Primal Health Challenge Week 1 Results

Primal CalendarSo here they are! Week 1 results from 30-Day Primal Health Challenge participants that were kind enough to send end in their stories.

If you have any questions for participants, need advice or want specifics about diet and exercise hit us up with a comment.

Also, if you would like your 2nd week, 3rd week and/or 30-day results published in order to share your progress will fellow Apples and to get constructive feedback be sure to send them in by the dates listed here.

Keep up the great work everyone! And remember: take each day, each meal, each rep, each night’s rest one at a time. All you have to do is act as if the healthy way to do things comes naturally and effortlessly.

Participant 1: Nkem

I hope all is well. The following is the update of my first week going primal. More details can be found on my blog: Christmas Goat


I didn’t eat anything processed all week. I eliminated all grains, tubers, 95% of dairy (I had cream in my coffee almost daily), all processed sugar, white flour etc. I ate a lot of vegetables and low glycemic fruit such as strawberries, cherries and apples. I would say that I was at least 97% compliant from a nutrition perspective.

* Average daily caloric intake for 7 days: 1758
* Macrobiotic percentage breakdown: 60% fats, 24% protein, 16% Carbs
* I held my daily carbohydrate intake to 100g/day


Due to work constraints I was unable to perform my usual workout routine and this week was a pretty light week for me with regards to exercise.

* Monday: Walk 35 minutes/Run 10 mins (45 mins total)
* Tuesday: Walk 35 minutes/Run 10 mins (45 mins total)
* Wednesday: Rest
* Thursday: Walk 35 minutes/Run 10 mins (45 mins total)
* Friday: Kettlebell training for 15 mins
* Saturday: Rest
* Sunday: Muay Thai training for 60 mins + Sprints (HIIT) on track for 15 mins


Surprisingly, with much less exercise than I usually perform every week I was able to drop from 241.5lbs (July 1st) to 232lbs (July 8th) for a total of 9.5lbs of fat lost. Truly amazing!.

Random Thoughts:

I’ve realized that it is impossible to outexercise a bad eating plan. I truly believe that I am somewhat insulin resistant and so I have to eat differently to get the results that I want. For me to have arrived at this point of breakthrough, I’ve had to sacrifice 12 weeks of any positive gains from a fatloss perspective. I’ve had to experiment with different eating patterns such as Intermittent fasting and gone through numerous changes in my exercise routine. I’ve had weeks of 2-4lbs fat loss just to see it come back after a weekend of heavy carb binging all while working out like a crazy person.

Now all these things as painful as they are to bear, have been a worthwhile price to pay for getting the kind of results I got this week. I now have my own personal formula for fatloss for this very moment in time and I have MDA to thank for that. What I’ve discovered is that it’s really not the high number of workout hours that I accrue in the from of HIIT, nor is it the heavy lifting, nor even the Muay Thai training. All those things are extremely important and surely help facilitate fatloss. However, what is now abundantly clear is that I can participate in all the aforementioned activities (which I’ve been religiously doing for the last 12 weeks without dropping…or gaining a single pound), but if I do not aggressively control my carbohydrate intake it doesn’t mean a damn thing.

Stay tuned for week2.

Thank you very much!

Participant 2: Charlotte of The Great Fitness Experiment

I’ll give you the good news first: Not a single grain has crossed my lips for 8 days now. I’ve eaten a lot of meat. And I think I’m single-handedly keeping the raw nut industry in the black. Surprisingly (to me), my workouts have not suffered for lack of grains. I’m enjoying CrossFit this time around just as much as the first – which is to say I hate every second of doing it but I love the results. Also good: no jelly beans, ice cream, candy, cookies or any other sugary nonsense! Which is even more impressive considering what, um, time of the month in it is (see the bad news for more on that). I honestly feel like I’ve had more energy and have been more stable without the white satan.

Staying true to the primal blueprint, I included one day of intermittent fasting – no food for 24 hours. I’d be all proud about that except that I’m pretty used to it seeing as it’s part of my religion (I’m LDS).

Read more about Charlotte’s attempt at the Primal Health Challenge.

Participant 3: Alexandra

Hi Mark-

My take on the challenge was to basically follow your rules for eating (with some dairy and without the IF, for now) and use Crossfit style training, with a few twists thrown in, for exercise.

And I’d say I’m about 90% Primal so far! I have less hunger, and I feel thinner (perhaps the “bloat” is gone). Using Crossfit definitely ups the intensity (it’s my second or third time following Crossfit), and I usually throw in some 10 or 15 minute cardio (interval or higher intensity) after the Crossfit workout. I have worked out 5 of the 7 days that I’ve been on the challenge.

I’ve had two “cheats” (or what I’m considering cheats) – I had loads of pineapple with dinner (pork and pineapple) on Sunday and overdid the nuts (heated them up in some butter, yum) one night. I love it that my “cheats” aren’t chips or ice cream or a cookie at work, but actually pretty healthy stuff considering the alternatives! What do you say about cheats like this?

Thanks for posing the challenge. My stats were essentially unchanged over the week, but I did notice a slight drop in bodyfat AND muscle. Yikes. I’ll give you the numbers next week (I do my weigh in and measuring on Saturdays).

Two Questions:

1) I’m feeling a little lethargic when I wake up – almost as if my blood sugar is low – and I’m still getting some nighttime heartburn that wakes me. I tend to eat about an hour before bedtime (because of my schedule). Any suggestions?

2) You don’t really suggest counting calories on the plan, right? So if there is no fat loss week to week, is the tweak still to eat a little less or something else, like cutting back on fruit, upping fat, etc? I know the blueprint is for health, but I’m trying to cut some body fat in the process (I’m not overweight, but my body fat % is higher than I’d like, 22-24% range; I’m female, 35 y.o.). I’d like to get to about 18% as a short-term goal.

Mark’s Response:

1) Lethargy is common as you switch from glucose to fat-burning. Hang in there. If you drink coffee, have a strong cup (it’s allowed) in the early AM with some heavy cream. Also, I wouldn’t eat an hour before bedtime. That’s almost a guarantee of heartburn.

2) As long as you cut the carbs to 60-80 a day (less if you handle it) and take in 100-120 grams of protein, you can make up the difference with fats. If you keep the first two constant, it will be reducing calories from fat that might make the difference, but in no case would I get below 1400 total calories on an average day (unless it is an IF day). You want this to be a pleasant experience where you are not hungry, but certainly not overfed either.

Participant 4: Kara

I took the primal health challenge and I stuck to it all week. I ate plenty of vegetables, increased my healthy fat intake and cut out grains. I still ate about 2 servings of fruit a day because its all in season and hard to resist. I fell off the wagon and had chocolate danish Sunday night. Despite the minor setback, I am down 3-4 pounds. I am a healthy weight to begin with, but I always had 8 vanity pounds I wanted to lose, so I am halfway there.

Particpant 5: Rachel

So I have cut my carbs down to around 110g per day (that’s an average) and I’ve noticed that, having upped my fats, I don’t crave carb snacks. I’m now getting about 40% of my calories from fat on a day to day basis, and I’ve noticed that my stomach is much less puffy and feels less bloated. I love that change, since the puffiness has been the bane of my existence lately.

So far, so good. I’m walking and lifting and sprinting on Fridays (designated sprint day) and I’m feeling awesome!

Participant 6: Brian


Alrighty, one week down on the primal challenge and so far so good. Dropped from 170.8 to 168. Was kind of rough this first week as my energy level seemed a bit wonky at times. Also didn’t get the amount of sleep I think I really needed due to work. Going to focus more on the sleep part of it this week and try to work out a bit more as well.

Any ideas on the energy issue? I’m combing through earlier posts from the blog, so I might find more answer there, but figured I would ask.

Look forward to seeing how everyone is doing so far!

Participant 7: Branden

With a goal marathon only four weeks out, playing around with my nutrition was probably not what would be considered the wisest thing to do. But as an endurance athlete challenging myself is something that I find I need to do in order to feel satisfaction. Over the last two months I have put in some of the hardest and longest training sessions ever. But about two weeks ago after running what was my fastest 10k split ever during a long run I found that in the days after my motivation to train quickly waned. I was overtrained! While my running fitness was improving at a dramatic rate my life in every other aspect was slipping into a hole.

When I stumbled across this challenge while looking for something else I thought what the heck. As a scientist I enjoy the experimental side of what I can do to myself.

I started out at a fairly good weight of 172 pounds.

As an endurance athlete the bulk of my diet consisted of processed cereals, bread, rice and pasta. High GI raids to the vending machine to climb out of the post-lunch energy slump were also a normal activity.

After eliminating processed sugar and processed foods (except for some cheese and a little salami) my energy levels improved almost immediately throughout the day. Instead of the usual highs and lows I felt energised, relaxed and generally in a good mood. My running suffered a little but adding some carbohydrates during exercise and immediately during the post-exercise window I was able to complete the remainder of the weekly sessions in reasonably good shape.

The big difference in my diet was that I ate a lot more vegetables and fruit (both fresh and raw) with every meal and raised my daily protein and fat intake by including them at meals. I also made better snack choices – fruit, nuts, etc.

My day to day diet can be found on my blog. I had one higher carb day before I made the decision to really give this a go.

I planned to make the first week a recovery week to take advantage of the fitness gains that I have made over the last few weeks and see how I adjusted to a much lower carbohydrate intake. Adding the week up I still managed a healthy 60 miles of running with some intensity.

Monday: 9 miles moderate
Tuesday: AM- 4 miles easy, PM- 2 miles hard + 30min spin class
Wednesday: 7 miles w/ 4 miles of VO2 intervals
Thursday: 12 miles easy w/ 20min on trails
Friday: 14.3 miles moderate
Saturday: Rest, weights
Sunday: 8 miles w/ sprints

My weight dropped fast in the first three days before I started adding some extra calories in the form of nuts and added some post-recovery carbohydrates to my diet. After 7 days though I weighed in a full 6 pounds lighter (172 down to 166). But the biggest surprise for me is how my post-run recovery has improved from day to day. Every day I jump out of bed to find that my legs are feeling fresh rather than the usual old man shuffle.

With a bigger run week planned for week 2 it could get interesting. I have taken on board some of the suggestions from the post earlier in the week but I have found what I think works for me. I’ll know more next week and keep you posted.

Participants 8 and 9 are Bradford and Jeremy. They happen to be employees of Primal Nutrition, Mark’s Daily Apple’s parent company. Upon hearing about the challenge they decided to give the Primal Health Challenge a shot – to see if they could both lose some weight and get their eating habits and physical activity levels on track. Being connected to PN may give them an inside track on advice and encouragement, but both guys will be making major lifestyle changes across the board so it won’t be a picnic for either of them. We wish them, as we do all 30-Day Challenge participants, great results in this endeavor.

Participant 8: Jeremy

July 8th primal journal entry

The nutrition side of my diet started like this:

I had to do away with all the pizza and processed foods that I was eating. I didn’t eat too much sugar but I certainly enjoyed bread. I changed these foods with a lot of salads for lunch with ample veggies like green peppers, onion, tomato, broccoli etc. For dinner I ate some sort of non processed meat with a steamed vegetable, sometimes I would even eat another salad. Goals I wanted to achieve were complete dietary changes, cutting down on carbs and sugars and upping the fat which allowed me to burn this fat when I would go to the gym.

The gym was the next step in the process:

This is my 1st week at the gym.

• Day 1) A timed 300 calorie burn on the treadmill with a slight incline (1.5). Walking 3 min. running 5 minutes until 300 calories were burned.

• Day 2) Squats, Pull-Ups, Lat Pull-Downs, weighted (70 lbs.) abdominal Crunches on a machine-sitting, Leg-Lifts.

• Day 3) A timed 310 calorie burn on the treadmill with an incline (2.0)

• Day 4) Anaerobic workout day – I walked an outdoor stairwell ( About 180 stairs one way) up and down twice, This took about 45 minutes to complete.

• Day 5) Friday is an upper body workout. This consisted of:

Incline bench press, 3×10 at 50lbs. Pushups 2×10, weighted abdominal crunches on machine- sitting. Lat pull down 3×10 at 15lbs. Curls 3×8 at 25lbs.

• Day 6) A simple walk outside for about 45 minutes.

• Day 7) I played competitive half court basketball for a little over an hour. With a light shoot around before. A welcomed change from regimented workout

Workout summary:

I was able to go from 225lbs to about 217lbs. for a total of 8 pounds lost. I definitely felt my blood sugar levels changing and became a little dizzy because of that but all in all, I felt very good about my effort for the week and witnessed my greatest deal of soreness only after the stairs which did in fact stick with me for 3 days. But for the rest of the workout, soreness levels were minimal and expected. The great thing about a paleo diet that I have found so far is that after a workout, I am not just replacing the calories by eating high carb high sugar foods, which obviously lends itself to weight loss.

Summation of the week:

I have been told that most of weight loss comes from diet, and staying below 100 carbs per day has certainly lent itself to losing weight. I have also trained my body to burn fat, which is the tenant of the paleo diet that I am on. The first week was tough as stated earlier; I love pizza, Starbucks, and bread. But conversely, I do feel better. I can feel the physical difference of having the weight come off, in my knees and every day things like when I sit and stand up. I really had to sacrifice as far as my diet is concerned but the payoff has been definitely apparent so far. The weekend is the toughest as far as staying healthy and true to the paleo diet, obviously the pressures are there to reward myself for a good week of healthy eating, but so far I have stayed away from comfort foods and stayed true to the paleo diet.

I hope next week is just as prosperous.


Participant 9: Bradford

Starting Weight 275lbs


Same lunch all week, a salad with spinach, tuna, yellow peppers, mushrooms, oil, and vinegar. Occassionaly afternoon snacks of beef jerky or cottage cheese. Dinner was usually a form of grilled chicken or pork and steamed veggies. Sometimes later at night I’d have a Responsibly Slim protein shake jacked up with cocoa powder and almond butter. On Saturday I slipped up and had a couple 7-11 taquitos.


Tuesday: 25 minutes on the elliptical runner

Wednesday: Ran up and down a 192-step stairway twice (though the second time wasn’t much in the way of running).

Thursday: None

Friday: None

Saturday: 31 minutes on elliptical, 15 minutes of upper body weight lifting.

Sunday: 20 minutes elliptical, 30 minutes core exercises (abs), and weight lifting

Monday: 45 minutes combo of treadmill, stationary bike, and elliptical.

Avg. Calories: 1800

Avg. Carbs: 51g

Calorie Breakdown:
56% Fat. 9% Carbs. 35% Protein

Ending Weight: 268lbs (Lost 7 pounds!)

Ups and Downs:

Thursday on the stairs really tore me apart. I was sore for the next 4 days, wobbling around like a drunken cowboy from the aches in my legs. I bought a steamer for vegetables, and I’m actually learning to cook for the first time in my life. It’s a big step up from the hot pocket nights and Captain Crunch mornings of college. The highlight of the week was actually when I broke primal and ate taquitos, because instead of the usual plunge into carbolicious mayhem, I went right back to the Primal blueprint the next morning.

Subscribe to Mark’s Daily Apple feeds

About the Author

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!