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...Tell Me More
Earlier this month, a reader posed a fantastic question that prompted today’s post. It was long, so I’ll give the choice bits rather than quote the entire thing:
Where do I start? I’d be interested in seeing your opinion on the relative impact of various primal lifestyle changes… Eating “clean” would be a 10, etc… but what about subtler things like sprinting, IF, quality sleep, sunlight, and play… So I guess I’m asking you to write on a 30,000ft level, how all these things interplay and what their relative contributions are to overall wellness.
Where does one start indeed?
Most people familiar with the Primal Blueprint are also familiar with the pecking order within each Primal law. I’m sure the reader is one of them. If you’re not, I’ll give a couple examples.
The foundation of the Primal Blueprint way of eating is:
Do those three things, and you’re most of the way there. You can tinker around the edges, sourcing only grass-fed meat, giving up nightshades for a spell to see how it affects you, forgoing dairy, eating liver once a week, eating lots of colorful fruits and veggies—but doing the first three will usually get you the most benefits. And you’ll probably start doing the other things naturally.
The PB way of training can be boiled down to:
You can try different movement systems, go high-volume/low-intensity or high-intensity/low-volume. You can try CrossFit, or MovNat, or P90x, or strongman, or Olympic lifting. But the basic prescription is the most important.
But is there also a pecking order to heed when choosing which Primal Blueprint lifestyle intervention to tackle first? Should you do diet, exercise, sleep, or any of the others before the rest?
Okay, outlandish scenario time. Guy holding a gun to your head says “Choose one Primal Blueprint lifestyle intervention to enact. Only one.”
What do you choose?
That depends where you’re starting.
For me, it was a tossup between diet and training. The two were inextricably linked. I accumulated a ton of mileage and wear and tear thanks to the gargantuan infusions of grain-based glucose, which allowed me to keep up my excessive training while increasing its inflammatory effects. When I changed, I dropped my training volume and the carbohydrate-based eating style. They begat each other. They both had to go.
After that, my stress resilience improved (less training left more in the tank to deal with life’s trials and lowered my cortisol), and I started sleeping better (fewer late night training sessions and early morning wake-ups, plus not being in “go go go” mode all the time). I suddenly had time to grow my businesses and devote attention to my personal relationships. I began playing more, actually enjoying the physical activity I now had time for. Everything else unfolded once I fixed my training and eating.
What happens if you adopt a Primal way of eating and start losing body fat but do little else? If you’re overweight or obese, your first step should be changing your diet. Not only will this help you lose body fat and weight, it will lead to improvements in other areas addressed by the PB.
You get natural light during the day, avoid artificial after dark, wear those ugly orange goggles, toggle nightmode on your phone, and get in bed by 10 or 11 at the latest for a solid 7-8 hours. What will happen?
Not bad for a little extra sleep.
You start lifting 2-3x a week, running hill sprints, and walking 5-6 miles a day. What happens?
The boring but true answer is that everything matters. Even the “small stuff” isn’t small stuff and affects the bigger stuff. And everyone can tackle multiple interventions simultaneously. No one has that proverbial gun to their head.
It sounds daunting. Overwhelming, even. Trust me, though: it’s the best part of the Primal approach.
The flip-side of everything affecting everything is that changing just a single aspect of Primal health reverberates through the rest of your lifestyle. Starting almost anywhere works, each intervention having a measurable impact on the other facets of Primal health.
But don’t stop there. Sleeping like a champ might allow you to only eat half the French fries you normally would, but imagine the results if you didn’t eat any of them. Training consistently can build muscle on any diet, but imagine the gains if you swapped breakfast cereal for bacon and eggs.
That’s it for today, folks. Now I’d love to hear from you. Where did you start on your Primal journey? What would you do differently, if anything?
Thanks for reading!