”

    To passionately pursue the primal lifestyle in every facet of one’s life, ultimately living one’s own life to the fullest potential, and in effect; demonstrating the pure joy found in healthy living to the rest of the world around him.

    Noelle wrote on September 15th, 2009
  27. While “grokking on” is great something i think very under talked about here is the fact that if you eat enough fatty meats and fruits and nuts you WILL get fat. While there are certain benefits from primal like hunger and energy and health.
    If you have 2 people who eat 3000 calories from primal and 1 who eats 2000 calorie regular diet will lose more weight.

    I think grokking on is the best benefit of primal because yo can become finely intune with your bodies food requirements but primal foods dont break the rules of thermogenics.

    Bobby wrote on September 15th, 2009
    • Bobby, it’s not just about calories in versus calories out. There is a “metabolic advantage” that comes from eating Primally. We’ve talked about it here before. While you do require a caloric deficit to lose weight (to preferentially burn off the stored body fat), some studies show that you don’t necessarily gain any further weight on a true Primal style diet (low insulin means little of no storage), whereas even on a moderately restricted calorie, high carb diet you can still gain added weight.

      Mark Sisson wrote on September 15th, 2009
  28. Grok On = Good Luck

    tee wrote on September 15th, 2009
  29. Stranger in a Strange Land is an awesome book! I’m rereading it now thanks to you Mark!

    Yummy wrote on September 15th, 2009
  30. Wanna look like Keith Richards? Rock On! Wanna look like Mark Sisson? Grok On!

    Mikeythehealthycaveman wrote on September 15th, 2009
  31. grok on with your bad self…hahaha

    Autumn wrote on September 15th, 2009
  32. Grok on means to be so in tune with the interplay of your naturally evolved self and environment (since the two can’t really be separated) that you live with an easy confidence in your place in the universe. Grok on is the antithesis of angst.

    Meeses wrote on September 15th, 2009
  33. Simple: Be Primal.

    Bob wrote on September 16th, 2009
  34. Grok On guys! Don’t be afraid to deviate from the ‘majority’

    Fitness Fabulous wrote on September 16th, 2009
  35. To get your Grok On means….

    To Be YOU….the YOU coming from the awareness and truth that YOU are infinitely connected, abundantly joy-filled and where anything really is possible!

    Darin Olien wrote on September 16th, 2009
  36. awesome post and awesome comments. yep, the pb is SO intuitively on it that it does become part of one’s identity. i grok it.

    jennifer wrote on September 16th, 2009
  37. Hi Mark,
    I’m responding to your question at the end of The Definitive Guide to Oils (Jan. 20, 2010). You asked what edible oils readers prefer, and why.

    I use what I call “coconut ghee.” I make clarified butter from the best quality butter (preferably unsalted) that I can find, and do it ghee-style, that is, cooked longer to develop antioxidant compounds and more flavor. After skimming the whey from the top and pouring the butter oil (ghee) off the casein clumps that have sunk to the bottom of the saucepan, I mix the warm ghee that results with unrefined coconut oil in approximately equal portions (or up to 2/3 to 1/3, either way). Keep stirring or shaking the mixture of ghee and coconut oil in jars so it stays blended as it cools and solidifies. Needs no refrigeration. This is the tastiest cooking fat around, very healthful, with a relatively high smoke point (though I never push the temperatures), and is quite neutral in taste. Neutral but yummy. It’s perfect for those who want to use more coconut oil but don’t like a coconutty taste. You can also mix in a shot or two of unrefined palm oil if you have some but are put off by the strong color and flavor.
    Sometimes I’ll add a little olive oil to this mixture when cooking, depending on the recipe, but more often than not I use it alone. It is THE BEST.

    Jeanmarie wrote on January 20th, 2010
  38. I’m grokking it!

    Kirill wrote on February 1st, 2010

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