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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...

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April 29 2008

10 Ways to “Get Primal”

By Worker Bee
106 Comments

Here at Mark’s Daily Apple, we advocate the Primal Blueprint Lifestyle, that is, a health philosophy that in large part acts to mimic the diet and physical activity of our pre-agricultural ancestors.

And, while we’ve explained in the past what it means to “Get Primal,” we figured what’s not to love about a bulleted list that reminds us how to incorporate these methods into our everyday lives.

Read on to learn how you can get primal on every level on every occasion:

Hike:

Whether it was searching for food, shelter or just greener pastures, our ancestors spent a lot of time taking the heel-toe express! (Though, it wasn’t exactly heel-toe in those days.) These days, of course, we have planes, trains and automobiles to get us from A to B, which means hoofing it has become our least likely mode of transport. To get back to the Primal Blueprint, set aside some time every week to participate in sustained activity as a way to return your body to its natural state (that is, being in a constant state of motion). And, although hiking was the primary modality for sustained exercise for our predecessors, feel free to substitute it for biking or any other low-level physical activity you can do for a long period with little interruption.

Sprint:

Although eat or be eaten is no longer really considered a threat in today’s society, for our ancestors, it was a pretty big (and potentially lethal) deal. The solution? Run fast, run hard, and run for your life! You can incorporate these same theories by adding a series of short sprints into your exercise routine (see Mark explain his sprint routine here). The idea here isn’t necessarily to be the fastest kid on the block (although that would be awesome), but rather to give all you’ve got for a brief period of time. Also, bear in mind that this concept of going hard and fast for a few seconds isn’t limited to the act of sprinting; you could try water sprints, power cycling, jump rope intervals or any other activity that requires short, intense bursts of energy.

Lift Hard:

Think Cavemen killed time pounding weights in a dingy gym? Think again! Our ancestors tested their strength only in real-life situations (as opposed to having a pose-off with the meathead in the cut-off shirt!) and grew strong by doing, for the most part, weight bearing exercises. Naturally, they focused on activities that would help them carry out real life functions. Want to work out like your primal ancestors? Try weight bearing activities such as squats or dead lifts, which our ancestors did when lifting a heavy rock or log for building; lunges, which mimic the action of transversing steep terrain or stepping into a throw; pull-ups and standing rows to mimic the movement of pulling a heavy object towards the body; pushing, to mimic the motion of… well, pushing things; and twisting motions such as medicine ball throws or cable woodchoppers, which our ancestors did when throwing spears or hoisting objects. For a new challenge (and an exercise that combines just about all of the above motions, try the Turkish get-up:

Ditch Grains and Sugar:

With the tagline “so simple even a caveman could do it,” the commercial suggests that our ancestors were, well, not the sharpest tools in the shed. But, clearly they were smart enough to shun grains and sugar (a feat that the majority of current day Americans have yet to accomplish). In fact, according to some anthropologists, our ancestors only consumed about 80 g of carbohydrates per day, largely because sources of carbohydrates – such as grains, beans and potatoes – are toxic in raw form. To keep it primal, avoid all grains, including bread, pasta, rice and noodles, and all refined sugar. It should also probably be noted that the majority (if not all) of processed foods are packed with carbs – either in the form of a grain, sugar, or both – so it’s best to cut those out too!

Eat Meat and Fish:

When dinner time rolled around for our ancestors, they weren’t exactly reaching for the yellow pages! Instead, they were reaching for a spear, ax or some other weapon to catch their meal. While we’re certainly not advocating that you begin hunting for your own entrees (people might talk!) we do recommend that you begin thinking about your diet in a way that resembles their dietary habits. That is, if you can’t catch it or find it in nature, you can’t eat it. In short, opt for meat and fish and don’t get hung up on the fat content. Not only is fat integral to health, it will also help keep you feeling satiated longer!

Eat Berries, Nuts and Unbridled Amounts of Veggies:

Again, when selecting foods, remember that you’re playing the role of the hunter and gatherer, so feel free to indulge in foods you would find in nature. Specifically, the Primal eating strategy recommends berries, which are low in sugar and packed with vitamins, antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients, and nuts, including walnuts, brazil nuts, macadamias and almonds (but not peanuts which are a legume and should also be avoided for fear of aflatoxins). When it comes to vegetables, seek out root vegetables including carrots, turnips, parsnips, rutabagas and Swede (but not potatoes or other starchy, high-carb varieties), leafy greens, tomatoes and other brightly-hued vegetables (which not only add color to dishes, but also seriously improve the nutrition value).

Drink Water:

Although there is some back and forth about how much water our early ancestors actually consumed (with some anthropologists suggesting that early man got most of his water from the vegetables he consumed as opposed to risking his life standing in line with the other predators and prey at the local waterhole), the reality is that even if early man didn’t consume that much pure water, he certainly wasn’t reaching for a Coke. Get back to your primal roots by ditching the Gatorade, the soda (including the diet ones – they’re nearly as bad!) and especially the juice. All you really need is water, and lucky for you, it’s as easy as turning on the tap.

Sleep Smart:

When the sun went down, early man started prepping for bed. When the sun sets today, most men (and women) will do the dishes, watch Grey’s Anatomy, finish up paperwork, pay bills and check their email before falling asleep with the television blaring Conan O’Brien. No offense to Mr. O’Brien, but when nature starts heading to bed, so too should you. To catch Zzzs like our ancestors, remove all electronics from the bedroom and focus on creating an environment that is dark, quiet and serene. Also, while it might seem counterintuitive to not close the blinds, allowing natural light to be your wake-up call is far more refreshing (and natural) then waking to the shrills of an alarm clock.

Relax:

As much as we harp on about how hard early man had it (what with having to work hard to survive and all that), make no mistake, early man liked his downtime too! Unlike our ancestors, however, many of us tend to spend our downtime plunked in front of the TV or computer engaged(?) in mindless activity for hours on end. To get back to our primal roots, select an activity that will clear your mind and help you recharge and refocus. And don’t forget that part of this getting up and moving around a bit.

Crack a Coconut, Spear your Dinner and Sleep in a Cave:

Ok, maybe we’re kidding on this last one. But imagine how primal it’d make you feel!

mutbka, Jasmic, hrtmnstrfr, Bern@t, Genista, paurian, Snap, jahdakine, Mai, OnuRoca Flickr Photos (CC) and nightowl27 YouTube Clip

Further Reading:

My Knee is Killing Me… No Really.

Would Grok Chow the Cheese Plate?

What Mark Eats in a Day

Subscribe to Mark’s Daily Apple feeds

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106 thoughts on “10 Ways to “Get Primal””

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  1. I agree with all of the above. I’m a huge fan of sprinting. We all know hard sprints release GH. However, I think sprinting gets misrepresented. While noone knows for sure. It doesn’t seem likely we ran sprinting from animals when “cavemen.” It would have been futile and a waste of energy as humans are slow runners even when sprinting compared to most animals. We would’ve been eaten so most likely in those situations we attempted to fight back. The fact is we evolved for endurance (even if we choose not to do it now for health reasons).

    1. You forget, the cave man did not need to be a faster sprinter than the cheetah, he just needed to be a faster sprinter than the slowest guy in the tribe!

    2. While humans can’t sprint as fast as predators who would east us, it’s not likely our ancestors would be using the same starting line either. Seeing a predator coming would be the trigger to get to a tree or pile of rocks or other defensible position before the predator gets to us.

    3. We probably sprinted while hunting for game, and not only because we were being chased.

    4. Very few things, in “real life”, are done slowly at one’s own pace. Humans evolved large brains in order to not have to run or fight. “Endurance” activities simply are not useful in most situations. But, being able to do something quickly and forcefully is always useful, no matter where you are on the food chain.

  2. I’m dumb – what’s an aflatoxin? Also, can anyone give me more explanation about nuts and seeds? I eat a TON of them & I’m always confused about which ones are actually nuts (just the kind that grow on trees?) and which are seeds (cashews?) and which are legumes (peanuts, apparently). Does it make any difference if you eat them whole, roasted, raw or as nut butter? Obv. unsalted. Any help would be appreciated!

    1. If they are seeds, it doesn’t really matter, since seeds are also part of the primal blueprint diet. I’m not sure if there are any that are legumes beside peanuts.

      1. If seeds are part of the primal blueprint, then why not grains? Aren’t they just cultivated seeds, selectively bred for more yield?

    2. Theres something called Google that the primal man did not have. You do!!!

  3. Thanks for the questions, Charlotte! I think we may have some more MDA post material. Thanks again!

  4. Cool list. I would like to add “ditch the clock.” It is tough, but once you stop wacthing the clock constantly and letting it dictate your life you wil be a free person.

    Less attractive additions:

    eat bugs
    stop shaving and using deodorant
    poop outside

  5. Mike,
    Is there any basis behind your primal theory ? Do you have any evidence that monkies or neanderthal human were healthier or had a longer life expectancy than us today ? You seem to have an issue with aerobic activities, on the basis that we have not evolved to work at a high percentage of VO2Max for a long time. Yet you suggest that sprinting is fine because when our ancestor ran for their life they sprinted. How do you know that how far and long and how fast they ran when they needed to ? Maybe they actually did entice their areobic system much more than you think. I unfortunately see a trend that when nowadays everything is being overdone and people fluctuate from one end of spectrum to another. From being a power lifter, they suddenly switch to become a hardcore marathoner, triathlete cyclists etc. just because of the peer pressure. From being an elite marathoner they suddenly become hikers and weight lifters. From eating icecream, bread and donuts every meal, they suddenly cut carbs altogether and just stick to what rabbits eat.
    I have throughly read your website and your stories, although in my opinion, you do have some valid points, but you also tend to hold on the other end of the spectrum. I agree with you that running 120 miles a week is not healthy and most definitly will cause health issues in the long runs, but that is exactly an equivalent of training for power lifting, do you really think that is healthy ???
    Eating carbs and refined sugars on every meal is also not healthy and causes weight loss, but cutting it to less than 10% of your total consumed calories and substituting it all the way with protein is also most definitly the best way to live. Research has shown that too much protein can cause kidney and liver problems amongst other things.
    Being healthy and living a healthy life is not hard or expensive. It is only about one word : Balance.

    1. I don’t think this lifestyle requires entirely replacing carbs with protein. More protein than carbs, yes, but also lots of fats (except trans) and some carbs as well, mostly from fruits and vegetables.

    2. Wasn’t the mean age of our ancestors around 26 years old. How did this make them healthier.
      I am trying this plan, but not sure I could give up all carbs. I still think some carbs are necessary to function. I also read that too much protein can cause kidney problems, and play havoc on your cholesterol.
      I am going to give it a try in hopes that if I fall off the wagon, I don’t gain all plus more. My goal is to decrease the amounts of carb, and so far, I am doing great.
      Hope it works. I have tried everything else out there.

  6. Again, try outrunning a lion. The fastest human sprinter wouldn’t be able to do it. Primal man might have sprinted for other reasons but not to outrun carnivorous animals.

      1. You’re not lining up at the starting line with that lion. With enough of a head start, your goal in sprinting is to get to safety up a tree or some other defensible location before that lion catches you!

    1. Super late to this, but you’re also forgetting that primal man hunting in groups would mean more than one target for a predator…predator appears, every primal man hauls ass as fast as he can; the slowest sprinter makes the dinner specials list for the predator.

  7. Why do we insist on idealising the past?

    There is plenty of archaeological evidence to show that in ancient times many people suffered painful debilitating illnesses and few were lucky enough to survive into their forties.

    We are healthier now than we have ever been at any time in human history so don’t knock it!

    Whilst I agree with some of the ideas – (excercise, fruit and veg etc) which are common sense, I don’t think the health of our ancestors is a very good thing to aspire to!

    1. I have to chime in here. I am an Indigenous person from what is now known as Canada. In terms of my peoples history – we have been in contact with “industrial civilization” for just over 200 years here on Vancouver Island. The truth for Indigenous peoples here and all over industrialized society is that we are at the very opposite end of the spectrum in terms of our collective health. Native peoples here in Canada suffer from the highest rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression and addiction problems. This is a result of living within the entire industrialized society, a result of colonization. It is not idealizing/romanticizing the past to know that based on my own familial histories and in addition to that some solid science that my ancestors were much more healthy than they are today. My own grandfather lived to be almost 100 due to his lifestyle which mirrored that of our ancestors for most of those years. In fact Native peoples in Canada today are in a state of crisis health-wise despite all the “progress” we have made through science and philosophy. The original diet of my own people did not include ANY grains – we are coastal peoples living off roots, berries, some wild meat and a tonne of seafood. We were strong enough to hunt whales! When the Canada Food guide came into our lands and dictated to our people what a “healthy diet” is, it nearly killed our populations and we are still suffering from the affects of this modern lifestyle. My relatives who still mostly eat seafood, hunt and fish are healthier than the rest of us who live a more modern sedentary and stress filled lifestyle – and consequently, my friend said to me the other day after working an office job for two years that in the past, he worked harder as a fisherman (from 6 am to 7 or 8 at night) but was happier than he has ever been in any other job.
      It is not bad nor is it wrong to imagine our way out of this crazy over-consumptive society. It is good practice.I am enjoying reading about Paleo because it so mirrors the very real history an lifestyles of my own ancestors, whom I personally aspire to be more like.

      1. The Canada Food Guide did not kill your populations and you are not still suffering from it. The Canada Food Guide is a RECOMMENDATION. In no way were your people required to follow it. You are simply ignorant to blame the death of your people on a guide that does not control you. The material in the food guide has been proven by scientifical means to be the most healthy diet that one can live by.

        Your people’s problem is that you started shopping at the same places as we do and you started buying the same junk food that we do. THIS is why your people are unhealthy NOT because of The Canada Food Guide. Put some reason into your points, and not tumultuously rambling about how it is everyone else’s fault that you’re unhealthy.

        1. Bones, not only did you respond with an arrogant,racist, and weak argument…and I will repeat one more time, racist you simply portrayed what ignorance really is. Indigenous people had no CHOICE! but to follow the canadian food guide. Need I remind you that settler people wiped out their main sustenance(Buffalo) and forcibly removed them from their land-base(which in my case, is the size of 3 states) to small reservations where they lived a sedentary lifestyle,(Unfortunately there were no gym equipment to use on the rez),my people did what was necessary to survive. I am Cree/Lakota and changing my diet to that of my ancestors I have benefited remarkably from it, so I will put some reason in my point and put it in my Bow and send it your way.

        2. I am not sure where you read that the Canada Food Guide killed my people, how silly – I did say it was dictated to Indigenous peoples- and to be clear I mean forcibly IMPOSED through colonial laws and policies which out lawed our hunting and fishing lifestyles, through the banning of the potlach (which consequently still exists), and by restricting us to reservations or not adhering to treaties that were signed in various nations, as the previous person said, and by forcibly taking our children into residential school where our own diets were not adhered to. It is actually unreasonable that whole nations of people with complex political systems, a broad range and freedom of movement and food in abundance to have suddenly put down our fishing nets our spears, our traps to say “hey – look at these guys, sick with unheard of diseases and suffering from a lack of hygiene ( they were shocked that Indigenous peoples bathed every day and not once per month as the Europeans)- we want to live like that- hey guys?” Can you imagine? Although I am speaking of the past there are still colonial laws which exist specifically directing the lives of Indigenous peoples, restricting and punishing us for hunting and fishing etc.
          All in all it is a shame that you did not pick up on the spirit of my comments. Despite your obvious need to attack one small part of my comments, they were based on actual evidence (scientific included) from well-documented historical, experience-based research ( please google residential schools, Fist NAtions peoples history – the Union of BC Indian Chiefs has a great website FYI). The connection I made to industrial society does affect all society, there is no other way to slice it -and systemically belonging to Western cultures. This is an historical fact – so who is the emotional one? We all suffer from the effects of industrialization – I was merely pointing out quite graciously I think, that I am very optimistic about this paleo movement based on the wisdom of my own people- I think it is an important way of life for all to consider.

        3. This is actually a response directed at both the user Bones and John. Firstly, if you examine history you will clearly see that in fact, Europeans left the mother country to seek refuge here in North America because of starvation, disease and of course malnutrition. You simply cannot live on grains alone. The life expectancy rate was mid 30’s at best. Here in North America Indigenous peoples life expectancy rate was in the 80’s. James Neel also examined this phenomenon in his study on the Thrify gene. I am not going down the thrifty gene road but his study is just one that outlines how traditional indigenous diets were superior to European. Ok, now lets fast forward a bit to the point of colonization. In the treaty era and eventually Indian policy, imposing a colonial diet and extinguishing the indigenous diet was a mechanism of control by settlers in order to colonize the land. They did this by outlawing traditional practices and access to traditional lands.

          Lets do a modern analogy about what essentially happened to our people using the reference of your house and town. Lets say the government wanted ownership of your house and property and they created a policy directed only at your family. They evict you (probably by force) then force you to sign an agreement(which is written in another language) and tell you that the agreement is a promise to give you the nicest house but when you get there the house they have provided should be condemned. You want to go buy healthy groceries at your old market but cant because you are denied access and may only go once a year or based on their policies but they have given you a meal plan based on rations of mcdonalds. They force your kids in a school and also teach them how mcdonalds is the best place to eat, you eventually think that mcdonalds is not that bad and integrate it into your religion and family reunions. Just imagine eating all this mcdonalds would do to your body and mind. Just imagine what this would do to your future generations? This analogy sounds ridiculous right? Well this did happen, not of course with mcdonalds or relocating to another house but imposing a foreign diet in order to control a people.

          A great reference book to read on how policy controls food can be seen in “Colonizing Bodies by Mary-Ellen Kelm.

          Indigenous people do blame policy for the high rate of diabetes and health because it is policy and colonialism that is the root of the problem. I would love to be able to provide moose meat or other wild game to indigenous peoples in the cities but you cant because of policy.

          Now on to the Canadian food guide issue, here is a quote from the website and book, primal mind and body,

          “Anyone who wants to see for themselves what “government guidelines” and The Food Pyramid can do for their health only needs to drive to the nearest Native American Reservation and look around. The government supplies these reservations with much of their food, based on these guidelines. Take a look at the tragically pervasive rate of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, alcoholism and any other degenerative illness you can think of. Look at life expectancy. Consider also what now constitutes “food” in government guideline-designed school lunch programs. After all…everyone knows that “ketchup is a vegetable”…

          I am happy for Marks daily apple because it gives me hope in order to change the negative effects of colonialism on our people.

    2. Healthier then ever? Which world do you live in? One in three suffers from cancer, 60% is obese and so on and so forth. We only live longer because we have the medical knowledge to keep people alive. Just look at the few aboriginal peoples left in the world, those tyhat live the traditional ways, and you’ll see the difference. Or what modern types of food does to them, like the Aboriginals of Australia. Once healthy people who managed to survive one of the toughest environments, and now they are the unhealtiest in the country, and close to extinction thanks to the supplied sugar and flour.

  8. Org did not suffer from DM-II, hypertension, CAD, COPD and other chronic diseases associated with inflamation. These are the diseases killing most of us today. We have plenty to learn from Org.

    Also, there is scant evidence that we are healthier now than ever before.

  9. I don’t think the post idealizes the past, bones. What it does is point to the things that were part of human evolution. For example, there is a reason why our bodies don’t do well with grains and/or a high carb diet. It is because our ancestors didn’t evolve whilst eating grains/high-carbs and are thusly not “built” for it. Sure, they lived tough, maybe even terrible existences, doing whatever it took to survive from one day to the next. But the fact that our ancestors died young (for lack of the medical treatment, antibiotics, sewage systems, good hygiene etc. that we have today) speaks nothing of the things (a particular kind of diet and physical activity) that our ancestors were best adapted for. Had our ancestors subsisted entirely on say, oranges, and through millions of years of natural selection, their bodies had evolved to be able to do this, and do it well, so too would our bodies. And eating oranges would be highly recommended by doctor’s, scientists, MDA etc. Mark did a post a while back called My Knee is Killing Me… No, Really. in which he explains my first point above. He busted up his knee which, if I remember correctly, resulted in an infection. If not for modern medicine and modern living conditions he would be a goner. No dude limping around in the wild is going to last long. But an injury in the wild (one major cause for low lifespans of our ancestors) has nothing to do with the rest of their health. There is every reason to believe that they too could have reached the lifespans we achieve (if not more) if they had the advantages we have. Also, the Primal Blueprint, as far as I am aware, isn’t about living like a caveman. It is about intelligently picking those things (water, meat, fat, weight bearing activities, sleep etc etc.) from our past that will suit us in modern society to live a healthy life. Anything above and beyond that (medical treatment, supplementation etc) can help us achieve optimal health is more than welcome. Great post Mark and company. Keep ’em coming!

  10. I like the whole caveman thing, particularly in regards to working out.

    I just can’t accept the basic argument that “because our ancestors did this or did that, we should too.”

    It reminds me too much of christian fundamentalism.

    I guess the main thing that bothers me is the abandonment of ALL grains. I don’t really like diets that require giving up any type of food.

    I’m not a nutritionalist or anything, but making any type of food taboo seems counterproductive to me.

    And besides, I tend to think that what’s considered a ‘healthy’ diet can vary greatly depending on the individual.

    I’m pleased you’ve found a lifestyle and diet that works for you (and a lot of other people I’m sure). I’m just not convinced it should be understood as the best (and definitely not the ONLY) way of doing things.

    Sorry if this comment comes across as negative, I actually really love your blog.

    cheers

    1. It’s ironic that this reminds you of christian fundamentalism, considering how this is partially based on evolution.

      Regarding grains, while I would think that they would be okay in moderation, but I disagree that making any type of food taboo is counterproductive. Some food substances (such as MSG for one example) can be quite harmful even in moderation.

  11. Cracking a coconut doesn’t make me feel primal, as I do it by dropping ’em on the pavement.

  12. “but when nature starts heading to bed”

    An extremely large percentage of nature is nocturnal buddy.

  13. Through the years of listening to health experts, the most important thing I learned is not to listen to the advice of someone who tries to sell you something. I am very skeptical about all the emphasis you put on protein and anti oxidant supplements, mostly because these are by no coincidence what you sell in your online store.
    BTW, did you get a chance to read the new studies conducted by Danish scientists that showed anti oxidant supplements can be bad for you and those who took them had a shorter lifespan ?

    1. He believes in the “diet” and so he sells it nothing wrong with that. Stop trying to find sinister motives where there aren’t any.

      And who is funding the Danish “scientists?” Because somehow scientists stop being human beings and take on this super human all knowing being…

  14. brick 2 –

    Mark has delivered quality, and in my estimation, very genuine and balanced health advice since 2006 to all readers for FREE. Apart from the odd (very infrequent) mention of supplements (and usually not even his specifically) there isn’t any sales pitch. I appreciate what he has done as his advice has helped me personally to get my life back on track from a health perspective. You can’t blame him if a small part of his broad health philosophy involves supplementation. Do you mean to suggest that the health philosophy only includes vitamins because he sells them on the side? That is quite a jaded and IMO unfair and unsubstantiated claim. It seems much more likely to me that Mark, as someone who has spent his life teaching and living a healthy lifestyle believes there is evidence that supports supplementation (as many millions of others do). Also, you may have noticed that Mark doesn’t just make frivolous assertions about protein, anti-oxidants or any other part of his take on health. He provides research to back it up. One last thing – the proof is in the pudding. Have you see pics of Mark? He is mid-50s and has the body of a 30 year old. Give me some of what he is taking any day!

    A Dedicated Reader

  15. One final point I want to clarify that I alluded to previously – Couldn’t it be that Mark sells protein powder, fish oils, anti-oxidant supplements because he is an ethical businessman and will only sell things that he believes in. It is rare to see a supplement company that doesn’t have dozens upon dozens of products. His line of products is short and to the point, and is consistent with not only his health philosophy but also countless others who have a similar approach. This is not at all the standard way supplement companies operate in my experience.

    Still Dedicated

  16. I read brick2’s comment before leaving the house for a while. Others have expressed my sentiments very well. The only thing I would add is that there are no shortage of sites/blogs of people who are giving out health information, but they want you to buy their book or their program before you can get the details. I haven’t spent a nickel related to this site*, but I feel I’ve been given tools that are going to help me immensely.

    *not completely true, I’ve spent money on grass-fed beef and wild salmon that I might not have if I hadn’t read MDA. 🙂

  17. I’ve always found total silence to be deafening when trying to go to sleep.

    I run a small fan near the bed to generate some white noise and circulate the air. It seems to help me a lot because I don’t have to hear all the small mysterious clicks and knocks that your typical house makes during the night.

    Then of course during the summer, the stupid birds are out at five in the morning when the faintest hint of sunlight is peeking over the horizon. Again, if you have nothing to block out this irritating noise, you’ll be waking up literally at the crack of dawn. No thanks.

    As for avoiding carbohydrates, there’s no point. Keep the carbohydrates complex, and stick with 1 gram per pound of body weight. There’s absolutely no reason to go into ketosis, and you certainly won’t hasten heart disease by eating a moderate amount of slowly digesting carbs.

  18. I run a small fan near the bed to generate some white noise and circulate the air.

    Whaddya know! We’re in agreement on something–I do the same thing.

    As for avoiding carbohydrates, there’s no point.

    It doesn’t say that anywhere in the article. It says to avoid grains and sugar. You’re free to disagree with that of course, but at least disagree with something the article actually says.

  19. Chris R, I guarantee your man had to run for his life fairly frequently, whether it was away from danger or towards dinner. Of course, we can’t outrun a lion in a hundred meter dash, but if we have 20 yards to the nearest tree and he’s 30 yards away, we have a good chance of escape.

    Bones, we are certainly NOT healthier now than at any time in history. Most of the archaeological evidence of illnesses is found in ancient agricultural groups. Pre-ags did not suffer the litany of diseases that grains and a high-carb existence brought on.

    Jack, lighten up, buddy. It was a figure of speech.

    Barry, glad to see you are coming around slowly. 1 gram per pound of bodyweight for you is 185 grams carbs per day, right? You are almost down to my recommended 150 grams per day maximum.

  20. Brick2,

    The Danish antioxidant study wasn’t a study but a rehash of old studies. It has been criticized as innaccurate and flawed by many within the science community.

    This from newsmax:
    Mike Adams of Healthranger.org simply calls the study a fabrication. “Faking a vitamin study to show supplements as harmful is extremely easy to pull off,” he writes.

    He says you can get any results you want by:

    # Use synthetic forms of the vitamins and avoid using natural, food-sourced vitamins. These synthetic vitamins – which are really just industrial chemicals – may be called “Vitamin E” or “Vitamin A” or even “Vitamin C” but they have no functional resemblance to the real vitamins that occur in nature. Every single study over the past two decades that has sought to discredit Vitamin E, for example, focused on using synthetic Vitamin E in order to show harm.

    # Cherry-pick the results you want by simply eliminating all previous studies that showed positive results for vitamins, and include only previous studies that showed negative results.

    # Confuse people with statistics. “The reporting on this particular study, for example, confuses absolute risk with relative risk. Vitamin A, according to the reports [in the Denmark] study, increased mortality risk by 16 percent. But that is a relative risk number, meaning that if 1 person out of 100 normally died, then 1.16 people out of 100 would die when taking these synthetic Vitamin A supplements. In other words, it might not even be one additional person out of 100, or even out of 1000.”

    Adams adds: “Conventional medicine researchers try to blur the line between “junk vitamins” and “quality vitamins” by classifying all nutritional supplements as “vitamins,” regardless of what they’re really made from. By discrediting a few synthetic chemicals, they can effectively dissuade the masses from taking any vitamins.”

    Other analyses of the flawed study:
    http://www.naturalproductsmarketplace.com/hotnews/cochrane-antioxidants-mortality.html
    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Diet/Story?id=4660292

  21. I think most predators can climb, but thats not really here or there.

    I question sleeping when the sun goes down. Many of the worlds most successful predators are nocturnal, as is much of the animal kingdom. I think getting the proper amount of sleep is important, as well as the getting it regularly. But the sun is irrelevant, for example what if you are in Alaska?

    1. About predators being able to climb, that’s how you can tell the difference between a brown bear and a grizzly. Just climb a tree to get away from it, and if it climbs after you it’s a brown bear but if it just knocks the tree down, it’s a grizzly.

      Oh, and as well as some non-daytime animals being nocturnal, some are crepuscular.

      1. There is no difference between a Griz and a Brown Bear except the Brown lives close to the ocean and the Griz lives inland. Because the Brown is closer to a better supply of food he will be bigger on average than the Griz. By the way, neither can climb, It’s the Black Bears that climb.

      2. P.M.,the Brown bear and the Grizzly is the same bear, the Brown’s are Grizzly bears that live and feed close to the coast. They get bigger because of the abundance of food. Neither climb trees after they are grown.

  22. Dan,

    Sun is far from irrelevant. Hundreds of studies show that people who work graveyard shifts and sleep during the day experience far more health problems than normal.

    1. I agree with you Mark. I quit working straight 12 hour night shifts almost 2 years ago and find it hard to get back to a normal sleep cycle. I would have to take melatonin upon arriving home in the morning to help get to sleep. I gained a lot of weight due to the midnight gut most of us nightworkers develop which I am trying to take off with the paleo diet. Not 100% on it but better than before.

  23. the title of the photo is just a metaphor
    and
    u can not find neither coconut nor sea arount the cave in the photo
    (just wanted to say 🙂 )

    by the way thanx for using my photo

  24. Just found your site. Love how you keep it simple. That’s my personal philosophy too. I couldn’t help but laugh reading through some of the comments. Dude! People get all “weird” about keeping things so simple. It’s like they’re mad at you for writing what you think, believe, and live … on your own blog. haha What do they say?… You know you’re doing something right when your followers actually split up and either love or hate you..? haha

  25. Nice web site.. the concept of what you are talking about is good.

    Get back to basics to live a better life
    away from processed foods.

    Back in the days before we had gas cookers they made grains & seeds more palatable by germinating the grain to soften it for easier digestion.

    See more details > http://www.thailandmuaythai.com/moreinfo/faq.html#gbr

  26. I agree with the commenter who praised Mark for putting out all this info for free… and he rarely makes mention of his own supplement line. This is a very informative site.

    I hate meat and I have a sweet tooth and I ran my first marathon last May…but I can still appreciate that this way of eating works even if I”m not “there” yet…just look at Mark and his wife, as well as many of the reader success stories.

    I tend to think that life’s too short to not enjoy a great loaf of bread once in a while, and my post-run oatmeal is important, but once I finally get motivated, I will make that part of the 20 in my 80/20 diet. In the mean time I am trying to get the sugar joneses out of my blood and lose the 20 lbs I just gained in the last three months due to eating like a friggin’ idiot. (I bet Mark never shakes if he doesn’t get his Good-n-Plenty fix!!)

    On the other hand, as a Christian, I don’t think it was an accident that God gave them manna in the wilderness…rather than a big ole side of beef!

  27. There seems to be some debate about the health of our primal ancestors. With most people it’s all or nothing. It’s either primal or modern. But has anyone ever looked at the facts? I mean our ancestors had no sign of obesity, heart disease, diabetes etc. However they died much more frequently from infectious disease, malnutrition and simple wounds that got infected.

    Now look at us. We live a lot longer because we have cures and preventions for things like the flu, infections etc. We just die of cancer and heart disease these days. But what if we lived primal but still took advantage of modern medicine? Well you would have a person with no heart disease who is lean and unlikely to suffer cancer. That same person can take antibiotics for infections and avoid malaria with insect repellant.

    The research is there. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why we live longer now than in our primal past. It’s called technology.

    1. Chris,

      This is what The Primal Blueprint is all about – taking cues from our evolutionary heritage AND using cutting-edge science, medicine and technology to build the strongest, leanest, healthiest bodies possible.

      1. Mark,

        You forgot to mention hazelnuts. I’ve been using them as a sort of sugar substitute lately. I like to eat sweets but if I eat hazelnuts then my cravings go away (well more or less).

  28. Mark,
    I am a huge fan of this way of living. I was wondering what your thoughts were on the “Movnat way of life”. I have been doing this for more than a year now and Erwan Le Corre’s concepts on life are very similar to yours, but just was seeing if you butt heads with any of his philosophy. Great blog and thanks for all the hard work you have put in to teach and help others.

  29. “That is, if you can’t catch it or find it in nature, you can’t eat it.”

    The vast majority of the meat available is NOT the type that our ancestors would have eaten. The cows and chickens, etc that we eat have been bred for centuries to an unrecognizable form, filled with hormones, antibiotics, and cholesterol galore. How do you reconcile this?

    Also, our ancestors certainly didn’t eat any dairy. Imagine them catching THAT in nature.

    So I agree with the basis of no refined sugars/carbs/packed foods/etc, but what’s with the meat and dairy? That makes no sense.

    1. it doesn’t say to eat dairy. if you were a regular reader you’d probably know that dairy is highly limited in the primal blueprint, and conventional meat is completely eliminated. however, we are still adapted to an omnivorous diet including meat and fish, and so, one way to get primal is to eat meat and fish.

  30. I found you via a post on Lew Rockwell and I am glad I did. I always knew there was a problem with “conventional wisdom”. I will be giving this notion a try and coming back often.

    1. Lew Rockwell? Isn’t he the guy who wrote Ron Paul’s racist newsletters?

      1. Since you brought it up, Lew Rockwell is far from being a racist.

        When someone loses a logical argument, the easiest way out is to attack the credibility of the opponent… you’ve already lost the logic so you have no other recourse. In Lew’s case (and Ron Paul’s), his opponents have to attack his credibility since they generally lack the ability to win a logical argument.

        X was right about whatever… but X is racist, therefore he is not credible. This fallacy was used in the case of Lew Rockwell. If actually read the article that was written, you’ll notice that there is solid logic behind it. since they could not attack the logic, they called him a racist to discredit him.

        1. @Erik

          Yet nowhere in your reply do you deny that Lew Rockwell wrote Ron Paul’s racist newsletters. Interesting.

      1. Stonesick, wherefore the hateful smearing of LewRockwell’s good name?

        “When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him.”

        Jonathan Swift

  31. I love the idea of getting to bed early, when the birds rest, but what do you do in the winter when there are very few hours of light?

  32. Good article, Mark! I am trying to lose 80~ lbs and so far I’ve lost 8 lbs sticking to your ‘diet’ with a few exceptions – I refuse to drink tap water and all the chems, pharms, and neurotoxi ns in it. I occasionally soak oats overnight for breakfast. I also do not vaccinate my children. We quit using toothpastes with glycerin and my children’s tiny cavities disappeared. I love my raw milk, yogurts and raw cheeses and wouldn’t give them up even if the agri-cops came to take them away. Keep up the good work! BTW- the kids love the primal work outs right beside me- or over my shoulder like a ‘kill’ 😉

    1. I’ve stopped using popular toothpastes and I started use a special rather pricey toothpaste with some Indian herb in it. I can’t go back to the chemical laden toothpastes I was using before. I can’t believe I ever brushed my teeth with that stuff.

  33. the whole movement is based on old genetics and flawed anthropology.
    Ancient man was designed for a Garden.
    Genetically, there is adaptability built into the genes, so that they are invoked or suppressed by environmental changes.
    There are good reasons to exercise and to eat right, but trying to be a cave man based on some mythological past, is silly.
    Besides, we are here primarily to find God and become a partaker of His nature. The whole movement is obsessed with physicality.

    1. Therre is nothing about trying to be a caveman and you provide no examples of a historical error here I must question the whole “based on a mythological past” thing. As far as finding God, there’s no proof that he/she/it/whatever really exists.

  34. Like your articles. Speaking of circadian rhythms, I heard that the natural cycle is 25 hours, not 24 so the best work cycle is 8 daytime work days, 8 afternoon workdays and 8 nightime. Then start all over again. Did it for a while and surprisingly it works. Rotating schedules should be the best way for a company to use it’s workforce and keep people healthy and focused.

  35. While I appreciate what you are doing with the promotion of lifelong physical fitness, I have some major questions and disagreements about the movement you are, pardon the pun, spearheading.

    It seems that because early man didn’t live very long, we don’t know that he wouldn’t have had cancer or heart disease, etc., later in life.

    What do you say to the research of T.Colin Campbell, PhD, who showed in peer-reviewed experiments that animal protein turns on the promotion of cancer cell growth — and vegetable-source protein does not? Read “The China Study” or Google him.

    I don’t understand the aversion to grains. I do quite well on an almost-vegan diet with lots of whole grains, beans, and low-glycemic bread.

    A study of the teachings at the heart of most of the world’s religions advocates kindness to animals and even outright vegetarianism. I find the Paleo diet a move back toward savagery, not forward toward human evolution.

    The physiological set-up of our teeth and digestive system as described by Dr. John McDougall, and others, is designed to digest carbohydrates, not meat. Our closest primate relatives, the chimps, eat very little animal-flesh or insects.

    The Book of Genesis, not that I take it strictly, tells us that the intended diet for mankind was fruits and seeds and plants. There is no mention of animal eating in the Garden. It was only after the Fall of Man into fratricide and violating the rules of the Creator that meat-eating and animal sacrifices became accepted by the Hebrews.

    I agree with much of what you say about the terrible junk food modern diet, but meat is a big part of the problems it causes.

    What do you say to all this? Thanks.

    1. You must be new to reference the china study. It’s been debunked here so often people don’t even want to talk about it any more. 😀

      If grains etc. work for you then you should keep at them. Many people find the reverse to be true. Most of your other arguments have also been addressed elsewhere on this blog, so keep looking if you really want to know.

    2. i don’t know what you think, but our closest relatives are the omnivorous cro-magnon and carnivorous neanderthal, not the omnivorous (NOT herbivorous) chimps.

  36. This article is a load of shit when it talks about diet. We are primates. Our closest primate relative is the Bonobo. Check them out. They are vegetarians.

    1. Bonobos and Chimps both are our closest primate relatives and neither is vegetarian. They mostly subsist on plant matter but they supplement with meat. Chimps eat monkeys sometimes which sort of seems like cannibalism though that isn’t actually what it is.

      This site and many similar ones probably do make it seem like we ate a lot more meat than we ever actually did when in a tribal mode.

      If you read The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond, he makes a convincing argument that, except for the first to wander into an area unfamiliar with humans, our meat consumption was probably quite occasional. The basis of this opinion can best be summed up as follows:

      Hunting is really, really, really flippin’ hard.

    2. our closest relatives are the cro- magnon (omnivore), then the neanderthal (carnivore). our closest LIVING primate relatives are the bonobo (OMNIVORE) and chimp (OMNIVORE).

      1. I am pretty sure it is understood that we were all talking about extant species. In fact, that was so obvious to me that I initially thought you were being really nitpicky to point out the distinction twice.

        Then I thought you might think that those closer relatives would edify us on this topic, that the Neanderthal diet is somehow more relevant than the chimp diet because of the shorter genetic distance.

        The dietary habits of Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon man are less certain than our own dietary habits circa the Great Leap Forward. Since this debate is about the latter, the former isn’t helpful.

        The dietary habits of chimps is very helpful because we are far more certain of their habits than we are of our own 50,000 years ago. That’s what makes it informative. Huge amounts of direct, observable data.

        1. Being related doesn’t mean we need the same diet anyway. Look at the Panda,(99% bamboo) and the Spectacled Bear (5% meat, no bamboo especially) and they are closest to each other. It’s, you know, all part of becoming a different species.

          Plus, it’s interesting when diets are analyzed how much they miss stuff like insects etc. And once I saw that the fish eaten by a primitive people’s hadn’t been included as “hunting” because the women caught them. Often the charts they use to figure macronutrients in the diet only include the muscles and don’t account for organ meats or marrow. Another set of researchers reduced the amount of coconut fat in the Thai diet because they didn’t believe it was possible to be healthy on that amount of saturated fats. And on and on. It seems incredibly hard to get numbers that aren’t heavily influenced by the researcher’s point of view.

        2. I never said being related meant we need the same diet. Nor did I ever say that the Neanderthal diet is more relevant than the chimp diet. Nor did I say that Chimp diets were not informative. Please do not put words in my mouth.

  37. The problem with the Paleo diet is that it ignores all the good work nutritionists have done to improve our understanding of “optimum nutrition”. But, saying that, it is certainly the most logical diet plan in my opinion for the average overweight person.

    Humans are omnivores, natural protein would have come from grubs and shellfish rather than cows and salmon though, but apart from that, protein has animal always been key to our development.

  38. I saw your video on your site. You’re just a few years older than Mark Sisson?

    Primal it is…

  39. Mark,

    thanks a lot for your great site! I discovered it via lewrockwell.com and I really like what I see. I’m obese and need to lose many pounds to get back in shape. I always followed the old blueprint of avoiding fat and thus loaded my plates with tons of pasta, potatoes and bread. (And yes, of course soda, gummi bears, cake and other sweets).

    Whether or not you agree with all aspects of the primal lifestyle specifically, you need to admit that cutting out or drastically reducing your portions of grains seems to be an important step for many nutritionists.

    I cut out entirely soda, cut back my grain portions and started to eat a lot of fresh vegetables and seafood, both of which I had treated stepmotherly before. So I “discovered” new yummy foods such as lamb’s lettuce or crayfish tails, which I had shunned before. And it works. In the last few weeks I have already lost some pounds.

    I have a question about a dairy product: whey. Would you recommend including it in your diet? (Sorry if that has been explained before, but I haven’t found it.) Anyways, thanks a lot for your great page!

  40. Oh yes, and about that “I only need to run faster than you” thing – besides the fact that it’s not really a sign of comradeship among the members of a tribe – Predators first choose their victims, then go for them! So if a horde of lions chooses you as their victim (and usually lions hunt in a horde!), then you’ll have to run faster than all these lions!

  41. Okay, after reading Paleo Diet and reading numerous comments on here, I have a few questions I want to be cleared up.

    For one, why is it that PB allow things like dairy in it? Mark advocates butter and yogurt consumption, which baffles me somewhat. I can’t imagine that our ancestors would be eating either.

    Second, just to clarify, meat consumption (regardless of how fat), eggs, veggies, nuts (does Cashew count? It’s not on the regular grocery list…why? Also, why not soy?), and fruits are given an a-okay on this diet. Am I correct?

    And third, I’ve been on this diet recently (for the past 2 days actually), and I haven’t been able to curb my sugar cravings. But I’ve had enough self-control to prevent myself from consuming it. How do you suggest I go about tamping it down?

  42. Support your local organic farmers for pesticide free vegetables and fresh eggs. Drink raw milk and kefir for your limited dairy intake. Buy their meat from pasture-fed, free roaming animals. Hell, start hunting if it floats your boat. Learn how to build a small house so we might actually have some land left to hunt and fish on. Most modern men are soft and weak!

  43. Hello Mark and i can’t never thank you enough for your site and book for you have changed my life.A question: I live in a very short budget and can’t afford to buy most of the foods you list for the primal living.Can you please list some foods that are not so expensive.I love to cook and i cook all of my family meals daily.We never go out to eat and my family refuse to eat fast foods or “junk” which is great.Who can tell of a tennager do not liking fast foods? I DO!Please help me since we are really trying to eat,live healthy,work out and everyhting primal.Ps:Excuse my english is not the best i hope i was able to explain myself in this comment.Thank you and good luck to all primals in our journey to a better,healthier living.

  44. As for me, ditching grains is the most difficult part. It’s fairly easy to eat more vegetables and fruits, but it’s harder to give up pasta or rice. Fortunately rice isn’t as unhealthy as pasta or white bread (which I’ve already given up). I try to eat as healthy as possible and I think that’s the key to success – step by step, one improvement at a time.

    1. When you give up grains for real (rice too), you will eventually be freed from the hamster wheel of dieting. I always ask people what’s the hardest thing to give up? The answer will always be the single most important thing they SHOULD give up because it’s the obstacle to their success at adopting a healthier lifestyle and feeling in control. You absolutely can do it one step at a time, I agree, but you also have to eventually bite the bullet and really go for it! You can. If my husband can do it, which he has, anyone can. He was adamant that he could eat whatever he wanted as long as he worked out. Finally in his 40’s after quitting grains, he has the best body he’s ever had. Turns out he’s not genetically big. It was his diet. He was never fat, just thick, like a football player. Now when he’s really doing well with diet and exercise he looks more like a cyclist. He cannot believe his body could do that.

      1. Nice 🙂

        “When you give up grains for real (rice too), you will eventually be freed from the hamster wheel of dieting.”

  45. I’ve read through some of the comments, and it always amazes me that people get so fired up when you talk about grains being bad for us. Pasta, Bread, rice, etc…are legalized crack to the western world, and it’s a bit like telling a heroine addict, the heroine is ruining their life. Doubters should at least test the theory, because when you drop grains from your diet the most amazing thing happens; you gain control of your eating. And when you live the primal/paleo lifestyle and maybe have a cheat weekend, for example, you literally get food drunk. Anyone who’s tried this will attest to it. There’s something about the grains that is intoxicating and yet provides no nutritional value. So the result is eating uncontrollably. The body will not quit craving until it gets nutritionally sound food. I cannot tolerate nay sayers who’ve never been off grains!