The Primal Blueprint is more than just a health and nutrition blog. You can find thousands of health and nutrition tips online, many of them quite sound. You can read well-researched and cited articles telling you what to eat, what not to eat, how to exercise, how not to exercise—and following their advice will give you good results. The Primal Blueprint does not enjoy a monopoly on results.
A big reason why the Primal Blueprint resonates with so many people is that it’s not only couched in hard science and useful information. It tells a story to which all of us can relate on a deep and meaningful level.
Back when I started this blog, I didn’t think the idea of Grok would take off. He was just a method for me to “storify” the dietary and lifestyle habits of our ancient ancestors. It made writing easier and more enjoyable. I even worried that people would find it trite, that it might detract from my message.
I understand why now. I’ve always been a big fan of fiction. I read non-fiction too, of course, but many people are surprised when they hear I probably prefer a good novel to the latest treatise on the genome. Novels don’t relay facts. They reveal deeper truths about the human experience. They distill the desires we share, the trials we face, the existential questions we ask. They engage us emotionally. That’s the power of story, and that is what the PB offers in addition to the actionable, well-researched information about health, fitness, and nutrition: the human story.
How do I connect to the Grok narrative? Apart from providing a unique approach to writing about health and fitness, what does it mean and how does it impact my life and my decisions?
Grok’s Relationship to “Exercise”
If Grok were whisked away in a DeLorean DMC-12 going 88 MPH and dropped off in a present-day CrossFit box or big box gym, he’d marvel at the sheer stupidity of modern exercise.
To you, it’s normal. You’re steeped in it. But try to look at exercise from an ancient perspective. How would a paleolithic hunter-gatherer react to the things we do in the gym?
“Why are those people squatting down and standing back up over and over again? Why are they getting parallel with the ground, supporting their weight on the hands and feet, then lowering themselves until their faces touch the floor and raising back up? Why are they walking on a moving floor? Hey, why’s the floor moving?”
I mean, just writing those descriptions was incredibly difficult. Exercise moves are ridiculous when you stop and think about them. They’re unnatural.
Now, imagine you take the DeLorean back 50,000 years. The things people then were doing would look pretty natural. They might even look like a lot of fun.
Walking everywhere, often carrying a load.
Climbing trees, rocks, cliffs for honey, bird’s eggs, and other delicacies.
Digging for tubers and to bury loved ones.
Lifting heavy things, probably an animal carcass.
Running really fast for short bursts.
Running really slowly for extended pursuits and treks.
Playing, wrestling, fighting, dancing.
Lounging around, talking story whenever possible.
Squatting around the campfire while making tools or just hanging out.
In short, physical work was integrated into Grok’s life. He lifted an antelope carcass because he needed to feed his people, not a barbell because someone on the Internet told him he needed to train his posterior chain. He ran really fast to escape a predator or to race his buddy, not because he wanted to deplete glycogen stores and increase insulin sensitivity. He walked everywhere because that’s how people got around, not because he needed to hit 10,000 steps. He did these things because there wasn’t any other way to live. He didn’t have any other options.
Whenever I start to stress over skipping a workout, I think about how Grok didn’t really exercise. How he and his people worked hard when they had to but took it easy when they could.
And I feel a lot better.
That’s sort of “reverse motivation.” It motivates me not to get out there and bust my ass in the gym, but to be okay with taking a break—which is more important than people realize.
People like to use the fact that paleolithic humans lived and ate in dozens of different environments featuring totally different climates, ecosystems, environmental inputs, and sources of edible plants and animals as an argument against the “paleo diet.” Arctic tundra Grok ate and lived very differently from tropical Grok, who ate and lived completely differently than Mediterranean Grok. This was the crux of the paleofantasy criticism: there wasn’t just one paleo diet, so Cheetos and McNuggets are totally fine.
I see it differently. Humans are the ultimate adaptive animal. We can make almost any environment work. Heck, we can thrive in a place as stark and severe as the Arctic and make it home. Thanks to our big brains and our capacity to respond to and overcome the slings and arrows of life, protracted exposure to difficult environments actually selects for a better, stronger, fitter genome. Our time spent in diverse ancestral environments made us who we are today.
That makes me even more gung-ho about heeding the lessons of our evolutionary history. This reality of our past—the multiGrokverse—actually motivates me.
When I’m in decision-making limbo, paralyzed by the overabundance of options, a quick “What would Grok do?” shifts my frame of mind. It doesn’t provide an answer in the moment, but it does break the mental loop of indecision to drill down deep into the essence of the choice. What are my true motivations? What do I hope to get out of this decision? What’s at stake?
Of course, your average paleolithic human wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails of the ridiculous things we lose sleep over, like picking a new big screen TV or plotting the next step along our career path. But as a mental exercise, asking the question is helpful. Grok didn’t concern himself with the superfluous because, for the most part, it wasn’t an option. His focus was food, shelter, friends, family, love, beauty, the weather, water, wild animals and enemies. We have a tougher job of discerning the essentials, but they haven’t changed much. And if you’re honest with yourself, most of your concerns come down to those basics.
But what if the Grok narrative is completely wrong?
Human history is a living document. 20000 years ago, the sea level was over 300 feet lower than it is today—given that humans tend to cluster around the coasts, who knows what the sea swallowed up? Our knowledge is only as good as the last discovery, and genetic anthropologists and archaeologists are making new discoveries constantly. So much of what I’ve written about the ancestral environment could change as new information surfaces.
That’s okay, though. Remember what I said about story? Its power lies not in the objective accuracy of the details but in the emotions and lessons conveyed. If a story gets the details wrong but conveys a truth about human nature, relays a moral lesson, or helps the reader become a better person, it has value.
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.