Dear Mark: Personalizing the Primal Blueprint

Primal life is good. You’ve lost some weight, improved some health markers, enjoy steady even energy throughout the day, and you finally look forward to exercise (and movement in general) for the first time in a long while. You love the food, and the compliments you’ve started receiving since beginning to eat it, and you’re generally content, but something’s missing. It’s not that you aren’t satisfied; it’s that you’re curious about what else you can tweak to make your body work a little differently. You want to see what makes your body tick, and why, down to the very last detail. I get that.

Luckily for you, your experience and the resources in this community give you the necessary wherewithal to find out. Let’s go to the question that prompted this post, shall we?

Dear Mark,

I’m really digging your recent posts on self-experimentation. I’ve been conducting experiments on myself much in the way that you describe for a few years now. I’ve had great success with intermittent fasting, and have found just the right eating window and frequency of IFing that works for me. I’m going to give biphasic sleep a try to see how little sleep I can get away with without sacrificing ANY mental acuity, energy, etc.

I know you and the Primal Blueprint are all about getting the best results with as little pain, suffering and sacrifice as possible. I’m wondering what other kinds of tweaks I might try out to help me personalize my Primal way of life. I know some people do better with dairy than others, so I’ll probably be testing that out, too. Although I seem to do fine with dairy I’ve never really tried going without it, so I’m going to give it up for a period and do it systematically – recording results and so forth. What else should I experiment with? Thanks for your thoughts. Grok on! 


Glad to hear you’ve found success, particularly by conducting your own personal experiments. It’s pretty powerful stuff, huh?

Further tweaks? Sure, I got those. What follows are some of the things that fall within the Primal Blueprint way of life, but that are individual-specific and customizable. I’m not going to get too deep into how to put together an experiment for each thing, since I gave you guys the tools to do that with the self-experimentation posts, but this will give you a nice head start.


Dairy can be a confusing food for a person to assess. You give up (or add) dairy, and notice results. What’s the explanation? Was it the lactose? The casein? The pasteurization? The animal’s feed? Without getting into more detail, we’ll never know, because “dairy” is so general a term. All it indicates is “food that comes from the milk of mammals.” We probably need to dig deeper and get more specific.

Test the removal or addition of dairy in general to your diet. Goat, cow, butter, cream, milk – it’s all fair game. Try or remove it all and put together an experiment.

Grass-fed/pastured (it can be difficult to find exclusively grass-fed dairy, so pastured, wherein animals get access to pasture plus supplemental feed, is a potential concession) dairy versus conventional/grain-fed dairy. Does dairy from grass-fed animals make a difference to you?

Animal versus animal. Cow milk (or butter, or yogurt, or any other product) got you down? See if goat or sheep dairy elicits a different response.

Fermented versus unfermented. Many people find they do better on yogurt and kefir than milk and cream.

Butter versus ghee. Find out how sensitive you really are to the dairy proteins.

A1 beta casein versus A2 beta casein. Goat, sheep, and Jersey cow dairy contain A2 beta casein, while Holsteins and other conventional dairy cows have A1.

Dairy fat versus dairy protein versus dairy sugar. What’s bothering you – the fats, the proteins, or the lactose?


Because they’re calorically dense, delicious, low-carb, and fit nicely in your hand, nuts are a common weight loss stall food. Not everyone, however, has problems with nuts. Are you one of them?

Nuts versus no nuts. Simple stuff.

Low nuts versus no nuts. Maybe it’s not the nuts themselves that are the problem, but the vastness of your nut intake. Try comparing a low nut intake to a zero nut intake.

In-the-shell versus shelled. For those who have trouble with overconsumption of nuts, I’m a proponent of keeping them in the shell until you want to eat them. That way, you can’t just grab a handful of walnuts and pop ’em in your mouth; you have to work for your nuts, just like Grok.

High omega-6 versus low omega-6. Compare walnuts (high omega-6) to, say, macadamias (low omega-6), or pine nuts (high) to hazelnuts (low).

Soaked versus unsoaked. Does soaking nuts affect your ability to eat and enjoy them?


Fruit has sugar, and we generally recommend avoiding sugar. Then again, fruit’s a whole food that also has phytochemicals and minerals and soluble fiber and vitamins, and we generally recommend eating whole foods. What’s the deal?

Fruit versus no fruit. Again, easy.

Low fruit versus no fruit. Is fruit the problem, or too much fruit?

High-fructose fruit versus low-fructose fruit. Check the table (PDF) to see which is low and which is high.

Types of fruit. Stone fruits versus berries, for example.

Offal and Other Odd Bits

Many people do fine without adding the weird bits of the animal to their diets, but plenty of people find that the addition improves things. See where you stand.

Offal twice a week. Does eating an animal’s organ meat twice a week change anything?

Liver versus no liver. Are you missing out on nature’s multivitamin?

Offal versus muscle meat. What would happen if you switched out your muscle meat for organs?

Bone broth versus no bone broth. Should you be making bone broth on a regular basis?

Bone marrow versus other fats. Evidence suggests that bone marrow was one of the first animal foods we scavenged; what happens if you replace your butter with, say, bone marrow?

Other Food Tweaks

For everything that doesn’t quite merit its own section.

Nightshades versus no nightshades. Find out if you have a sensitivity to foods from the nightshade family, including tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplants, cayenne, paprika, and pimentos.

FODMAPs versus no FODMAPs. Are you sensitive to fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols?

80/20 versus 90/10 versus 100/0 (and so on). What happens as you descend the sliding scale into more and more cheats and sensible vices?

Alcohol versus no alcohol. Does it affect your weight, your energy, your digestion, your sex life?

Eating Habits

When you eat, where you eat, and how you eat can all have different effects. Some people do best with a hearty breakfast, some enjoy eating on the run, and some thrive on just one meal a day.

Breakfast versus no breakfast. Do you need to eat breakfast? Do your energy levels improve when you eat it?

Fasting. In light of the recent women and IF talking point, how about trying it out for yourself?

Sit down meal versus eating on the run. What would happen if you sat down to a real meal every day instead of eating on the run? Would it be more satisfying (with less food)?

Eating alone versus eating with companions. Is the food more satisfying when you eat it with friends and family?

Eating before bed. Does a meal before bed affect your sleep, and if so, does it affect it negatively or positively? Experiment with different timing (1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours before bed).

Exercise and Sleep

Exercise isn’t as simple as “go move.” That can certainly work, and it’s where I’d start, but you can get a little more specific than that. Sleep is tougher, because, well, “go sleep” is pretty much what sleep is all about. Still, you can fine tune that, too.

Workout timing. Are morning workouts more productive? More sustainable? Is your strength better in the evening? Worse? Test it.

Workout fueling. Test whether eating before a workout helps your performance.

Workout composition. Are you lifting heavy things? No? Try a couple days a week. Are you walking enough? No? Walk half an hour every day. Change the makeup of your workouts to see how they affect your results.

Sleep duration. Test whether or not you need six, seven, eight, nine or ten hours of sleep a night.

Absolute darkness at night. How does blacking out all windows in your room affect your sleep? Do you sleep harder but wake up later?

Now, obviously, this is just fine tuning of a fairly well-oiled machine that’s already humming along, as the PB is tried and tested and proven. However, there’s always room for improvement – or at the very least, some lateral movement that while not necessarily improving things or making them worse, does give you a different perspective that can be valuable and instructive. Ultimately, we all must personalize the PB and make it our own. These are just a few ways for us to do that.

So, if you ever get the hankering for some more self experimentation, or if something isn’t working for you, come back to this post for inspiration and ideas. There was no way for me to cover all of the possible permutations of variables, but I trust you’ll figure it out on your own.

Let’s hear from you guys and get some dialogue going. If you’re planning on testing one or more of the variables listed in this post, or anything else, tell us how you plan on doing it in the comment section. Thanks for reading!

TAGS:  dear mark

About the Author

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.

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98 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Personalizing the Primal Blueprint”

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  1. This post is exactly where I am at with the Primal Blueprint. It’s exactly what I needed today, thanks. I’ve lost 60 pounds since late December and am at a point now that I am really personalising what tweaks I can make to go even further, such as sleep, IF, Fat intake. (BTW, I am not the Steven that wrote the intial question.)

  2. I think I’ll test the alcohol part and have no red wine this week… okay that’s not going to happen lol

    I have noticed that the weeks I eat more cheese than usual my weight loss seems slower (it has been pretty steady 2-3 pounds a week since going primal). So how about no cheese this week?

    1. I experimented with no alcohol. A few weeks here, a few months there.

      When I did drink it would be a couple of drinks. Depending on food intake sometimes I was buzzed, sometimes not.

      Eliminating alcohol was the catalyst that helped me lose more weight after I plateaued for about 10 months. Other than weight loss and having more money, I could not pinpoint any other added benefits.

      I am curious if my sleep has improved but overall I decided my leaner body and wallet are better without it.

      I still cook and bake with alcohol. I love having several different wines in a box for deglazing. Plus when I do have guests there is wine for them.

    2. I may ditch cheese for 21 days. I get congested when I eat just an ounce or 2 and it sometimes leads to a sore throat. It doesn’t last long but it still happens. And it happens when I only eat cheese.

      It does not seem to matter if its raw or not, grass-fed or not.

      I just LOVE cheese. But I think I need to try this experiment.

      Thinking about it…

      Does anyone else get congested a little when they eat cheese?

      It’s so yummy yet contains lots of calories and is so convenient that I could see where it would stall weight loss!

      1. Congested and a sore throat? Sounds like me when I eat cheese every day for a while, even if it’s the highest quality, raw milk grass-fed Jersey cheese I can get my hands on… I also get my seasonal allergies back when I eat cheese too often.

        I would say at least it’s not the fat that bothers me, because I tolerate cream just fine.

      2. Yes, I get congested and a sore throat from cheese (any kind, including goat cheese). Also my colds always used to turn into bronchitis or a sinus infection back when I used lots of cream in my tea. I’ve given up all dairy except ghee and now my colds are minimal, with no more bronchitis or sinus infections. I use coconut milk in my tea. I miss the cheese, but not the sore throats and congestion!

      3. Yup. Cheese (all dairy in fact, even ghee) snuffles me up and affects the luster of my skin.

      4. Thanks for the responses. I remember Robb Wolf saying he gets congested too. I seem to do fine with butter but I am not 100% certain since I have not gone a full 30 days or more without it.

        If I can do one single bite of quality of cheese at a time I think I’ll be fine. This is so difficult though.

        1. Interesting you should mention it… perhaps there’s a dairy link to that for me as well. I had a fairly dairy-heavy dessert involving whipped cream, custard, chocolate, and a bunch of strawberries last night and I noted when I was going to sleep that I had difficulty breathing through my nose. All clear this morning but maybe there’s a link with the dairy that I hadn’t thought about…

  3. I looooooved this post. I’m working on a bunch of the above mentioned tweaks myself, but it’s so nice to see them all laid out in one post. I was surprised by how much of a difference avoiding high fructose fruit has made in my digestion. I’m also currently a no nuts/dairy (esp. milk)/eggs gal who does better on 95/5 and variable (constantly changing eating windows and times) IF. Yup, I’m an IF chick! Thanks again for all the amazing content you put out on a regular basis, Mark!

  4. Mark! You read my mind. I just started contemplating my fitness plateau last night. I do not need to lose weight, but at 37 things aren’t as firm as they used to be. I have been following your plan of 3 days strength training, 1 day of sprints and play hard on the weekends. Granted, I am a primal newbie at two months, but I seem to have hit a wall. Time to fess up to being a nut hound, play around with no breakfast to shorten my eating window, and try to limit my dairy.
    Thank you for your perfect timing!!!

  5. How much of an effect can red wine have on weight loss/maintenance? I am wondering if a glass every evening is undoing all my other tweaks??

  6. I’m working on no milk and one meal per day. Still eating cheese, just less. It seems to be working for my weight. I’m hoping that I can get in the PBF because I really think that will make the fat come off.

  7. Pfftt… I’m still working on eating no grains at all for a few days in a row…

  8. It’s interesting that you mentioned the nightshade family, as I have found that I am sensative – verging on allergic – to high levels of acid in food – and tomatoes were the first food I had issues with. I also have problems with some peppers, so I’m thinking I should investigate the nightshade issue to see if it might be two different sensativities as my symptoms from high-acid fruits are different than those I get from tomatoes.

  9. What a valuable post, Mark! I was a bit confounded with your recent post on self-experimentation because, well, it’s been part of my daily routine for as long as I can remember. Knowing yourself is the greatest knowlege one can posess, and self-experimentation is the surest way to achieve it.

    This post is so chock-full of good info that I’ll be bookmarking it for those days when I need to switch things up and figure things out.

  10. O_O

    So much experimenting…I just want a magical Primal fairy to come tell me what to eat!!!! And while she’s at it, maybe she could cook it too.

  11. Good post!

    Too many authors employ a one-size-fits-all type of framework, not understanding that while we are all similar, we are also different. Yes, the overall framework may be sound, but tweaking the framework for ones individual needs is key.

    1. Yes yes yes! A framework is excellent and tweaking it to fit one’s individual needs is absolutely essential for optimal health!

      This is why I believe the Primal/Paleo way of eating is for everyone!

  12. Nuts were awesome when I started primal and really helped me in the easy snack dept, but last week I phased them out and this week is my first week with no nuts! I also gave up chocolate for a bit a few weeks ago and I’ve really noticed that when I lay down to sleep, my heart rate transitions to a resting heart rate much smoother and without the strong and sometimes irregular beating. (I believe the caffeine was somehow interfering with the ability of my body to switch from sympathetic to parasympathetic operation when it was time to sleep.)

    1. Chocolate has very little caffeine, for your information, so maybe that wasn’t the culprit.

      1. Actually the primally approved darkest chocolates can have a surprising amount of caffeine. This is my achilles point … under stress it can reach epic quantities, the carbs aren’t a problem I eat 85% but I’ve noticed the palpitations thing too and that I’m pretty sure it is a caffeine issue and my acupuncturist agrees, I generally only have caffeine-free drinks so the chocolate is the only source.

        1. So, both of your comments prompted me to do a (tiny) bit of research and I’m guessing that it’s not caffeine that is affecting me and my heart, but theobromine.

          From wikipedia, “In modern medicine, theobromine is used as a vasodilator (a blood vessel widener), a diuretic (urination aid), and heart stimulant.” Also, “In the human body, theobromine levels are halved between 6-10 hours after consumption.”

          The latter quote explains how I can still be affected at night when I’ve eaten half a bar in the morning. It seems to have a more lasting effect than caffeine.

        2. Now that IS fascinating, thanks for your research I shall go away and check further myself because I can still have an issue even if the last chocolate I had was lunchtime and caffeine is supposed to be processed and removed in 5-6 hours!

  13. Your posts inspire us! There are so many things to “tweak” in the health department; so many things to eat and not eat. Nothing is necessarily “right” or “wrong” (except, perhaps, eating nothing but chips and chocolate bars!) Everyone’s body is different, and it’s very interesting to read about everyone’s reactions to different foods. We tried going completely sugar free at one point- felt GREAT, but also a bit unsustainable. Have since added fruit back in, but feel that we may need to cut back on carbs a bit. Does anyone have any suggestions on cutting back on carbs/substitutes?

    1. This probably aren’t what you were hoping for but the only way to cut back on carbs and substitutes is to really really get convinced that doing without them is important for optimal health. You can supplement with some chromium picolinate if the sweet tooth is killing you, but ultimately that’s just a crutch.
      It takes time and it takes effort. Way less time and effort than the low fat deathstyle, but your body gets used to what you put in and when you don’t anymore, it takes some time for everything to find homeostasis. Everyone has developed different degrees of metabolic dysfunction over time so everyone’s experience will be slightly different. Eating fruit and sugar substitutes may get that first 50 off, but to get rid of the second or third 50, extra tightening may have to happen. So, get convinced, eat lots of great meat and butter-drenched veg, and follow the PB fitness. In time, those sugar cravings will turn into sugar desires and then into sugar disgust. This is not a diet, it’s a food lifestyle.

      1. Excellent Post Joshua!

        This is exactly what i tell people when they ask me ‘how have i lost so much weight?’ This is a forever, food lifestyle change!

      2. Thanks Joshua- we certainly don’t eat many processed/sugary foods, and it has turned into a bit of a “disgust” thing! The idea of a sugary Mars bar is just not appealing anymore! We are 100% against traditional “diets”- crash diets, losing and gaining weight; and believe in creating an ultimately healthy lifestyle- just trying to work out the kinks! We have discovered a love for broccoli during this process- something our 7 year old self never would have imagined!

      3. Sugar disgust, really??? I have never meant anyone who was disgusted at sugar. But I would LOVE to be one of those people as sweets are generally my downfall especially at social events. One bite, and its over.
        Were you once a sugar lover and now can be around the stuff and have zero cravings? Please share more about how you transitioned i.e. did you give up ALL sweets including fruit? How do you deal with temptation from friends/family? What was the length of time to fully transition, etc?

        1. I have grown to see sugar almost as bugs crawling on my food. No disrespect to the entomophagists among us. In my case, it just took a few months of no sugar including fruit. I’ve never loved candy, but donuts and danishes and cakes were huge for me. Maybe I’m different, but when I get hold of something, I’m a true believer. No half-hearted pluralism for me. Wherever you are, be all there. And I love the results enough and remember the “before” clearly enough that that box of donuts at work are no longer a temptation. At first, it took a mental process of seeing the sugar, wanting the sugar, weighing the pros and cons, the cons outweighing the pros, refusing the sugar. Now, the brain takes a shortcut and goes straight from seeing to refusing. Apart from the mental aspect, fasting for 2 days, 3 days, and IF was also important. When you haven’t had food in 60 hours, a tomato looks decadent.

  14. This post came at the perfect time for me. I went primal back in April and other than achieving mental clarity and a greater love for veggies, I haven’t really had much change. No weight loss, no body fat decrease. Some muscle definition from primal essential movements but not dramatic. I decided last week that I would do a little sugar experiment on my blog (you know, all for education) and then today start the Whole 30. I have a feeling that dairy, maple syrup, honey and high fructose fruits were negating whole foods. I’m hoping this will give me the results I want. Otherwise, I’ll have to experiment some more!

  15. Thanks for the post! I had come to a stand still on my weight loss and couldn’t figure out what it was. Time to try some experimenting. These suggestions should help in deciding what to try.

  16. Life is too short to ditch chocolate, nuts and red wine. And with summer in full swing, fresh local organic plums and peaches are too damn good to go without. So, Primal for me is an ongoing balancing act. Constant tweaking. It’s why I love this lifestyle!

    1. I love when high carb addicts use the “Life is to short to go without XXX” excuse. In essence, “Life is too short to die early”.

      1. high carb addict? I did not mention bread, pasta, rice or corn. I meantioned Mark’s “health indulgences”. People fret over how many nuts they eat or whether they should give up cheese.. seems silly sometimes.. and btw, you won’t “die early” from eating peaches lolol

        1. lol! still, saying life is too short to [do the right thing, whatever that is] is an excuse nonetheless. I’ll never give up dark chocolate in moderarion, but it’s because of the coffeelike lift that I love getting from a couple of squares, not because I’m running out of time to find ways to enjoy life.

        2. And neither did I mention you. I replied to you since you used in a low carb way a phrase I hear often in a high carb way. Sorry if I gave your comprehension skills too much credit.

      2. lol, Josh, relax brah. The point of this post is PERSONALIZATION. I eat fruit, chocolate, and nuts daily and I’m – wait for it – not fat! Or high carb! Incredible.

  17. This is what I LOVE about MDA: Just when you think you’ve got it pegged down, more fantastic advice and logic is thrown at you. I don’t know how anyone could become bored with a primal lifestyle!

  18. I love this! I think performing experiments like this is fascinating – and very motivating! The greatest thing about changing the way I eat has been the awareness I’ve gained about which foods affect me and how I feel after I eat them. It has put a lot of things into perspective.

  19. I’m sure I just missed it somewhere, but how do I determine the outcome of all these experiments vis a vis my odds of demise? For example, even if I “feel” better, it’s not much of an objestive measure of my odds of having a heart attack. (And please don’t say LDL.)

    1. Certainly feeling better before the end has gotta count for something!

      1. So, add morphine to my list of supplements? Oops, I’ll bet that’s probably not Paleo.

  20. Great post, Mark. You always sum it up perfectly. There are too many freakouts in Paleo/Primal land over can I eat breakfast? do I have to crossfit? or can I eat a potato? Just ditch the processed food and all food-like substances, jack your heart rate up everyday, and get plenty of sleep. The rest will work itself out. 🙂

      1. I agree here. I’m nowhere near “Fundie Paleo/Primal”. I began with 150 pounds I’m pretty sure can go. However, for a woman, I’m pretty muscular — after all, when I exercise, I carry around 150 pounds of resistance, all day, every day. For a visual, it’s like hauling 6 25 lb. bags of dog food on your body. Not so bad when you’re sitting on the couch, but when you play 1.5 hours of racquetball (as I did on Saturday, and again on Sunday with my kid), it builds some muscle. I’m just grateful I’m strong and giving myself permission to end up on the scale wherever my body says it’s ok — regardless of the number. 🙂

        I have, however, been on a number of “lifestyle change” plans. I’ve jumped in all the way and lost lots of weight before because I followed it to the letter. These same plans also made me pretty sick — every single one of them — depending on what was being restricted. My body had a hard adaptation to do at first, lots of toxin release due to losing weight too fast. But what was worse for me than the illness was “having nowhere to go”. I had cut back everything I could so much, pushed the envelope on my exercise so much, that I used up all my battery of “tricks” to get my body off the plateaus that followed. Then I would push myself harder and overtrain, or I would restrict my food and eat too little. Before I knew it, I was fed up, fed too little, burned out. Just not good.

        So I’ve learned. When you’re running a marathon, you can’t have a sprinter’s mindset. I’ve been reading MDA for six months — SIX MONTHS — before deciding that Mark knew what he was talking about and gave it a try.

        I’m partially Primal, just now letting my inner Grok know it’s ok to come out now and play. I started moderate carb, with some dairy (having already made the move off milk and onto grassfed butter and cheese long ago). I eat a couple of servings of fruit a day, maybe grains once (sometimes not). I’m logging everything I eat because I am experimenting on me. I want to see what I was eating on weeks I felt good and on weeks when I didn’t feel so hot. I’m exercising, but sticking to the “don’t kill yourself” mantra. Most of my exercise I get playing with the kiddo: soccer, racquetball, Zumba/dancing, walking the dog, chucking the frisbee, spinning poi.

        My hypothesis is that I can use each increasingly Grok-kier step to break an upcoming plateau. But if I’ve thrown myself fully into it, I’ve used up my arsenal (and I repeat the same mistake I’ve made with every other “lifestyle change”). 150 pounds is a lot to lose. It’s a marathon race with plenty of places for “stalling out”.

        I’m losing weight with the primal changes I’ve made so far. If I plateau, I know I have places to go: IF, cutting dairy, cutting all grains entirely, cutting nuts. As I get more physically in shape, I can up the exercise, introduce things I can’t currently do. And when I get more in a weight range where exercise won’t kill my knees, I may be the only woman in the world actually looking forward to sprints.

        I don’t know if anyone else is experiencing the same on their journey, but what I can say so far is that the Primal plan is infinitely adaptable. Even eating in the moderate carb range (still eating VERY healthy, no junk, etc), I am losing weight and it’s great. I’m gonna ride that wave as long as it will carry me. And then, I will change it up and make my inner Grok adapt to something new and keep going.

        All this to say: don’t stress. There’s no need. Especially if you’re very overweight like me, if you make 50% or more of the changes you can, stop drinking your calories and eating processed foods, and get moving, you WILL see results. If you start to slow down, tweak something to make what you’re doing more Primal. It’s what I’m doing, it keeps it fresh, I’m slowly transitioning to where I want to be without discomfort or that whole “zealot mindset” that tends to end in burnout.

        It’s just a good, good day to be on the Primal path to a better me. So grateful, Mark. Really.

        1. I love the theory of keeping steps in reserve. If you want to sprint now, consider swimming sprints!

  21. Yes! Never being “there”, always striving for a little bit better is good for human-kind. Aspirations and the euphoric thrill of embarking on new self-improvement ventures prevent the apathy, malaise, and mediocrity that often descends as people age.

  22. Thanks for the link to the GI/fructose table for fruits… I am still pretty new to this and have been experimenting with fruits… and I think I have found out that high glycemic fruits do not do well for me right now when it comes to managing hunger and losing weight. After a couple of weeks of higher fruit intake (like pineapple and peaches), I’m going to try backing back off the high GI/fructose fruits and see if my weight loss resumes.

  23. I have personally found that it is a lot harder to do 80/20 than 90/10. I don’t know why but it seems like if I shoot for 80/20 I end up more like 70/30 but if I shoot for 90/10 I get 90/10.

    1. I completely agree. Experience has taught me that when I try for 80/20 that 20 ends up growing and end up feeling like crap eventually. A 90/10 approach is much more effective for me, too. Perhaps because the 20 causes more cravings, or because the 10 limit makes me be more observant.

      1. Same thing happens for me. I did 30 days at 90/10 with minimal cravings, then went to 80/20 and fell off the wagon for a few weeks. Now I’m back aiming for 90/10 and have had no cravings for sweets.

  24. Great post. This is actually how I got hooked on primal.

    I grew up with occasional and then continual rhinitis (hay fever), which wasn’t being helped by a regimen of both Zyrtec (or Claritin) and Benedryl.

    I read something about going primal and dropping dairy, which I did last summer. The results were amazing. My allergies mostly (but not entirely) disappeared. This winter I began reading again about primal eating and grains. I ditched the grains, aslo, to see what would happen. 30 lbs. later, I’m mostly allergy free, have more energy and don’t miss breads or dairy at all.

    My wife especially loves it!

  25. I was wondering what you take is regarding Lactase impersistence. I was taught in Human Physiology that all humans who stop consuming lactase will stop producing the enzymes to process it. Meaning everyone who gives it up will get sick the first time they drink milk again, but after a few days there body will resume producing the enzymes (unless they are lactose intolerant, meaning there body will never produce those enzymes). This seems to tell me that everyone who experiments with taking out dairy will receive a false positive about dairy being bad?

    1. There may be similar issues with other experiments. When I started eating more fruit, I was bloated in the beginning, after two weeks all problems were gone.

  26. I do experiment. Cutting coffee had an immediate effect on BP and sleep. Dairy is not as easy to determine, but if I start losing weight again I’ll know.

    I thought I had it made in the shade with IF, but recent reading says I may be messing up my hormones further than they are now! Not sure what to do!

  27. This post explains many things for me. I have been primal for over a year but find as time passes some foods have a bigger impact than others. If only I could keep myself on the straight and narrow. Dairy, coffee, chocolate, sugar (whether fruit or other) and too many nuts all trigger my body to stop feeling healthier. Red wine also stops all progress. Whenever I remove these items and try to be pure, my body responds rapidly. I just find it hard to be so good all the time. Especially if stress factors in, which happens occasionally.

    Thanks for all the wisdom.

  28. Joshua- High Carb Addict b/c one partakes in chocolate and nuts? I’m sorry, but you sir are an ignoramus. Stop parroting like the pro-primal zealot, and realize that this is about balancing both physical health with life’s pleasures.

    1. Yeah. I could see if someone was calling themselves primal because they eat bread every second day instead of every day, and calling it living a little. And even at that, even Taubes says that if carbs don’t affect you, then don’t go overboard. Not everyone here is in such a precarious state that looking at a nut will put them at risk. Though *posting* to one might raise your bp a bit.

    2. Yeah, heaven forbid someone be a pro-primal zealot on this website.
      And name-calling? Really? 4th grade was a long time ago.
      Never mind that I didn’t call Mars a high carb addict. People that actually are high carb addicts use that exact line also.

  29. I have a question for ya Mark…I started Primal living as of 1/1/2012…haven’t turned back!!! Coming from a vegetarian for the last 20 or so years, this is big…I have, like in your post, lost a good amt of weight, increased muscle, love being more active and having more energy for myself, kids and wife…recently incorporated a lot of Dave Asprey bulletproof executive ideas (ie bulletproof coffee) to instigate ketosis and also Tim Ferriss slow carb diet…but, it confuses me…I am doing all of this in attempt to hack my system to perform more optimal and “primal”…get to the point, Why should I continue or stop the SCD Ferriss speaks of, he included legumes in a lot of meals, WHY?

  30. This is such an important post. A good reminder that we are all slightly different.

    I try to keep this in mind when talking with people about food choices. What worked for me, and astoundingly well, might not work for everyone.

  31. The fructose chart lists Gala as a Bad GI fruit. Gala apples?? I just ate one and have a whole bag downstairs!

      1. They haven’t affected me, so I won’t throw them out, but I was surprised! Apples are generally considered low GI. What is it about galas?

  32. Mark you are a genious at comprehensive and understanding approaches! So many in this movement dig thier heals in and promote only what works for them personally. The human body is far too complex to be boxed in like that. How refreshing and wise!

  33. yoolieboolie wrote:

    “still, saying life is too short to [do the right thing, whatever that is] is an excuse nonetheless.”

    not sure why I can’t reply to your post… but I’m not asking anyone to excuse my wine, chocolate and nut habits 🙂

  34. Great post! I have been a bread eater my whole life. After reading wheat belly, I decided to experiment and see what would happen if I completely cut out bread from my diet. I have not bought bread for over 5 months (used to go through slices like candy). I rarely eat bread and only when I am out. I have lost about 20lbs since the beginning of the year and this experiment was a big part of it. “Live is an experiment. The more experiments you maker, the better.” Love this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson

  35. I love the suggestion to buy unshelled nuts to control the portion size!

    Last fall I decided to stop eating canola oil, soybean oil, & other seed oils – I didn’t make any other dietary changes at that time. My HDL increased 20 points – apparently from cooking my eggs in bacon grease instead of canola oil (and replacing salad dressings with olive oil/vineger). Does this sound familiar to anyone else?

  36. Well, this showed up in good time! I have already concluded through trial and error that I can’t tolerate dairy in some fashion, and actually fermented is the worst. Give me some full-fat yogurt, and watch me break out within days. The only thing I haven’t figured out yet is whether it would be better with grass-fed or not.

    I also want to play around with eliminating nuts, and sadly I think that means coconut, too. I ate too many raw nuts when I first went Primal and found out the hard, milk-of-magnesia-driven way, that I don’t digest them very easily at all. Less nuts has been an improvement, but now I’m curious to see what happens if I eat no nuts.

    I’m eating less meat because I’m trying to buy only from local farmers, and that’s what I can afford. It means that I have chicken and beef liver in my freezer, both foods that I love. I guess by default that means that I’m trying offal, and I’ll just stick to eating it 2x a week.

    I also am experimenting more with Primal Blueprint Fitness. I just read that when I find myself with more energy because I’m not worn out from Chronic Cardio, I shouldn’t exercise more, I should make my hard sessions harder. Hmmm… well that explains the problem I was having. Not exercising as much, having tons of energy, and getting hyper-restless and being unable to sleep. As part of that, it also means taking more walks with my husband and trying to play more at the beach (instead of just laying in the sun reading PB).

    Yeah, it’s all kind of at once. I’m considering it more like an elimination diet where I remove the things that I suspect are giving me grief and then slowly add them back in. I have some goat’s milk yogurt waiting for me to try when I think my system is cleaned out enough.

    That’s all I got. But I’m excited to see what kinds of results I get!

  37. I am fine with full-fat milk in my coffe or sour cream in my food… but straight full-fat yogurt gave me stomach ache and diarrhea.

    So, what is it – lactose, fat, protein?

    1. Probably not the lactose, since you can handle fresh milk, and probably not the fat, since you can tolerate milk and sour cream. Protein would be weird, too, again, because of the fresh milk.

      It could be the yogurt cultures. Or something particular to the yogurt you’re eating. Try switching brands? Or just skip the yogurt and don’t worry about it. 😉

  38. I love it, empowering people to think outside the box and try things out. Its definitely the best way to realise this works.

    I’ve been on a quest to maximise my energy and after much trial and error have found for me:

    – Sleep 7 hours is perfect, if less than 1x 20 mins nap
    – Exercise at lunch to burn off excess energy! sprint, kettle bells, walking or cycling
    – Eating protein at breakfast gives me constant energy (say 3 egg omelette with smoked salmon)
    – Eating offals (liver and kidney) is great: cost effective way of getting more protein, plus why should we kill an animal and not respect it by eating every part?

    Now I’ve quit my job to focus on quality time with family and ventures more true to what I believe, its time to experiment on getting maximum productivity and motivation!

  39. I was big cream (mostly for desert) for about a year and I didn’t feel bad (better than before I went primal), but I dropped it altogether in favor of dried fruit and nuts for deserts and I look and feel better.

    My experience is the less dairy the better and zero is best, but I know that’s not universal.

  40. Ah,ha! For 30 years I have been trying to figure out the origin of my problem with dairy. Oddly, if I eat dairy, it makes my hips painful and creaky. If I eat enough of it, I cannot walk anymore.

    I did figure out that I can eat goat cheese and this week tried milk from a Jersey cow which seemed fine so now Mark, you post that goat, sheep and Jersey cows have a different casein than common milk cows. I have not seen that information anywhere else. Yea! I think the mystery is solved. I can tolerate A2 beta casein but not A1 beta casein.

    Now I need to track down cheese made from Jersey cows. This makes me so happy to have this figured out. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  41. Alright, longtime reader, first time poster. And I love the idea of experimentation, but I’m a bit frustrated at the moment. I’ve been paleo/primal for about two years now – left a healthy (i.e. minimal processed crap) vegetarian diet of 12 years as a result of research into human nutrition. I’ve never been overweight and always been active, but I dropped only a little fat during the first six months and have been plateaued since. I’ve been a 16-hour IFer for a long time (most days), sometimes longer. But I can’t make things change any more! I don’t eat nuts, I’ve recently dropped the carbs down to 25 net daily, and I stick to 1600 calories daily (formerly 1800). I walk daily. I workout, but there are handfuls of fat still on my legs. What gives? (If anyone needs to know, I’m 34 and about 139 pounds.)

    I just bought a container of high-quality whey and have now started to wonder if that counts as dairy. I don’t eat too much dairy, but I do get butter cravings when I try to drop it altogether. Some studies show whey supplementation helps weight loss. Does it? I’d welcome any opinions on this matter, as my community has no primal or paleo people to whom I can talk about these things. Thanks guys!

    1. Forgot to add my height – I’m just over five foot nine.

      1. Maybe your body needs that fat. Have you read any of the stuff at

        5’9″ and 139 lbs sounds pretty dang thin to me, especially if you are fairly strong. And if you’re not strong even with all that exercise maybe your calorie and carb restrictions and IF are hindering you. It sounds like you are putting a lot of stress on your body.

        I’m also a first time commenter and I’m sorry if this is way off base or totally pisses you off.

    2. I know I’m going to get grief, but the best plan for me is paleo with my blood type diet specific foods. I just eliminate the non paleo food groups like grains, juice etc. I did strictly paleo for a few years but it wasn’t until I eliminated my blood type specific foods that I felt my best. I know people say there is no science behind it, but all the science I needed was what my body told me. Paleo/Blood type works like a charm

  42. Some of you may know me as one of Mark’s “Success Stories” featured in the softcover PB (aka Nick Laszlo). If you’re at all aware of my Primal journey, then you know that I’m no stranger to experimentation.

    Mu latest and I believe most compelling personal experiment is that I recently decided, after turning 50, to go genuine 99% Primal, while adding my own twist to the equation, the “twist” being that I have no given up all refined sugars, high-glycemic/high-fructose fruits, dairy, gluten, starchy carbs and all psycho-active drugs, which includes alcohol, caffeine, theobromine (similar to caffeine) found in chocolate, alcohol (for over 2 years now), nicotine (although I never smoked) and pretty much anything that makes me “feel good” artificially. The result has been that I have gotten to know myself in an unaltered psychological and emotional state, which I believe is the greatest Primal gift I could have given myself for my recent 50th birthday!

    Grok on, PB experimenters!


  43. Interesting post. With paleo I gained weight, so a week, I removed any type of nuts and yogurt (dairy product was single) but still I see no weight loss.

  44. Great post Mark! I personalized the Primal blueprint about a year ago and it’s been going great! It’s just cool to know that a cup of coffee in the morning is Primal! gotta love the boost.

  45. Personalized my Primal by eliminating nightshades because the first paleo/primal blog I read recommended doing so. I have not missed them and therefore have not added them back.
    I eat limited dairy in the form of grass fed butter and ghee and also a little bit of heavy cream about 2-4 ounces a week. And I eat breakfast every day, love breakfast, I eat fruit but limit it to about 2 serving a day.
    for exercise i walk, lift heavy things at least once a week and sprint a bit at least once a week

  46. Some tweaks to the Primal Bluprint way of life are absolutely necessary for those of us living in the north who enjoy nature and spend most of our time outdoors – with snow on the ground for 4-5 months out of the year.

    Mark’s recommendations fit very well with Grok, assuming he was close enough to the equator that seasonal temperature stress and lack of vegetables for many months out of the year did not effect him much. In the north the Primal Bluprint Plan can work, but there are some major adjustments. Dealing with the stress of the cold is the biggest one. Muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc, tend to get and remain stiffer in people as they age, and this is much worse in the colder climates. Sprinting once in a while in a colder climate tends to injure an older person easily; so does lifting heavy things. People in colder climates wear boots a lot and the structure of the feet and ankles becomes weak and inflexible. Knee problems can occur easily as a result. But people can make a habit of working on these areas when they are sufficiently warm. Thge use of a sauna followed by or combined with stretching, yoga, or pilates works well. Also, doing regular saunas during the colder months helps maintain the ability to sweat and detoxify through sweating – this is something that certainly diminishes in the average person as they age in a colder climate. Getting your antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients, during the winter, requires storing food in a way to maximize its nutrition content – fermenting vegetables and some fruits (chutneys), as summarized by Sallon Fallon, in Nourishing Traditions, is a good idea. A very valuable thing in the colder climates is a winter greenhouse, like those of Elliot Coleman, so fresh vegetables are available. Also, a self-sufficient lifestyle requires a lot of physical work in the north. You have to prepare for a long winter, or be at the mercy of conventional food. One of the best ways to be self-sufficient on the north is to build your own passive solar home. Otherwise you spend a lot of money on heating your home or chop a lot of wood.

    All said, with adjustments, following the Primal Bluprint up north can work well. Maybe mark will take a better look at these things and expand upon them in a future article.