“Apps aren’t paleo, Sisson. Grok waited for days for aurochs to wander within spear-chucking range, not overnight for the release of the iPhone X.” True. But this is the world we live in. These are the tools we have.
If you’re going to lug around an addictive piece of tech in your pocket all day, it might as well contain some apps that make living healthy and living Primal easier, rather than harder. What follows are some of the best paleo/Primal apps I’ve found. Some I use, some I don’t. They’re not all explicitly “paleo,” but they’re all at least tangentially related to this thing we call the pursuit of optimal health and happiness.
Apnea Trainer (iOS, Android) is meant for free-divers, spearfishers, abalone hunters, and anyone interesting in increasing their lung capacity. It also has a “pranayama” setting that promotes a more meditative breathing pattern. Tim Ferriss turned me on to this, which he uses in an “off-label” manner as a replacement for meditation when he doesn’t have the time.
I’ve written about the potential benefits of meditation many times before, but I’ve never been able to get into it myself. Last year I gave you some alternatives to formal sitting meditation, and if I went back and wrote that one again I’d probably add Apnea Trainer to the list. It’s a great way to center yourself, do some deep diaphragmatic breathing, take a few minutes out of the day to get present, and improve your lung capacity in the process.
Interval Timer (iOS) is exactly what it sounds like: a simple, no-nonsense interval timer. Completely customizable, so you can make any type of interval. 5 seconds on, 10 seconds off? You can do it. 2 minutes on, 1 minute off? Easy peasy.
There aren’t any bells, whistles, frills, or widgets, and that’s totally fine with me. You don’t need any. All that fluff just takes away from you, the work period, and the rest period. I’m sure other interval timer apps are perfectly fine and perhaps even have more functionality than the basic Interval Timer. This one’s free, so give it a shot and if it doesn’t meet with your expectations, try another.
The iPhone’s standard clock app is niftier than most realize. Rather than the wakeup alarm—which I try to avoid and usually succeed in doing—I like the bedtime alarm it has.
You choose when you want to wake up, how much sleep you need, and it determines a bedtime for you, backed up with an alert telling you to get yourself to bed. My only quibble is that it also includes a wakeup alert, or alarm clock that can’t be turned off or disabled.
If you’re like me and hate morning alarm clocks, use the basic “Reminder” app to set a bedtime reminder that repeats every day. If you like morning alarms, use the Bedtime Alert feature on the Clock App.
Nom Nom Paleo
There are other paleo/Primal recipe apps out there. Many, I’m sure, are quite good and full of incredible recipes. It’s just that I’ve tried a lot of the recipes from Nom Nom Paleo over the years, and I’ve never been disappointed. Not once.
Each recipe gets the full multimedia treatment, with stunning step-by-step photos and technique videos. Or if you just want the basics, the recipe cards give you the crucial information—ingredients, amounts, directions—you need to shop, cook, and eat. There’s even a 30-day meal plan included.
Zero (iOS) is a fasting tracker. You choose the fasting regimen you prefer—16-hour long fast, a “circadian rhythm fast,”or create your own schedule, then hit “start” and hit “stop” when you eat something. Over time, you accumulate reams of exportable data, which you can plot against bodyweight changes and relevant health markers to spot trends and identify connections.
I don’t use it personally. I’m not a quantified self guy, nor do I need any special assistance following a fasting schedule. Truth be told, I don’t even really follow a set schedule. I eat WHEN—when hunger ensues naturally. Yet, I can see where an app like Zero could help people just getting started.
Anytime I’m in a new area and have a few hours to kill, I’ll fire up AllTrails (iOS, Android) and see if there are any interesting trails nearby. I do this partially because I love to hike and take every opportunity to do it, especially if it’s someplace new. It’s also a key component of my anti-jetlag strategy which revolves around circadian entrainment to the new timezone. Physical activity alone is a strong entrainer of circadian rhythm. Physical activity outdoors in natural sunlight is an even better entrainer of circadian rhythm.
You can filter the trails by difficulty, dog- or kid-friendliness, length, busyness, and route type.
How many times have you uttered the words, “Is it paleo?” How often does someone who knows you as the resident Primal expert ask it of you?
This is probably old hat to most of you. You can probably scan an aisle of food and immediately analyze the paleo-ness of the ingredients, complete with Terminator-style HUD readouts. Many of you have the answers.
In case you don’t have it, however, Paleo (io)(iOS,Android) does. A simple “yes” or “no,” that is. You can also search the app’s paleo food database of over 3000 foods to get more information.
Keto Diet Tracker
With keto gaining adherents and dabblers by the day, apps are popping up everywhere. Keto Diet Tracker (iOS, Android) looks to be the best of the bunch.
Pair this one with Paleo (io) for maximum accuracy. Use Keto Diet Tracker to identify the keto-friendliness of your food, then run that through a Paleo (io) filter.
It does require a monthly subscription. Quite a modest price, but make sure you know how to cancel your subscription in case it’s not a good fit for your preferences.
While its intended audience is the CRON (calorie restriction with optimal nutrition) crowd, most of whom tend to be vagualy plant-based, the app is just a solid nutrition tracker that provides a lot of detailed information relevant to any type of eater. It’s fun to enter a half a pound of beef liver and see your vitamin A, folate, and B-vitamin requirements instantly satisfied.
A music app may not seem relevant to this list. Remember though: this is about health, happiness, and wellness, not just diet and exercise. A music app like Spotify (iOS, Android) offers major benefits to any Primal fan.
You can vibe to the music. Much of the best music attempts to capture the harmony of life, the rhythms to which we’re all subject.
You can dance. Nothing more Primal than moving your body to the rhythm that permeates all being.
You can sing along. Singing is repeatedly shown to be beneficial for elderly folks, particularly those with neurodegenerative diseases. I see no reason why those benefits wouldn’t apply to younger people as well. It’s been shown to improve heart rate variability, for example. But beyond all that is the basic joy of it. Song is a human universal; there must be a good reason to do it so much.
Those are the ten paleo/Primal smartphone apps that I’ve found most useful, interesting, and promising. What are yours? Thanks for stopping by today.
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.