Primal Blueprint Review: 10 ways to better Health

Primal Blueprint Review

There are a number of books on my shelf about fitness, health and nutrition.
The Primal Blueprint is my number one pick for “START HERE”. Other books can (and do!) go into more specifics. The Primal Blueprint is a great overview for the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle.

Primal Blueprint Review

The Primal Blueprint is not a weight loss or diet book. It’s a lifestyle program from an evolutionary perspective. Using historical and contemporary hunter-gatherers as a model, it attempts to apply those lessons to life in the 21st century. He does it in a way that’s accessible to nearly everyone.

Mark Sisson is an athlete, coach and student of health. The Primal Blueprint is the distillation of 20 years of his research and experience. Utilising aspects from a number of scientific fields, Mark has devised a concise list of behaviour principles to improve your health, fitness and participation in life.

If you keep in mind that this is a blueprint for general health, fitness and well-being – you won’t get bogged down in minutia. Or throw the baby out with the bathwater because of one or two things with which you disagree.

I like the fitness suggestions because they focus on functional movements, encourage strength training and some cardio for conditioning. Walking more will work for almost everyone.

I like the diet suggestions because they focus on real food. The Primal Blueprint principles are simple, practical and relatively inexpensive. They require minimal, if any, sacrifice or deprivation. Mark is not a drill sergeant. He tries to create a plan that will be sustainable in the long run, by staying positive and allowing for flexibility.

The most important take-aways are:

The 10 Primal Blueprint Laws
The Primal Food Pyramid
The Carbohydrate Curve
Walk lots, Sprint Occasionally, Lift Heavy Things

If you can, read the whole book, cover to cover. Then reread certain parts.
If you can’t/“don’t have time” then read the chapter summaries and ‘snippets’.

The table of contents is as follows

Welcome from Mark
Introduction: What is Going on Here?
Chapter 1: The Ten Primal Blueprint Laws
Chapter 2: Grok and Korg- From Indigenous to Digital: One Giant Step (Backward) for Mankind
Chapter 3: The Primal Blueprint Eating Philosophy
Chapter 4: Primal Blueprint Law #1: Eat Lots of Plants and Animals
Chapter 5: Primal Blueprint Law #2: Avoid Poisonous Things
Chapter 6: The Primal Blueprint Exercise Laws
Chapter 7: The Primal Blueprint Lifestyle Laws
Chapter 8: A Primal Approach To Weight Loss
Chapter 9: Conclusion

Welcome from Mark

Read this just for the 80% Rule.
The gist. No one is perfect, but strive for perfection. That way, even if you don’t quite “get there” you’re still doing really well.

Introduction: What’s going on here?

Mark compares “Conventional Wisdom” and “The Primal Blueprint”. He does this by contrasting an archetypal hunter-gatherer called Grok, and his 21st century counterpart, Mr Korg. This section contains very brief sections on grains, saturated fat, cholesterol, eggs, fiber, meal habits, strength training, cardio, weight loss, play, sun, footwear, prescription drugs and goals.

Chapter 1: The Ten Primal Blueprint Laws

In this chapter Mark outlines the specific laws of The Primal Blueprint – the foundation of the entire book. If you read up to the end of chapter 1 and actually apply what you learn, your life will change.

Chapter 2: Grok and Korg – From Indigenous to Digital: One Giant Step (Backward) for Mankind

Mark compares the typical day of many Americans (this applies to many Australians now too, sadly) to a prototypical hunter-gather ancestor. It’s a frightening contrast.

Suffice to say, it’s been a different lifestyle scenario for the past blink in human evolution (some 10,000 years), and DRAMATICALLY different over the past few decades.

* Even if (like me) you’re not convinced of the ‘hunter gatherer model’ for health, what with so many factors, both genetic and environmental, that go into health – eating real food is still the right answer.

Chapter 3: Primal Blueprint Eating Philosophy

If you eat real food and don’t eat fake food – you’ll look, feel and perform better.
Sounds hard to believe, but it’s true.
The longer you eat properly, the less you want to eat crappy food- because it makes you feel just that way, crappy.

This chapter also covers the role of insulin in fat storage, cholesterol and the lipid hypothesis of heart disease, the role of healthy fats, macronutrients and transitioning to a Primal way of eating.

*Here’s where people often get hung up. Even if you don’t buy into the insulin/carbohydrate hypothesis and think dismissal of the lipid hypothesis is dangerous – eating real food and cutting down on fake food is still generally the right answer for improved health.

Chapter 4: Law #1- Eat Lots of Plants and Animals (Insects Optional)

Mark has a sense of humour. The Primal Blueprint is NOT a textbook.  It’s professional, yet enjoyable and even comical at times. Perhaps that’s even one of it’s strongest aspects – since what good is great knowledge if the communication is confusing?

In this chapter, Mark gets more specific with eating habits and choices. The vast, vast majority I agree with. A few details here and there I’m not exactly in agreement with, but overall, another excellent portion of the book.

Here Mark presents the Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid. On the whole an excellent, clear guide. I would swap the positions of meat and vegetables, but hey, that’s me, and the difference for most people would be negligible.

Regarding supplements, I’m not “anti-pill”, but obviously only take supplements if you actually need them (i.e. you have a tested, measurable deficiency in a vitamin or mineral).

Chapter 5: Law #2- Avoid Poisonous Things

In this chapter Mark argues against the ‘conventional wisdom’ surrounding grains in a systematic way. He goes into detail regarding the effects of grains, legumes, processed foods and sugar on insulin levels and immune function. He also discusses gluten, lectins, phytates and polyunsaturated vegetable oils and their effects on nutrient absorption and health, clearly and logically.

Chapter 6: The Primal Blueprint Exercise Laws

Mark’s stance on exercise and physical activity is far superior to the run of the mill “chronic cardio” and bodybuilding crowd. I have read some accounts of the Primal Blueprint by fitness professionals that disagree with this section. I believe this is throwing the baby out with the bath water. In my opinion, moving frequently at a slow pace, lifting heavy things and occasionally sprinting is a great way to get basic general, functional fitness.

It is true that you can get into far greater specifics with how you lift heavy things, what heavy things and how often. That will depend on specific goals, training age, required recovery, energy levels and a host of other variables. What Mark offers here is a quick guide on how to effectively go from sedentary to moving (or from overdoing it to balance).

He discusses the case against chronic cardio and the importance of functional, compound movements in strength training and in play.

Chapter 7: The Primal Blueprint Lifestyle Laws

Without proper sleep and sunlight the rest is built on shaky foundations.
Also, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” holds true for humans generally.
Mark ties these together and shows how they affect our health (mental and physical).

He also covers the final Primal Blueprint laws of “Avoiding Stupid Mistakes” and “Using your Brain” – making this book comprehensive and not just a typical diet or exercise book.

Chapter 8: A Primal Approach to Weight Loss

The chapter begins by linking, and purposefully repeating which aspects of The Primal Blueprint will help you lose weight (fat)- although I hope by the end of the book that most people will realize that health, body composition, daily habits, and so on, are all inter-related, and very rarely exclusive to one another.

The carb/insulin vs reduced calorie intake for fat loss debate is still raging. The jury’s still out. Studies have shown that just about every weight (fat) loss method that is adhered to is effective – at least in the short term.

The major advantage of the Primal Blueprint method (and others) is that it involves lifestyle change, rather than ‘dieting’. This makes it easier to maintain medium to long term – which makes the results last.

Primal Conclusion

A strong ending for an excellent book. This book is a gem in the field of nutrition and lifestyle.

Mark gets really down to earth and a bit more behind the scenes. Not only in terms of psychology, but also in what a few days out of his life typically look like – specific foods eaten, activities, and so on.

Also, what you appreciate at the end of a health book – a complete list of foods and habits to aim for, and foods/habits to avoid. Simple as it is, I think most people will really appreciate this final section – especially people new to Paleo/Primal thinking.

Personal Conclusion

Overall, I give this book my highest regard and recommendation when it comes to proper nutrition and positive lifestyle habits to develop. This is the definitive book on nutrition and lifestyle change, especially considering how practical the information is and immediately applicable.

There are detractors to this book. Apart from “you can’t please everyone”, there are some flaws in this book. Domestic plants and animals are very different now than in the Paleolithic. Does that mean eating real food is bad? Of course not!

I agree with 95% of the content of this book. The things I don’t agree with won’t stop you from being successful with this lifestyle change. If you get bogged down in minutiae you will find fault with this book, and Paleo/Primal in general. If you see the big picture of ‘eat real food’ and ‘move/use your body in a functional way’, then the Primal Blueprint is a great template.

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