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
Greetings, readers. It’s time to announce the publication of another book—called The New Primal Blueprint. Recognize the title? Yes, this is a comprehensive expansion, revision and update of the original 2009 bestseller, and the official name is indeed The New Primal Blueprint! And no, it’s not a mere reprint with me wearing a newer shirt and older smile on the cover. This publication is the culmination of a massive six-year R&D project involving several staff members (especially Brad Kearns, Managing Editor and Primal Blueprint Publishing sidekick), a team of researchers, several of the world’s leading Primal/paleo authors and experts, and you—yes, processing feedback from the collective experiences of Primal enthusiasts over the past seven years.
When I started this update/revision project over two years ago, my intention was to update the message, clean up some misunderstood topics, and cover some new ground on breaking subjects like gut health.
Alas, like many things we take on here in Primal-land, it ended up going big-time. And so I present to you a 584-page beast, full-color with extensive photographs, illustrations, cartoons, and graphs to deliver a most engaging and comprehensive read.
I can legitimately call this book my magnum opus, and I have no problem stating that this volume can stand as the ultimate comprehensive guide to living the Primal Blueprint lifestyle and gaining a total understanding what the Primal/paleo/ancestral health movement is all about. Even if you’ve read the original Primal Blueprint, I think you will get a kick out of this book and allow it to take the place of the original in your resource library.
As any devoted MDA reader knows, lots has changed in the last decade since the early days of the Primal/paleo movement. My team and I take pride in being open-minded, flexible, and adaptable to revising our positions and message in light of breaking science, as well as feedback from real live Primal enthusiasts. My favorite thing to do is dig into the research, engage with other thought leaders, evaluate feedback from Primal Blueprint enthusiasts and MDA readers, and carefully consider my stances to continually improve and chart an appealing course to health and happiness.
Thanks to events like PrimalCon, Paleo F(x) and the easy exchange of information over the Internet, I’m only a click or call away from the world’s leading experts on assorted subjects, and—believe me—I take advantage of my rolodex with unabashed questioning and debating when I’m compelled.
For example, Katy Bowman convinced me that increasing and varying everyday movement is just as important as a formal cardio regimen. Dr. Phil Maffetone convinced me that his “180-age” formula for aerobic maximum heart rate is the end-all calculation to develop a fat-burning beast and avoid the perils of chronic cardio. Kelly Starrett convinced me that devoting time to flexibility/mobility is just as important to fitness as hitting the gym and the sprints regularly. Finally, Dr. Cate Shanahan helped me become a little more flexible in my promotion of the values on the Primal Blueprint Carbohydrate Curve to allow for individual variation and optimization of carb intake—especially for females wishing to avoid thyroid and hormonal problems relating to sudden and extreme carb restriction after decades of high-carb eating.
In this post, I’ll provide details and rationale for the recent revisions to the Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid and Primal Blueprint Fitness Pyramid, as well as discuss some key areas of the new book that have been expanded or revised from the original hardcover Primal Blueprint in 2009 and the paperback update in 2012.
See what you think, and feel free to comment—I read and consider them all!
The new bullet points attempt to provide an at-a-glance education about the benefits of Primal eating. We’ve done a bit of tidying up of the descriptions and benefits in the food categories but no major policy shifts or big surprises. On account of de-emphasizing the O6:O3 ratio concerns relating to healthy foods like nuts (more shortly), I emphasize the Primal Blueprint’s acceptance of all nuts and seeds, toning down the previous distinction of macadamia nuts as superior because they are higher in monounsaturated fat (and lower in omega-6 fats) than other nuts and seeds. Supplemental carbs for athletes is renamed to “high nutrient value carbs”—an acceptable choice for anyone who feels the need for these foods and additional dietary carbs in general.
The main revision here was to rename Primal Blueprint Law #3 to “Move Frequently” instead of the previous “Move Frequently at a Slow Pace.” Previously, my Law #3 message emphasized doing aerobic workouts at the proper heart rate, with only a casual mention of the importance of moving around more in daily life. The new pyramid makes an effort to broaden the concept of Move Frequently to emphasize not only structured cardio workouts, but general everyday movement and the assorted physical endeavors categorized as Flexibility/mobility.
In today’s sedentary world, moving more is everything. The active couch potato syndrome is the real deal, and it ain’t pretty. In short, even if you are devoted to fitness with a faithful daily slog on the road or trip to the gym, you aren’t immune to the negative effects of lengthy stretches of inactivity—commutes, desk jobs and digital entertainment leisure time. The new Flexibility/mobility section is where those complementary fitness activities enter the picture: Pilates, yoga, tai chi, gymnastics, dancing, self myofascial release with rollers and balls, general stretching, and customized mobility/physical therapy exercises to address your particular prevention or healing concerns.
Regarding the optimal heart rate for aerobic activities, we’ve decided to depart from calculations based on maximum heart rate (Previously, the Primal Blueprint specified 55-75% of max heart rate as the aerobic exercise zone) and instead promote Dr. Phil Maffetone’s 180-age = maximum aerobic heart rate formula. Dr. Maffetone is the undisputed leader in this realm, and his formula is easier and more effective than calculating exercise intensity off of maximum heart rate. There is too much potential for error going off max heart rate, especially overestimating your aerobic limit.
Primal Endurance goes into great detail on this concept, because it’s so important for everyone who does cardio to essentially slow down and ensure they are burning fat, instead of allowing heart rate to creep up, introduce more glucose burning and stress hormone production into supposedly comfortable workouts and—over time—drift into a destructive chronic exercise pattern.
It’s pretty simple: subtract your age from 180, get your magic number, and honor that limit during your cardio sessions. (There are some adjustment factors for certain individuals, detailed in Primal Endurance or in Dr. Maffetone’s work.) You will likely have to slow way down from the typical indiscriminate pace of most joggers, cyclists and gym equipment users. By doing so, you will experience what it’s really like to become an efficient fat burner instead of being overstressed and carbohydrate dependent.
“Lift heavy things” and “sprint once in a while” stand strong as the preferred exercises to build or preserve lean muscle mass, optimize fat metabolism and hormonal function, promote organ reserve, and support bone density.
Various types of strength training—from the simple Primal Essential Movements to Jacques Devore’s cutting-edge Maximum Sustained Power training—work for Lift Heavy Things, but you have to put your body under load regularly to stay strong.
Similarly, sprinting once in a while stimulates that desirable brief fight-or-flight response, the spike of adaptive hormones like growth hormone and testosterone coursing through your bloodstream, and helps you blast through body composition plateaus like no other exercise. When you sprint, even just once in a while, you become stronger and more resilient in mind and body—not only for sprinting, but also for all types of exercise at lower intensities.
Here are several other topics from the book that are additions or revisions from the original publication.
Chapter 1 – Shout out to the hatahs: I spent a little time clarifying my position against detractors who have misinterpreted the Primal Blueprint as me manipulating evolutionary science into a regimented program. I totally appreciate experts with carefully considered opinions and health approaches that differ from mine. Heck, my old buddy from the professional triathlon scene, Rip Esselstyn, is killing it with his Engine 2 Diet and line of food products seen at Whole Foods. We differ on material matters like the role that whole grains and saturated fat play in healthy eating, but by and large this guy is motivating and inspiring people to be “plant strong,” so all the power to him.
However, when the book Paleofantasy attacks the paleo diet as a farce because our ancestors ate all kinds of different diets, or when the book Cult Diets asserts that because no single diet is a perfect fit for everyone that Primal/paleo is ill-advised, I say: “Wait a sec, man!” These are exactly the arguments I make as to why regimented diets are illogical—and why I insist that we must discover our own optimal eating habits within the framework of evolutionary health principles.
Chapter 1 – Genetics: I have provided further clarification for the rationale that we should model our lifestyle behaviors after our hunter-gatherer ancestors for purposes relating to health and directing optimal gene expression because we are genetically identical to them. This assertion is often misinterpreted, and examples that “humans are still evolving” are bantered about.
Really, we are getting into a semantic argument when we consider the effects of genetic drift and global population expansion on the human genome. I discuss the interesting examples of rapid genetic changes like lactase persistence among those of herding ancestry, the lightening of skin pigment for those migrating further from the equator (believed to have happened between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago—after a couple million years of humans being black), and the varied ability to digest starch based on prevalence of the AMY1 gene (a salivary enzyme). Gene expression is still strongly influenced by the environment, and there is no selection pressure to stimulate true DNA change in the manner of Darwinian evolution (I explain this further in case it’s been a while since middle school science class).
Another addition addresses the idea bantered about that humans might be devolving from adverse modern lifestyle practices. Again, we are not technically de-evolving, but a growing body of research suggests that genetic changes caused by environment can be passed to offspring through epigenetic transgenerational inheritance. Yep, binging on ice cream during your pregnancy can promote insulin resistance in your little one. Scary stuff, but again a confirmation that we are in control of our gene expression by making the right diet, exercise and lifestyle choices.
Chapter 1 – Primal/paleo rationale: A commonly cited paleo litmus test is if a food didn’t exist 10,000 years ago, you shouldn’t eat it—the rationale being that we have not had sufficient time to adapt genetically to “modern” foods. This assertion usually makes sense, but it is not stand-alone valid.
The reason we should not eat certain modern foods like grains, sugars and refined high polyunsaturated vegetable oils is because they are unhealthy, not necessarily because we haven’t genetically adapted to them. Hence, I had to do a bit of cleanup on my breezy language from years ago to highlight this distinction. Recall, however, that I have from the start taken a more relaxed approach than traditional paleo dogma, arguing that certain modern foods are acceptable to consume because they offer nutritional benefits and no health objections—like high-fat dairy products and dark chocolate.
Furthermore, throughout evolution, humans have encountered brand new foods that we have not genetically adapted to, but that are healthy, and we have thrived consuming them. Thanks, Matt LaLonde, for pressing this point very well in recent years.
Another message cleanup (thanks, Tracy Kearns, for the challenge) came during the frequent mention of the evolutionary model as inspiration for peak performance and longevity today. This is a bit of a stretch, or literal disconnect, because the ultimate goal of evolution is simply to survive long enough to reproduce. Since any video-gaming, candy-chomping teenager can reproduce just as successfully as an Olympic sprinter or PhD mathematician, surviving to reproductive age is not a lofty accomplishment today.
Instead, we must appreciate the nuance of applying the evolutionary model to make lifestyle decisions that honor our genes, but taking the spirit of the Primal Blueprint many steps further in order to promote longevity, happiness and management of the unrelenting stress of modern life.
Cases in point: the orthorexia phenomenon warns us that it’s not good enough to eat foods off the “yes” list and avoid foods on the “no” list; you have an obligation to yourself and your loved ones to enjoy the process of healthy eating and experience the joy and complete satisfaction provided by nutritious foods and celebratory meals (shouldn’t every meal be a celebration? It was for our ancestors). Similarly, over-exercising (even if it’s moving frequently, lifting heavy things, and sprinting once in a while) might generate a sequence of short-term positive gene expression events, but will lead you right to burnout instead of happiness and longevity.
Bottom line: I encourage you to live according to the Primal Blueprint principles, but I insist that you enjoy yourself along the way!
Chapter 3 – Omega-6:Omega-3 ratio: The dietary omega-6:omega-3 ratio has long been a hot topic in Primal/paleo circles. The basic notion is that we consume vastly excessive amounts of omega-6 in relation to omega-3. This imbalance promotes inflammation in the body because omega-6s deliver a pro-inflammatory effect and omega-3s are the anti-inflammatory powerhouses. Unfortunately, the concept has been oversimplified to the extent that omega-6s are seen as “bad.”
The true concern is that many unhealthy foods are high in omega-6, such as refined high polyunsaturated vegetable oils and packaged grain-based snacks and prepared meals. The problem is not the consumption of omega-6 per se, but the consumption of those unhealthy, pro-inflammatory foods that are high in omega-6. Furthermore, pro-inflammatory mechanisms in the body are critical to health; the key is to keep inflammation in balance, not to suppress inflammation in general. While it’s a good idea to obtain ample amounts of dietary omega-3 (the main dietary source is oily, coldwater fish), there is no reason to eschew healthy sources of omega-6 (nuts, seeds, nut butters) in the quest to improve your ratio.
Chapter 4 – Optimal protein consumption: The long-standing consensus recommendation for average daily protein intake (supported by both The Primal Blueprint and mainstream dietary resources) is now being called into question by respected primal/paleo types as it might be an overestimation, and detrimental to our health. It’s obvious that we must meet our minimum needs to ensure the health of our tissues and organs. Otherwise we enter a catabolic state, break down lean muscle mass and compromise immune function. That minimum need to support basic metabolism is agreed to be around .5 grams per pound (1.1 grams per kilogram) of lean mass.
From there, most resources promote the idea that your protein requirements escalate according to your activity level. So calculating off the basic requirement of .5 grams, a moderately active person might want .7 grams per pound (1.5 grams per kilo), while a highly active person is recommended to reach one gram per pound (2.2 grams per kilo) to ensure adequate health and recovery from exercise.
Dr. Ron Rosedale, a leading voice in the concerns about excess protein, suggests that .5 grams of protein per pound of lean mass is plenty for everyone. He believes that even high protein demand people (the highly active, growing teens and pregnant women) need only add 5-10 grams per day to that calculation to ensure optimal protein intake. When you slam your body with excess protein—more than it needs to fulfill the growth and repair functions that are the primary uses for protein—it works hard to either excrete it or convert it into carbohydrates via gluconeogenesis, which are then used for energy (or, if you’re in a calorie surplus, stored as fat).
The conversion of excess protein into glucose will compromise your fat-loss goals, and essentially turn anything considered a high-protein diet into a high-carbohydrate diet in reality (due to gluconeogenesis). What’s more, excess protein consumption continually primes you for accelerated cellular division and growth, instead of the more natural pattern of varying between anabolic (repair, rejuvenation, growth), catabolic (breakdown from exercise and life stressors) and metabolic (normal chemical reactions producing energy).
Chapter 4 – Carbohydrate intake: There’s been some pushback against adhering to a strict low-carb paleo eating pattern as many enthusiasts, especially females, have reported adverse effects from cutting carbs. A sudden and/or significant reduction in carbohydrate intake has been blamed for thyroid problems, fatigue, and even disturbances in gut health. While there is never any rationale to consuming refined, nutrient-devoid carbs like grains, sugars and sweetened beverages, the inclusion of high nutrient value carbohydrates into the diet is certainly acceptable by the Primal Blueprint.
The level of your intake is probably best determined by personal preference. That said, the widely adopted Primal Blueprint Carbohydrate Curve will still accurately predict your success or failure with reaching and maintaining your ideal body composition. If you are interested in losing excess body fat, the surest path to get there is to reduce total carbohydrate intake, which reduces insulin production and enables you to access and burn stored body fat. The upper limit of the maintenance range is 150 grams per day, which allows for an abundant intake of vegetables, sensible intake of seasonal fruit, and an ample amount of incidental carbs from primal-approved foods like nuts, seeds and dark chocolate.
What I used to call “Supplemental carbs for athletes” is now called “High nutrient value carbs.” This category includes sweet potatoes, squash and other starchy tuber vegetables, wild rice and quinoa. My effort here was to reposition the big picture on carb intake to be less strict and more left to personal preference.
If you are trying to lose excess body fat, the most direct path is to moderate carb intake. There is no call for anyone to consume grains, sugars, sweetened beverages or other highly processed, high-carb fare, ever.
Chapter 4 – Ketones: With ketogenic eating and endurance training being such a hot topic today, the discussion has been greatly expanded. In particular, I emphasize how glucose burns “dirty” in your body, creating considerable metabolic waste products, inflammation and oxidative damage; while fat and ketones burn “clean.” Glucose is metabolized quickly and easily for energy, but mitochondria and oxygen are not required for glucose burning. Hence, you can lose out on the free-radical protection that mitochondria provide during calorie burning.
When you are locked in a carbohydrate dependency diet, your mitochondria can actually atrophy. This atrophy increases your susceptibility to all forms of oxidative stress, not just from diet but also from chronic exercise, pollution and the stress of hectic modern life. Note: glucose can also be burned with oxygen and mitochondria, but even then more free radicals are generated in comparison to burning fat and ketones.
The best way to optimize mitochondrial function and protect yourself against general free radical damage is to become fat- and keto-adapted. Utilizing lots of oxygen and mitochondria to metabolize calories, requiring fewer calories to survive (because insulin and hunger hormones are moderated when you are fat adapted), engaging in Intermittent Fasting, and dipping into that rarified state of ketone burning—even if it’s just occasionally—all support mitochondrial biogenesis. Mitochondrial biogenesis is the manufacture of additional mitochondria (and optimizing the functioning of existing mitochondria) to better diffuse the oxidative stress of burning calories and simply being a living, breathing human.
Ketone burning has been shown by science to facilitate rapid fat reduction, improve the function and development of mitochondria (the energy centers of our cells), exert a potent anti-inflammatory effect, improve immune function, boost cellular repair, control epilepsy, deliver assorted benefits to cognitive function (especially for those with dementia, autism and ADHD), and even fight cancer (by starving cancer cells of their main fuel, glucose.)
Check out The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Dr. Steven Phinney and Dr. Jeff Volek for a comprehensive education with scientific detail about the wonders of ketones for the aforementioned conditions, and watch Dr. Dom D’Agostino’s TEDx Talk “Starving Cancer” for details on that subject. Interestingly, the therapeutic benefits of ketone burning have prompted the manufacture of consumable sources of ketones, allowing one to override the delicate macronutrient restrictions and achieve elevated blood ketone levels.
Chapter 5 – Prebiotics and probiotics: This all-new section details the burgeoning health concept that connects the state of the bacteria in your intestinal tract to various diseases, and how many doctors now consider microbial diversity (how many different types of gut microbes you have—more is better) to be an important health marker. The immune system in particular depends upon a healthy balance of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, a state characterized by a predominance of “friendly” bacteria over the “bad” bacteria that can cause illness.
Contrary to the oversimplified layman’s view of germs and bacteria as universally bad and dangerous, our bodies are constantly covered and populated by all manner of germs and bacteria, both good and bad—no matter how hard we try to scrub and cleanse everything we eat and touch.
Beneficial bacteria are the most important line of defense for your immune system. They help quell inflammation, neutralize toxic substances, turn fiber into special health-promoting fatty acids, and even produce important nutrients like B vitamins and vitamin K. Interestingly, 90 percent of the production of your body’s critical “feel good” neurotransmitter serotonin happens in the gut, regulated by intestinal enterochromaffin (EC) cells and other forms of intestinal bacteria. Gut microbes also produce other adaptive hormones like dopamine and noradrenaline.
In this lengthy section, I talk thru the particulars of probiotics (fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, fermented soy products like miso and tempeh), kombucha drinks and even dark chocolate) and also explain how prebiotics (aka resistant starch such as potato starch, cooked and cooled rice or potatoes, or green bananas) are metabolized by bifidobacteria in the colon into a short-chain fatty acid called butyrate—the prime energy source for your colonic cells. Butyrate communicates with your immune system, helping to regulate inflammatory processes. Resistant starch consumption has also been shown to boost insulin sensitivity, improve the integrity of your gut lining (combating the aforementioned leaky gut), reduce fasting blood sugar levels, and lessen the glucose and insulin responses to high-carb meals.
Chapter 6 – Hydration: The original Primal Blueprint position was to simply obey your thirst. Indeed, your body’s thirst mechanism does an excellent job dictating when and how much to drink, and your kidneys do an excellent job regulating fluid balance in your body even when fluid intake is not ideal.
It’s difficult to become dehydrated, because your thirst mechanism kicks in big time long before you reach a level of dehydration where your health is at risk. There is a much greater risk of hyponatremia these days—an overconsumption of fluid such that your sodium levels are dangerously diluted. There have been several reported cases of inexperienced marathon runners hydrating obsessively to the extent that they became comatose or died from hyponatremia.
Here’s the thing: it’s difficult to become dehydrated, but for ambitious fitness enthusiasts or those performing work in hot climates, it’s possible to mute the ideal function of your thirst mechanism and get into a pattern of insufficient fluid intake and some minor, perhaps chronic, level of dehydration.
The work of Dr. Stacy Sims at Stanford and the aggressive promotion of hydration as a more nuanced concept by Dr. Kelly Starrett, author of Becoming a Supple Leopard and Deskbound and purveyor of MobilityWOD.com, have been instrumental as I’ve refined my position to offer some strong caveats and elaboration from the oversimplified, “obey your thirst, like Grok” initial position.
Optimal hydration is about being sensible and strategic in addition to being highly aware and responsive to your thirst mechanism. Furthermore, it’s critical to pay attention to your sodium balance to the extent that optimal hydration entails not just slamming water, but including a bit of salt with each serving. It’s been found that adding a bit of carbohydrate to your fluid can enhance absorption. That said, there is no call to go purchase popular energy or sports drinks that are typically grossly excessive in carbohydrate intake. You can simply prepare a pitcher or bottle of water and add a pinch of salt and perhaps a few drops of honey or other sweetener and do just fine. Anything beyond a bit of carbohydrate will actually slow absorption in the intestines.
Folks, there are plenty more improvements you will appreciate as an original Primal Blueprint reader, so much so that I really encourage you to update your library with this new volume and give it a read.
I have a collection of my favorite go-to books that I read over and over (perhaps I’ll do a post on this someday, hmmm…) as I believe we retain less information than we realize, and that repetition of the really important stuff is the best way to master material. Besides, with the colorful photos, drawings, charts and graphs, it’s fun to just sit down and skim through pages and let the Primal Blueprint wash all over you. Check out the special offer below and consider “upgrading” your library, or going all-in for the first time, with The New Primal Blueprint.
Enjoy an excerpt here.
Per Mark’s Daily Apple tradition, I’ve put together an exciting limited-time offer for my new book release.
A coupon for a free bottle of PRIMAL KITCHEN™ Ranch dressing at PrimalBlueprint.com: Use this coupon to pick up a FREE bottle of our newest PRIMAL KITCHEN™ creation and the holy grail of dressings: ranch! This dairy-free ranch is an uncompromisingly delicious, rich, full-flavored, and oh, so healthy dressing. Using 100% pure avocado oil as a base, our ranch includes only the finest health-enhancing, all-natural ingredients, including organic garlic, onion, dill, cage-free organic eggs, black pepper and chives. And that means no dairy, no buttermilk, gluten, soy, canola or sugar in sight. So go ahead and finally enjoy your childhood favorite again! No guilt here.
A digital download of The Primal Slow Cooker Cookbook: I know you folks are busy with the kids and work and workouts, so I’ve put together this collection of broths and slow-cooked, nutritious and delicious meals that will be ready for eating when you walk through the door. Enjoy creations like Chicken Adobe with Coconut Aminos, and Tender Braised Brisket with Caramelized Onions and Tomatoes.
How’s that for a bonus bundle?