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...Tell Me More
As you may know, I’ve been working on my comprehensive diet, exercise and lifestyle book, The Primal Blueprint, for nearly two years now. This exciting project is nearing completion, with a planned publication date of April, 2009. In the spirit of the holiday season, I want to give you a detailed sneak preview! The message is aligned with many of the concepts and topics I address on Mark’s Daily Apple, but finally organizes the entire “primal” philosophy into a single work – your “owner’s manual” for all things primal. At 300+ pages, The Primal Blueprint will be an extremely comprehensive work, but I also envision it as a mere starting point for a brand extension of more specialized publications (e.g. – companion workbooks for athletes, weight loss enthusiasts, healthy families), a DVD series that is already in the works, live seminars and much more.
This post summarizes the content of each chapter. I have also posted a detailed Table of Contents (PDF – working draft) to give you a big picture view of what you can expect from The Primal Blueprint. I’d love to hear your first impressions on the book and thanks for your continued support and encouragement for this project.
I will be emailing everyone who’s interested in buying the book the day it comes out. If you want to be notified when that time comes, click here to sign up for the MDA weekly newsletter. If you already receive emails from us, you don’t need to sign up again.
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Welcome From Mark
I begin the book by acquainting the reader with my background in endurance athletics, personal coaching, and nutritional science, and how I came to formulate the Primal Blueprint philosophy that often conflicts with Conventional Wisdom. I explain the collaborative influence of thousands of members of the MarksDailyApple.com online community have had on this project. More than a book, The Primal Blueprint is a centerpiece of a vibrant community of passionate, forward thinking health enthusiasts connected by the internet. My program components and often controversial positions have been field tested in real life by real people, challenged and vetted by assorted experts and refined and polished in ways not possible in the traditional model of an expert communicating to readers individually and statically.
I explain how the Primal Blueprint differs from the typical regimented, restrictive, narrowly focused diet and fitness programs that abound to a shortcut-habituated public. Instead, the Primal Blueprint focuses on enjoying life – even while pursuing comprehensive behavior modification. Along these lines, my “80% rule” recognizes how unrealistic and stressful it is to pursue perfection. Instead, I advocate establishing a strong foundation of Primal Blueprint behaviors while allowing for some flexibility to account for the hectic pace and health challenges in modern life.
Introduction – What’s Going On Here?
In the Introduction, I detail how many elements of Conventional Wisdom about diet and exercise are making us unhealthy. Even those with high motivation levels and a sincere commitment to “doing the right thing” become confused and manipulated into lifestyle practices that are harmful. The obscene state of human health in the modern world is a testament to the dismal failure of the conventional approach to diet, exercise and stress management.
I discuss the concept – quite familiar to regular MDA readers – that we are genetically identical to our hunter-gatherer ancestors and that their diet, exercise and lifestyle behaviors represent an ideal to aspire to in modern life. I explain that genes are not merely unalterable inherited traits, but actually play a critical role in the function of every single cell in our bodies at every moment. Following the Primal Blueprint behavior laws creates the ideal environment for your genes to express themselves in support of robust health and peak performance, instead of turn on you to create excess fat storage, accelerated aging, disease and assorted pain and suffering. Unfortunately, many of us consider bad gene expression and poor health to be our destiny, based on family histories of risk factors or simply refusing to look beyond the prevailing cultural beliefs and health norms for a better way. The Primal Blueprint can help anyone – regardless of current state of health or the genetic cards you hold – to immediately experience improvements in health with behaviors that are easily sustained for a lifetime.
Chapter 1 – The Ten Primal Blueprint Laws
In Chapter One I present the “re:evolutionary” premise that our primal ancestors were bigger, stronger, healthier and possibly smarter than us! I provide a quick summary of the remarkable process of human evolution leading to the creation of the perfect human being…some 10,000 years ago. Our primal human role model from that time – the starring character of the Primal Blueprint – is nicknamed “Grok”. Since 10,000 years ago, the advent of agriculture and the inexorable technological progress of civilization have led us ever further astray from the dietary habits and active, stress-balanced lifestyles that allowed Grok to thrive and prevail under the harsh competitive circumstances of evolution. As a result, we have literally gone soft since then. Furthermore, thanks to medical intervention allowing even those with genetic flaws to reproduce, we exist today in what is arguably a state of devolution.
The ten Primal Blueprint laws allow us to overcome the negative cultural influences in the modern world and achieve robust health, peak longevity and effortless weight loss. The ten laws are: Eat Lots of Plants, Animals and Insects; Avoid Poisonous Things; Move Frequently At A Slow Pace; Lift Heavy Things; Run Really Fast Once In A While; Get Adequate Sleep; Play; Get Plenty of Sunlight; Avoid Stupid Mistakes; and Use Your Brain.
Chapter 2 – Grok and Korg: A Tale of Two Families
In Chapter Two we examine the contrasting daily lives of Grok and his primal family with their modern day antithesis, the Korg family. The extremely unhealthy saga of the Korgs might seem unrealistic, but it’s actually a statistically accurate indicator of many lifestyle trends today, including: hectic schedules, cultural and economic factors compromising quality family time; widespread use of prescription drugs to address the symptoms of health problems easily corrected by lifestyle modification; excessive digital media use and lack of exercise by children, which leads to behavior problems and early onset of disease risk factors; and flawed, overly stressful approaches to exercise and diet by even the most devoted fitness and weight loss enthusiasts.
While the story is distressing, the good news is that with some simple, enjoyable lifestyle modifications, the momentum can turn immediately in the direction of better health (including freedom from dependence on prescription medication), more energy, successful long-term weight loss and a generally more enjoyable life for you and your family.
Chapter 3 – Primal Blueprint Eating Philosophy
In Chapter Three I present the philosophy, rationale and benefits of Primal Blueprint eating. I make a special effort to detail the importance of moderating insulin production by limiting intake of processed carbohydrates – not only sugars but also all cultivated grains (yep, even whole grains). This simple dietary modification – perhaps the single most critical take away action item from the Primal Blueprint – will allow you to succeed with long term weight loss goals and avoid the most common modern lifestyle related health problems and diseases. I explain the benefits of ingesting optimal amounts of Omega 3’s, including their important role in controlling inflammation and preventing disease. I explain why the Conventional Wisdom story about cholesterol as a heart disease risk factor is deeply flawed. I discuss the true culprit that triggers the development of atherosclerosis: Metabolic Syndrome (a conclusion now widely accepted by the medical community). This is a serious widespread medical condition (afflicts one in five Americans) attributed to the typical modern diet (mainly, too many processed carbs and fats causing insulin resistance) and sedentary culture. I describe the dietary steps you can take to virtually eliminate your risk of heart disease.
We analyze each macronutrient in detail (protein, carbohydrate, fat and the “fourth fuel” of ketones), and establish the proper context for discussing how these nutrients affect your eating strategy, energy levels and overall health. I detail why “eating well” means more than just making healthy food choices; it encompasses eating sensibly and intuitively, in a relaxed environment conducive to maximum appreciation of food, and avoiding regimented, restrictive diets that lead to negativity, guilt and rebellion. Finally, I offer tips on how to succeed in converting to Primal Blueprint eating without causing additional stress or disappointment so common with unrealistic diet programs.
Chapter 4 – Primal Blueprint Law #1: Eat Lots Of Plants, Animals and Insects
In Chapter Four I detail the health benefits of eating Primal Blueprint style, and how to choose the best products in the food categories of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, meat, fish, eggs, nutritional supplements and even sensible indulgences. We pay particular attention to the benefits of choosing natural, organic plants and animals and contrast the often offensive ingredients and processing methods found with conventional foods and mass produced animals.
We address the potential budget impact of eating Primal Blueprint style, offering some prioritization tips that can give you the most bang for your buck…and your health. I’ll offer lists of my favorite vegetables, fruits and primal snacks, with specific health benefits detailed – yep, even for the indulgences!
In Chapter 5 – Primal Blueprint Law #2 – Avoid Poisonous Things
In Chapter Five I detail the health risks of eating “poisonous things”. In Grok’s day, poisonous plants could drop or even kill him on the spot. Today we have evolved to factory-produced items in bright packages that kill more insidiously over decades. We explore the cultural factors that create tremendous momentum towards unhealthy choices and how to take a stand against these manipulative influences. We pay particular attention to dispelling the Conventional Wisdom tenet that cultivated grain products (wheat, rice, bread, pasta, cereal, corn, etc.) are healthy, countering with extensive research and details indicating the problems they cause with insulin production, nutrient deficiencies, immune function and allergies. We discuss the drawbacks and dangers of consuming trans and hydrogenated fats, sugars, legumes and foods commonly miscategorized as healthy.
I detail foods that you can enjoy in moderation, including how to make the best choices among dairy products, starchy vegetables, oils and butter, wild rice and certain fruits. I refute Conventional Wisdom’s notion that you should routinely drink extensive amounts of water and instead assert that, like Grok, we simply use our thirst to guide us to proper hydration.
Chapter 6 – The Primal Blueprint Exercise Laws
In Chapter Six I detail the rationale and benefits of the three Primal Blueprint exercise laws: Law #3: Move Frequently At A Slow Pace, Law #4: Lift Heavy Things, and Law #5: Run Really Fast Once In A While. Mirroring the active lifestyle of Grok will produce what I call Renaissance Fitness, a versatile and diverse set of abilities that allow you to tackle varied active lifestyle or athletic challenges safely and competently. In contrast, many pursue narrow, specialized forms of fitness (e.g. – endurance athletes and bodybuilders) that are minimally functional and often compromise general health. Following the Primal Blueprint exercise laws will delay the aging process by preserving lean muscle mass, which correlates with enhanced organ function.
We contrast the benefits of Primal Blueprint exercise with the many drawbacks and health risks associated with Conventional Wisdom’s fitness recommendations. Moving frequently at a slow pace is superior to an exhausting routine of frequent sustained medium to hard workouts. These workouts often lead to sugar cravings that compromise weight loss efforts, and hampered immune and hormone function. Lifting heavy things involves brief, intense sessions that promote optimal hormone flow and prevent the catabolic effects of prolonged sessions where muscles are worked until “failure” and you leave the gym exhausted and depleted. Few things are more primal than Law #5 – running for your life once in a while! Short intense sprints trigger optimal hormone flow, lean muscle development, accelerated fat metabolism and incredible fitness breakthroughs. I discuss an optimal strategic approach for conducting workouts for each of the three Primal Blueprint laws (including form pointers and the benefits of going “barefoot”), with specific workout suggestions provided in the Appendix.
Chapter 7 – The Primal Blueprint Lifestyle Laws
In Chapter Seven I detail the five lifestyle laws of the Primal Blueprint: Get Adequate Sleep, Play, Get Adequate Sunlight, Avoid Stupid Mistakes and Use Your Brain. While Grok’s diet and exercise patterns were clearly major influences in shaping how his (and our) genes evolved, there were other environmental and behavioral forces that were no less important in perfecting the DNA recipe for a healthy, vibrant human being. It would be a mistake for us to underemphasize these other lifestyle habits, since they still play a significant role in whether or not we lose fat, build muscle, and stay focused, energetic, productive and disease-free.
Law #6, Get Adequate Sleep, delivers obvious benefits, but is widely compromised today. Good sleep involves understanding the physiology, establishing consistent habits, taking advantage of the profound benefits of napping (when you need one) and applying effective time prioritization skills. Law #7, Play, requires minimal analysis or specific instruction. Again, it’s an obvious but widely neglected lifestyle law that can deliver widespread benefits and make you quantifiably more productive when balanced effectively with work. Law #8, Get Adequate Sunlight, is an area where Conventional Wisdom has let us down, scaring us into avoiding the outdoors due to the misinterpreted risks of skin cancer. Obtaining optimal levels of Vitamin D, synthesized from sun exposure on your skin, is critical to cellular health and cancer prevention. Law #9, Avoid Stupid Mistakes, details how our obsessive desire to control or eliminate all sources of potential danger has made us lazy and inattentive. Cultivating the skills of hyper-vigilance and risk management is essential to avoid the self-inflicted trauma and suffering epitomized by the satirical but astonishingly true stories of the Darwin Awards. Law #10, Use Your Brain, may seem incongruent to many of us who are hyper-stimulated all day long. Actually, the unrelenting pace of modern life and intense pressure to achieve and consume strongly conflicts with our genetic makeup and can lead to feelings of restlessness and discontent. Pursuing creative intellectual outlets unrelated to your core daily responsibilities and economic contribution will keep you refreshed and excited about life.
Chapter 8 – A Primal Approach To Weight Loss
Chapter Eight provides a detailed step-by-step process to lose an average of one to two pounds of body fat per week. We learn how to target protein, carb, and fat intake in order to ramp up fat metabolism, maintain high dietary satisfaction levels and avoid the risk of depleting muscle tissue and suffering from the usual rebound/rebellion effect of severe caloric restriction. We discuss how de-regulating food intake and fasting intermittently can be effective calorie restriction tools and how exercise can support and accelerate progress towards your body composition goals.
We review two weight loss case studies (Ken and Kelly Korg – naturally!), calculating their average daily caloric expenditure and optimal daily intake of each macronutrient – Primal Blueprint style – to produce effortless fat loss. We examine a daily food diary of delicious, nutritious meals that contains a detailed caloric analysis and macronutrient breakdown for each meal and a daily total. The case studies result in a loss of 4.5 pound of body fat for Kelly and 6.6 pounds of body fat for Ken in a single month. Finally, I provide “Troubleshooting” tips for possible setbacks and plateaus that arise when trying to lose weight in the real world.
Chapter 9 – Conclusion
In the Conclusion we reflect on the Korgs’ story (“Yeah, It Really Is That Bad”) and how far we have drifted from the natural dietary, exercise and lifestyle habits modeled by Grok that our genes thrive on. It’s clear that we cannot trust Conventional Wisdom, corporate America or our government to make us healthy – we are truly on our own. Taking action involves proceeding with an open mind and a clean slate to depart from the cultural momentum towards shortcuts and placation through consumption. I provide tips for “getting primal”, including easing into it, isolating on one lifestyle challenge at a time to avoid being overwhelmed, and tracking progress both objectively and subjectively. Goals should be process-oriented to avoid the risks of disappointment and declining motivation when failing to meet the often arbitrary and superficial success standards imposed by society.
Appendix A – Everything You Wanted To Ask…But Were Afraid To Know
Appendix A is a detailed Q&A section covering research about evolution and primal life, gene expression, diet, exercise and lifestyle issues from the book that deserve further detail. I offer suggestions on how to interpret the often conflicting conclusions of respected scientific studies; dispel Conventional Wisdom touting the importance of fiber; how to get kids on board with the Primal Blueprint; the effects of cortisol on health and fitness; concerns of hard training athletes trying to meet energy requirements through Primal Blueprint eating, and many other topics inspired by MarksDailyApple.com readers and expert reviewers of the manuscript.
Appendix B – Primal Blueprint Compare and Contrast With Popular Diets
In Appendix B, I critique seven popular diets or diet categories (Atkins, Low Fat, Metabolic and Blood Typing, Paleo, South Beach, Vegetarian, Zone). For each, I detail the strong points and also the flaws – some minor, some egregious – and the adverse affects they have on your health. I also take the opportunity to offer a pre-emptive defense against anticipated criticism for the Primal Blueprint (hey, it’s my book!).
Appendix C – Chapter Two References
In Appendix C, I elaborate on each of the 22 footnotes from Chapter Two – Grok and Korg, with research references, statistics and detailed explanations.
Appendix D – Law #4: Lift Heavy Things – Workout Suggestions
In Appendix D, suggestions are provided for a total body circuit workout using gym equipment, a quick routine of functional, compound movements using only your bodyweight for resistance and a fun, primal “Grok” workout that will knock your socks off in about seven minutes!
Appendix E – Law #5: Run Really Fast Once In A While – Workout Suggestions
In Appendix E, suggestions are provided for Novice, Intermediate and Advanced sprint workouts, including low impact options like uphill running and cycling. For advanced athletes, additional workout options include plyometric drills, stadium stairs and “Grokball”.
Appendix F – Primal Blueprint Resource List
Appendix F lists some book, magazine, newspaper and internet resources used in Primal Blueprint research and fact checking.