The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Challenge
Everyone wants to eat good food, be active, and enjoy all that life offers. Everyone wants to be healthier, fitter, happier, and more productive. But no one wants to endure a lifetime of misery and hard work just to get there. Luckily, hundreds of thousands of people have already discovered that it’s actually really simple, that it doesn’t require suffering and sacrifice, and that just a few foundational changes to the way we approach food, exercise, and life can transform our health and wellness for the rest of our lives.
How do you do it, you ask? By aligning your behaviors with what your genes expect from you as detailed in The Primal Blueprint.
Where do you start? If you’ve got 21 days to spare, take the Primal Blueprint 21-Day Challenge.
You’ve seen the success stories. You’ve heard about it from friends and family members. You’ve thought about it a half dozen times and never quite pulled the trigger. Well, all that dithering ends today. Take the challenge. Change your body. Transform your health. Improve your life – for good.
What Is the Primal Blueprint 21-Day Challenge?
It’s a way to figure out what makes your body tick.
It’s a method for rejuvenating your health and revitalizing your metabolism.
Most of all, the Primal Blueprint 21-Day Challenge will show you that you alone have the power to control your health, determine your body composition, and direct gene expression toward fat-burning, muscle-building, energy-producing, and life-extending pathways.
The 21-Day Challenge In 30 Seconds
This is the Challenge. Do it for just 21 days and the results will speak for themselves.
- Eat real food.
- Avoid sugar, grains, unhealthy fats, beans/legumes.
- Align your carb intake with your weight goals and activity levels.
- Move frequently at a slow pace: Get between 2-5 hours per week of moderate aerobic exercise.
- Lift heavy things: Conduct 1-3 brief, intense sessions of full-body functional movements.
- Sprint: Go “all out” once a week.
- Get 8 hours of sleep every night.
- Get 15 minutes of direct sun exposure each day.
- Play! Find time to let go, disconnect, unwind and have fun each day.
Learn More About The Primal Blueprint:
Read on to learn all the details and rules for the 21-Day Challenge.
Eat Primal foods: Meat, fish, fowl, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, high quality fats, a moderate intake of high-fat dairy products (if you’re lactose tolerant) and supplemental carbs (for heavy exercisers and growing youth), and occasional sensible indulgences such as red wine and dark chocolate.
General Guidelines: 80% of body composition success is determined by diet. Limit processed carb intake (hence, insulin production), and obtain sufficient fat and protein to fuel and rebuild.
- Protein: Average .7 – 1 gram per pound of lean body mass/day – depending on activity levels (more at times is fine).
- Carbs: 50-100 grams/day (or less) = accelerated fat loss. 100-150 grams/day = effortless weight maintenance. (See the Carb Curve below.) Heavy exercisers can increase carb intake as needed to replace glycogen stores.
- Fat: Enjoy freely but sensibly for balance of caloric needs and high dietary satisfaction levels.
- Grains, sugars, sweetened beverages: Processed carbohydrates drive excess insulin production, which can lead to lifelong insidious weight gain. Even if you don’t have excess body fat concerns, a high insulin-producing diet promotes systemic inflammation, fatigue, and burnout. Grains might be the most offensive foods in your diet because they also contain “antinutrients” that may cause health problems beyond just gaining weight.
- Industrial and polyunsaturated oils: Trans and partially-hydrogenated fats (from heavily processed snack or frozen foods); deep-fried menu items (from fast-food joints), assorted packaged snacks and baked goods (chips, crackers, cookies, etc.), margarine-type spreads, and bottled vegetable oils (canola, corn, safflower, etc.) promote oxidation and inflammation, setting the stage for cancer and heart disease.
- Beans and other legumes: Beans, lentils, peanuts, peas, and soy products contain antinutrients that compromise digestion, immune function, and general health. The highly-touted fiber in beans is problematic, and the carbohydrate content in all legumes is high enough to warrant cutting or eliminating them in the interest of moderating insulin production.
- Dairy: Most commercial dairy products are unhealthy for everyone – laden with hormones and other impurities. Organic butter and heavy cream are the preferred forms of dairy, if you are lactose tolerant.
Carbohydrate intake is often the decisive factor in weight loss success and prevention of widespread health problems like Metabolic Syndrome, obesity and type 2 diabetes. These average daily intake levels assume that you are also getting sufficient protein and healthy fats, and are doing some amount of Primal exercise. The ranges in each zone account for individual metabolic differences.
- 0-50 grams per day: Ketosis and I.F. (Intermittent Fasting) zone. Excellent catalyst for rapid fat loss through I.F. Not recommended for prolonged periods (except in medically supervised programs for obese or Type 2 diabetics) due to unnecessary deprivation of plant foods.
- 50-100 grams per day: Sweet Spot for Weight Loss. Steadily drop excess body fat by minimizing insulin production. Enables 1-2 pounds per week of fat loss with satisfying, minimally restrictive meals.
- 100-150 grams per day: Primal Maintenance zone. Once you’ve arrived at your goal or ideal body composition, you can maintain it quite easily here while enjoying abundant vegetables, fruits and other Primal foods.
- 150-300 grams per day: Insidious Weight Gain zone. Most health conscious eaters and unsuccessful dieters end up here, due to frequent intake of sugar and grain products (breads, pastas, cereals, rice, potatoes – even whole grains). Despite trying to “do the right thing” (minimize fat, cut calories), people can still gain an average of 1.5 pounds of fat every year for decades.
- 300+ grams a day: Danger Zone of average American diet. All but the most extreme exercisers will tend to produce excessive insulin and store excessive fat over the years at this intake level. Increases risk for obesity, Metabolic Syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
Exercising according to the three Primal Blueprint laws will optimize gene expression and promote Primal Fitness.
- Law #3: Move Frequently at a Slow Pace strengthens the cardiovascular and immune systems, promotes efficient fat metabolism and gives you a strong base to handle more intense workouts. Get between 2-5 hours per week of moderate aerobic exercise. Try to get a long walk in each day. Go on a long hike each weekend, or go for a leisurely bike ride a few times each week.
- Law: #4: Lift Heavy Things stimulates lean muscle development, improves organ reserve, accelerates fat loss, and increases energy. Conduct 1-3 brief, intense sessions of full-body functional movements. See Primal Blueprint Fitness for more information on Lifting Heavy Things.
- Law #5: Sprint Once in a While stimulates the production of HGH and testosterone, which help improve overall fitness and delay the aging process – without the burnout risk of excessive prolonged workouts. Go “all out” once a week. You can sprint in any variety of ways: running, swimming, cycling on a stationary bike, or even doing bodyweight squats using the Tabata protocol. The important thing is you give it your all.
How Not to Exercise
The Conventional Wisdom approach to fitness is clearly not working! Stress is excessive, weight loss goals are compromised, and many are misguided to pursue narrow fitness goals that are unhealthy.
- Avoid Chronic Cardio (frequent medium-to-high intensity sustained workouts)
- Avoid Chronic Strength Training (frequent and/or prolonged sub-maximal lifting sessions ending in exhaustion)
- Avoid Regimented Schedules (instead, allow for spontaneous, intuitive variation in type, difficulty and frequency of workouts)
- Sleep: Adequate sleep is essential for health, helping us solidify memories and learn new skills, allowing muscles to grow and fat to burn, and maintaining the circadian rhythms that govern our immune system and metabolism. Aim for at least 8 hours a night. Limit artificial light at night to avoid disruption of your sleep cycle. Try these tips to ensure the best sleep possible.
- Sun: Unfiltered sunlight is the best source of vitamin D, the crucial substance responsible for bone and heart health, hormonal function, cancer protection, and the strength of our immune system. 15 minutes of midday sun (without sunblock!) is ideal for most.
- Play: The purpose of all this – healthy eating, moving, and living – is to make life more enjoyable. If you’re not letting go, having fun, and playing on a daily basis, are you really living? Take time every single day to do something fun, play a sport, enjoy a game.
- Go Barefoot: Our feet are lined with millions of nerve endings – and we cover them up with shoes. When you go barefoot, a whole new world opens up underfoot, improving your balance, your running, your proprioceptive awareness, and your appreciation for walking. It also reduces the loading on your joints, so go barefoot when it makes sense! If you’ve been wearing shoes for awhile, tread lightly and be cautious before you go too far or too fast.
- Squat to Poop: Toilets are a recent invention on the evolutionary timescale, and research suggests that squatting to evacuate is more efficient, more effective, requires less straining, and may even be protective against serious digestive disorders.
- Manage Stress: In case you weren’t aware, stress kills. It has a measurable physiological impact on our health, affecting sleep, brain function, immunity, body fat, our workouts, and even our risk of dying. Plus, it’s unpleasant. Managing, or reducing stress is a Primal must.
- Embrace Acute Stress: If chronic stress is a killer, acute stress (hard workouts, brief cold exposure, a skipped meal) makes us stronger. Just don’t let it get away from you; an acute stressor can very quickly turn into a chronic stressor.
- Cook a Primal Dish: A huge part of regaining control of your health is learning how to cook from scratch. Choose from among hundreds of fantastic Primal recipes on the blog or in a Primal Blueprint cookbook to get started.
- Stand at Work: Sitting is the new smoking. It’s as dangerous to our long-term health as tobacco and yet most people sit on their duffs for eight hours a day at the office. Combat this scourge with a standup workstation, or at least by alternating sitting with standing. Make sure you do it right.
- Walk 10,000 Steps a Day: Grok‘s daily life was characterized by lots of low-level movement – constant motion. Avoid sedentism and emulate his movement patterns by walking at least 10,000 steps a day.
The following five Action Items require minimal logistics, expense, and hassle. In fact, it’s likely that implementing these Action Items will reduce complexity and increase flexibility in your life. While it’s important to reject a robotic, obsessive approach in favor of an intuitive approach, it’s essential to make the commitments detailed in order to enjoy the full benefits of living Primally. After reading and understanding these articles, you can start your 21-Day Challenge in earnest.
What to Expect
Although most people find going Primal to be an intuitive, sensible, smooth process, it is a large departure from what you’re probably used to doing – and there will be difficult moments as you adjust to your new lifestyle. Here’s what you can expect.
Low carb flu: Burning fat for energy requires different machinery than burning carbs. If you’ve been eating a carb-based diet for years and suddenly reduce the carbs, it will take several days for the fat-burning gears to start working at optimal output. In the meantime, you may experience fatigue, headaches, and malaise. But no matter how hard or unpleasant it might seem, know that it will pass and you will be better for having experienced it.
There are other common stumbling blocks when first starting a Primal lifestyle. See the following articles for further guidance.
Why You Should Do This
We all want to feel good, look good, and avoid the doctor’s office for as long as we can, but we don’t want to be miserable in the process. The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Challenge shows you how to get there without depriving yourself of all that is good in life. You’ll learn that not only is getting healthy simple and straightforward, it’s enjoyable. It doesn’t have to be a miserable exercise in self-flagellation. Most enduring of all will be the realization that you have the power to rebuild and renew yourself by influencing gene expression through diet, movement, sun, sleep, play, and all the rest – and that you know how to do it, thanks to your experience with the challenge.
Past Challenge participants have reported dozens of positive changes, including but not limited to:
Appetite: As your genes reprogram your cells to to derive more energy from fat than glucose, you’ll no longer need frequent high-carb meals and snacks to maintain your blood sugar. Eating nutrient-dense Primal fare will autoregulate your appetite, leading to increased satiety with fewer calories.
Blood markers: You can expect lower triglyceride and LDL (“bad cholesterol”) levels, higher HDL (“good cholesterol”) levels, lower blood pressure, normalized blood glucose, and significant improvements in other blood markers.
Body fat: Your body’s newfound reliance on fat (both stored and dietary) for energy will result in lower levels of body fat.
Cravings: Sugar cravings are merely a reflection of a reliance on glucose. By using fat for energy, your cravings for sweets will diminish and even disappear, and your steady appetite and energy levels will reduce your desire for salty, carb-rich snacks.
Digestion: Eliminating grains and other processed foods that contain antinutrients will kickstart your sluggish digestion, reduce bloating, and improve nutrient absorption.
Energy levels: Rather than rely on frequent infusions of glucose throughout the day, you will draw on your own stored body fat for steady, smooth energy – even if you skip a meal or forget to eat.
Sleep quality: Aligning your lifestyle with your circadian rhythm will promote easy, quality, lasting sleep that leaves you feeling energized in the morning – not groggy.
Stress levels: By rejecting toxic modern food and chronic patterns of exercise, Primalizing your lifestyle will reduce baseline stress levels and give you more firepower to deal with the stressors of modern hectic life.
Total fitness: Primal Blueprint Fitness is founded on functional, full-body movements that prepare you to move through the environment with grace, strength, and agility.
You’re Not Alone!
Download the full-size version (large file).
Mark’s Daily Apple is an incredibly vibrant and supportive community of people that have decided they want to take control of their health – just like you! Many have come before you, faced the same problems you’re facing, asked the same questions you’re wondering about, and are here to help. There are families who shop like Grok, friends who picnic like Grok, people who pose like Grok, and people with Grok tattoos – and they live across the globe. Hundreds of people have created Primal cooking and fitness videos that you can use for ideas and inspiration. Also, you are highly encourage you to use the forum during the challenge. In it you can start a “Primal Challenge Journal” to publicly state your goals and track your progress. Create a journal to receive positive feedback, advice and help along the way from the Mark’s Daily Apple community.
We aim to make the Primal Blueprint 21-Day Challenge as simple and streamlined as possible. It’s founded on basic evolutionary principles, but it is a paradigm shift for most people – and paradigm shifts can be scary, daunting things. In case you need help with making the transition, we’ve got you covered:
- The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Transformation Program: For those who really want to succeed and/or need advanced support, we offer a comprehensive package including relevant books (paper and audio), cookbook, app, health-supporting supplements much more.
- The Primal Blueprint: The book that started it all, The Primal Blueprint lays out why you should eat, train, and live like your ancestors.
- The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Total Body Transformation: If you want a concise and visual explanation of exactly how to tackle the Primal challenge step by step, this is the book for you. It contains a daily logbook and journal so you can track your 21-Day progress.
- The Primal Blueprint 90-Day Journal: A fantastic tool for tracking – and boosting – your progress as you make your way through and beyond the challenge.
- The Primal Blueprint Cookbook: The first thing I tell people who doubt the Primal Blueprint is “Try the food and then we’ll talk,” as I hand them a copy of this cookbook. Wow guests, skeptics, and yourself with any of the recipes.
- Primal Blueprint Quick & Easy Meals: No time to cook? Instead of getting take out, learn to cook simple, easy, healthy Primal meals in 30 minutes or less.
- Primal Blueprint Healthy Sauces, Dressings & Toppings: Even your favorite foods get stale at times. Learn how to counter the boredom (and replace old unPrimal favorites) by slathering, drizzling, and/or applying these healthy alternatives to your dishes.
If you have inquiries or need any help whatsoever, don’t hesitate to contact us via email at anytime.
Now get out there and start your Primal life today!