Primal Blueprint Success Story

I got this message from a reader who has been following our site for some time and decided to incorporate my Primal Blueprint ® lifestyle tactics into his life. Photos, results and advice follow…

Hello Mark,

I have been following your blog for quite a while now, and am very grateful for all the information you share over here. I have changed my lifestyle significantly over the last 8 months or so, under the influence of the information on this site, and based on the Evolutionary Fitness ideas of Arthur de Vany (through whom I heard of you).

I have a question about gene expression and the ribbed look. I will get to in just a moment, but first I need to share a bit about the context I am coming from.

Over the last 8 months, I have made gradual changes to my lifestyle. Nowadays, I have by-and-large cut out the empty calories from my diet. On most days, I eat eggs and fruit for breakfast, a big salad for lunch (inspired by you!), and light meats and vegetables for dinner. My snacks comprise of nuts and berries. I also occasionally skip a meal, based on the Art de Vany’s Intermittent Fasting idea.

I workout three times a week, doing mainly Art de Vany’s Hierarchical Sets. I also play soccer and cricket for around 3-4 hours over the weekends, and on other days I keep active by walking around the neighborhood, or sprinting up flights of stairs, or cleaning out the house, etc.

Of course, my lifestyle is not ‘primal perfect’, and I do have the occasional dessert or cookie. And sometimes I treat myself to a little sugar in my coffee. But the volume of these things is orders of magnitude less than it was a year ago. Also, I live in India, and this is a very grain based society. So a lot of the seafood and other sources of good proteins are simply not available here or are prohibitively expensive. So I do the best I can with what is available. And that is but an approximation to your daily diet.

The results, nonetheless, have been extremely encouraging. I now really need a whole new wardrobe: my old jeans just slip right off! I have had to get two extra notches on my belt. And I am also much stronger and quicker on the soccer field: I now regularly win the ‘strength battles’ which are common on a soccer field, while I use to regularly lose them earlier. I am also much healthier than I was before: my body now responds exceptionally well to the inevitable occasional external stresses (late nights, hectic days, etc.) that are a part of life. I have pictures of myself over the year that speak for themselves. Unfortunately this forum does not enable me to attach them.

After that elaborate preface, I finally come to my question. As I mentioned, I have lost a lot of weight. I am now around 6′ tall, weigh around 140lbs, and my waist size is a tad less than 32? (it used to be 36? at one point). As you can imagine, I look quite thin. The muscle I can feel (based on the tightness of my shirt sleeves and chest) does not really show. And above all, I still have a thin layer of flab around my belly and the back of my arms. While this flab has reduced dramatically over the months, it has been quite stable for a while now. I simply don’t have that ‘ribbed’ look that I would really like.

I have read that in order to have the ribbed look, one’s body fat must be less than 10% . I have also read that based on genetic disposition, it could be very hard for some people to get their body fat less than 10% . I know that you firmly hold the position that how we express our genes is a key determinant on our health and fitness, but yet you do concede that genetics do play a factor.

Based on my experience, I am beginning to wonder whether I am reaching the limit of my ‘genetic allowance’ . Is it feasible that some people simply will not look ribbed no matter what they do? Or is it simply a matter of time? If so, what is a realistic amount of time before a once modern-looking (apple shaped, flabby) individual begins to look like a ribbed primal man once the primal lifestyle has been established?

Thanks for the time you take in sharing your wisdom and knowledge. It has made a huge difference to my life, and that of those around me (they can’t help getting inspired 🙂 ) .


PS: I am a 24 year old male. After reading through my post, I thought that this might be relevant.

Before we get to Apurva’s photos I want to commend him for all the steps he has made to lead a healthy lifestyle. It sounds like he is on track to getting in shape. As the photos attest, he is doing just that.

Photo 1: This was taken several months before I heard about Primal Health or Evolutionary fitness. I used to eat the usual (Indian) diet of lots of grains, with vegetables, and with minimal protein and fruit. I did not work out, though I used to swim and play soccer. I used to enjoy my sweets, and ate a lot of them at that point.

Photo 2: [This was] taken just this morning. At this point, I think my food pyramid is the close to Mark’s. My activity cycle is also pretty close. The only difference in the diet is that I cannot get as much variety in protein sources over here, so that is a bit less than is perhaps ideal. As I mentioned in the post, these days I eat fruits and eggs for breakfast, a big salad for lunch, and a light dinner of chicken/fish and vegetables.

First off I want to say, congratulations, Apurva! In a matter of months you have gone from chubby to trim by making a few simple lifestyle changes. Many of our readers have had similar experiences. I am always very happy to hear success stories from my blog readers. In fact, anyone out there that would like their results to be featured in a blog post or simply would like personalized advice I’d be glad to help you reach your goals. Just shoot me a line. Back to Apurva…

Luckily for Apurva I’ve already addressed his questions generally in the following posts:

The Secret to Great Abs
How Long Do I Have to Exercise to See Results?
Dear Mark: Hardgainer

But let’s be a little more specific here:

To get the ripped, cut, shredded look you want you will, as you acknowledge, have to lose fat. You have started the process and it will only continue as you stay on the Primal Blueprint program. Your immediate goal is to build more muscle while you burn more body fat. In terms of your diet, I would aim for at least 140-160 grams of protein a day (200 is even better), at least 100 grams of healthy fat, and try to make up the rest of your daily intake with vegetables and a little fruit (berries are best). I would recommend a 45-day commitment to eliminating refined carbs and sugars. I’d also cut back on alcohol. Once you achieve your goal, you can slack off a little with minimal damage. Or you can stick with it and move to the next level.

No matter how hard you work out you may not be genetically predisposed to ever look like Bruce Lee. Then again, his 2% body fat was just too low for good health! For you, 8-10% is well within reach. But to get there sooner, you will probably have to work a little harder and longer than you have been up to now. Again, make a 45-day commitment to training just a little harder in the gym. More compound exercises to stimulate HGH and lift heavier weights with fewer repetitions to total muscle failure in order to build muscle. I’d do three days a week (alternating days) of that. Two days a week, I would do some kind of intense running intervals – see my beach sprints video for more info – but you could also do “stadium steps” where you sprint up several flights of stairs as hard as you can for 10 sets (always after a warm-up). You can still play soccer or cricket on the weekends. On a side note, as an alternative to gym workouts, you can get the best home-workout system around: the P90X designed and hosted by my very good friend Tony Horton. Sort of a CrossFit at home series.

You have been doing a great job. To see further results it will just take some fine tuning to the changes you have already made. As you say, the results have been extremely encouraging. Keep us posted.

Further Reading:

Skinny Fat

Magnificent Muscle

Matt Metzgar: Undermuscled

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15 thoughts on “Primal Blueprint Success Story”

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  1. Congratulations on your progress, Apruva!

    Reading Mark’s recommendation of “P90X” (and the quick look I took at the site) tempted me to post this comment to point you to Ross Enamait’s website and especially his books, which are the best resources that I know of if you’Re looking for a great collection of dumbbell and bodyweight exercises and a lot of great information on strength training and conditioning in general and program design – although his books are really written for combat athletes, I would recommend them to anyone interested in strength training and fitness. the website is

  2. Apruva you are doing great. Now is the hardest time for you because it’s easy to become discouraged when progress slows and the really hard work begins. Don’t stop, you are well on your way.

    Mark’s advise to you is spot on in my experience. Hard strength training using heavy weights and “big” movements – squats, bench press, dead lifts, dips, pullups, two to three times per week with some intense cardio mixed in. Then cut the processed foods – especially the carbs.

    Please post again in the future and let us know how you are doing.

  3. Thanks for featuring me on your blog Mark. And thanks all the more for your wonderful suggestions!

    I think the hardest part will be to totally cut out refined carbs and sugars for 45 days. But it is not impossible and I am confident of mustering the discipline I need to achieve that goal.

    I am also intrigued by the p90x fitness system and am considering trying it out, even though I am generally skeptical of anything promising such magical results in just 90 days. Your stadium steps recommendation is also very do-able and I am going to start on that right away!

    I will be in a state of complete flux for the next 3 months since I will be shifting my residence and starting anew on a totally different continent (From South Asia to North America). So that makes it doubly hard to make the push that I need right now. Nonetheless, I promise to share my experience with you guys as and when I implement the suggestions and have observable results.

    Thanks once more!

  4. Great job–congrats!! My story is almost a complete duplicate of yours–found Mark, then Devany, big salad bowl, lost 36 pounds. I still have a way to go before I have to worry about being ripped. I don’t have any nekkid “before” pictures but I’ll put something up eventually that will show the transition. Some other random comments:

    1. I’ve watched the P90X videos. It’s some hard core stuff. I do believe if you do everything as prescribed they can go a long way towards achieving your goals.

    2. Mark – you mentioned in the post that you do your weight training “to failure.” What’s your feeling about that in contrast to Art’s suggestion not to do so? And unless I’ve missed it, I’d sure like to see details on exactly what you do in the gym. Hard to argue with that photo in the abs post! 🙂

    3. Totally different subject. It seems it was around 15-17 years ago that I needed to use “gopher” so I bought a book that was labeled as the “internet bible” at that time. Around Chapter 8 or so there was a mention of this up and coming thing known as the World Wide Web. I’m just floored by how you were able to make such an impact on a person that you have never met living half way around the world. Amazing!

  5. Mark-

    140, 160, 200 grams of protein a day? Do you think there was that much protein (mostly animal protein) to support that type of protein intake for our ancestors?

  6. Hi Mark

    Probably one of the most informative sites I have seen.

    Are you really friends with Tony Horton? His P90X workout changed my life.

    Are you a Beachbody Coach?

    I did not see anywhere on your site where it says you are. Thought it would be a good way to track the people you help.

    Anyways, I’ll be back here again.



  7. Mark,

    I am doing p90x. After day 60, around same time after discovering primal blueprint, i cut down my p90x workout in half, i.e 24 sets to 12 intense sets removing workout where i did not feel the intensity.
    i do abs only twice rather than thrice. Similar eating plan but no carbs like pb style but consume fat instead. increased veggie intake. omega3,vitamins etc.
    Do u think it is optimal for muscle gain? or am i doing less.Its been about 75 days and i got a good strength increase but no difference in size. I do not have access to bench press or barbell or gym at the moment.
    I am 5′ 6″ weigh in at a poor 120 lbs.
    accumeasure measures arnd 13-14 mm.

    Thanks to Apurva for bringing this up.
    I know its really difficult in India, i grew up eating grains, for about 8 important years(adolescence) of my life
    i have predominantly been a vegetarian.


  8. I’m sorry to be bringing this up so late- four years after the original post, but part of Apurva’s story is pure ********, to say the very least.

    The man claims to live in India and not have access to proper protein, either because it’s “prohibitively expensive” or because it’s “unavailable”- he’s kidding me, correct??

    He can buy about four kilos of beef for 10 dollars-most of indian beef grazes on grass- maybe has hasn’t seen a cow. Chicken- cheaper than that.

    Don’t tell me about Tuna- In India, they practically throw it away- you can buy a kilo for 1.50 USD. Fresh from the sea- the forlorn look that fishermen have when they’ve caught Tuna is comical- because no one would buy it off them. Indians don’t really like it.

    A dozen eggs come your way for a dollar- a dollar! Eggs from chickens running around eating whatever they choose, and living the high life. Grain, grass, worms, muck- you name it, and those chickens eat it, if they want it.

    Labneh- so cheap it’ll make you laugh and not stop eating till you’ve busted a gut. Milk is a joke- whole milk straight from the damned cow- litres and litres of it- you’d get it for less than a two dollars.Soya, Tofu- it’s all there in copious quantities, if he’d take the time to check out.

    “Good protein is unavailable.” according to him. What more is he looking for?

    While I applaud his progress and his tenacity in changing his lifestyle, people like him make me sick- it makes us Indians look like we’re from the land time forgot, while in reality, it’s not true- we get to eat whatever we choose, at one tenth of the cost that you get in the west.

    Please- continue to improve your life in whatever way you choose- just don’t denigrate the nation and culture you were born into while doing it.

  9. I’m 24 YO female from India. I think Apurva meant ‘clean’ animal protien. I have never read or seen any ‘officially’ organic meat in Indian cities, I have only read abt it in the Internet, that too in other countries. You can get them in villages though. There is simply no awareness of organic meat in India. People might even chuck you off for telling that. People love that hormones laden soft chicken rather than a little hard organic chicken.

    Otherwise, the above comment does contain facts