Today, I’d like to share with you Mark Sisson’s The Primal Blueprint
(PB), a concept that allows you to obtain optimal health and fitness based on the lifestyle factors of our Paleolithic ancestors and an opportunity to take your mud run training to a new life-changing level.
For me, Primal Blueprint has been a real game changer, which is why I’ve taken the time to write all this down and pass it on to you.
What the heck is “primal?”
Primal lifestyle is very much aligned with paleo (pay-lee-o) or paleolithic, a term used to describe a style of eating based on how our hunter/gatherer ancestors consumed food prior to modern-day farming, industry and agriculture. The primary focus of a healthy paleo lifestyle includes consuming:
- real, whole foods
- food of high quality (grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish, free-range fowl, organic produce, hormone and pesticide free)
- healthy fats and oils (coconut oil, avocado, macadamias)
- pills, powders, shakes
- grains, dairy, legumes, processed foods, starchy vegetables, dairy
PB vs. Paleo?
PB borrows from the paleolithic menu, but really pushes the whole idea of maintaining a long and healthy lifestyle a bit further through a modernized hunter/gatherer approach by adding in fitness and mental health demands. Represented by “Grok” – a 10,000 year-old primal human role model who was stronger and healthier than us – the PB is not a diet, it is a way of life. Since our DNA is virtually identical to this survivor of over two billion years of evolution, we can adapt our modern lifestyle to his survival-of-the-fittest-behaviors. PB does just that and uses the simplicity of evolution to create a lifelong roadmap toward health, happiness, physical fitness, energy, intelligence and productivity.
The Primal Blueprint Basics:
PB can be summarized through 10 main commandments as listed in Mark Sisson’s book:
- Eat lots of plants and animals. Enjoy the natural, satisfying foods that fueled two million years of human evolution.
- Avoid poisonous things. Avoid processed foods (sugars, grains and chemically altered fats) that are foreign to our genes and make us fat and sick.
- Move frequently at a slow pace. Enhance fat metabolism and avoid burnout by keeping active but taking it easy.
- Lift heavy things. Short, intense sessions of functional, full-body movements support muscle development and delay aging.
- Sprint once in a while. Occasional all-out sprints trigger optimal gene expression and beneficial hormone flow.
- Get adequate sleep. Avoid excessive digital stimulation and sync with your natural circadian rhythm for optimal immune, brain, and endocrine function.
- Play. Balance the stress of modern life with some unstructured, physical fun (like a mud run!)
- Get adequate sunlight. Don’t fear the sun! Adequate sun exposure helps synthesize vitamin D to ensure healthy cellular function.
- Avoid stupid mistakes. Cultivate hypervigilance and risk management to avoid the stupid mistakes that bring “avoidable suffering” to modern humans.
- Use your brain. Engage in creative and stimulating activities to nurture your mental health and overall well-being.
Why I went Grok.
Minus a short stint in my youth, I was never really fat. However, I was also never lean. My whole life, I’ve struggled to maintain a decent level of physical and mental fitness through tedious cardio sessions, strength training, regular long-distance running and various diet approaches. If I ate what I wasn’t supposed to or skipped a gym session, I’d not only feel full and sluggish, but I would notice an immediate change in my body – my face fuller, my stomach less tight, my breathing less calm. I figured this struggle was genetic, along with a high risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer, something I couldn’t necessarily alter. Really, I was on a roller coaster, and I was growing reserved to the fact that I was just going to have to struggle for leanness my entire life, hoping that one day before I die I would actually reach my goal. Realistically, it would never happen on the path I was on.
In the business world a “pivot” is when you quickly and decisively switch from one business model or product to a completely different one. I have always been focused on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but I never really had a clear direction. About a year ago, my brother-in-law introduced me to the PB. I was intrigued by the idea of learning about nutrition and health and the PB seemed like a really interesting way to go about it. Who wouldn’t be enthused by the idea of shedding fat by acting like Grok, eating things like red meat and bacon, and getting adequate sunlight?! So, I made the pivot. I went all-in, sort of. See, Mark Sisson’s idea of PB dedication is an 80/20 approach. In other words, strive for an A+, but be okay with a B sometimes because making the pivot away from the Conventional Wisdom of modern day diet and nutrition into a primal lifestyle is drastic, and frankly, grass-fed beef and cage-free eggs are expensive!
I’ve been 80/20 primal for about a year now, and I can honestly say that I’ve never felt this good. Not only did I shed over ten pounds of fat and transform my body to the leanest its ever been, but I rarely if ever feel sluggish or overly full, I feel mentally sharp and I am in the best physical condition of my life. No joke! After about six months, I had my lipid panel taken just to see if eating a lot bacon and natural fats was increasing my fitness level like the PB said it would:
- Total cholesterol: 176
- HDL cholesterol: 65
- Cholesterol/HDL ratio: 2.7
- LDL cholesterol: 102
- Triglycerides: 45
As you can see, not only am I reaping the benefits on the outside, but the pivot to the PB has actually moved me into a preventative position against heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other fatal conditions associated with poor diet and nutrition. I’m also learning about food and exercise each day, knowing and understanding what I eat and what activities I engage in and the effects that go along with them. I do not diet, so I do not suffer; I simply eat what tastes good and what is good for me. I’ve also given up the chronic cardio, so I no longer torture myself in my workouts. Instead, I follow a modified and FUN Primal Fitness routine that works with my lifestyle and mud running passion. For me, The Primal Blueprint has been a real game changer, which is why I’ve taken the time to write all this down and pass it on to you. I’m not saying it’s for everybody, but it can be and if you ever struggled like me, it might just be the pivot you are looking for.
For further reading and understanding about the science behind PB and more about the causes and effects of Conventional Wisdom, check out Gary Taubes’ excellent book Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It. Of course if you have any questions about any of this, please feel free to post a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grok on mud run maniacs!
A special shout-out to Paleo Dietitian Amy Kubal whose post “A Paleo Primer: The Basics” on the Spartan Blog inspired me to write this article.
Mud Run Maniac wants to know what you think! Do you follow a paleo or primal lifestyle? Do you participate in mud runs for the health and fitness benefits? Leave your thoughts below. Please no spam-mongers. Happy mudding!