Monday, July 13, 2009

Review - The Primal Blueprint

About a month ago I promised a review of Mark Sisson's new book "The Primal Blueprint".

I've been chewing over what to say about the book. I've read it and re-read sections. I've smiled at parts, been stimulated, learned things and been refreshed by the simple wisdom. The sort of things I've been writing about here for the last couple of years - adequate sleep, intermittent fasting, sprints/intervals, walking, weights, a low carb diet, minimal chronic stress, play - are pulled together into a meta narrative, a big story that makes sense of fitness, food, stress and more.

I don't want to be accused of sycophancy (again) but this really is a great book - accessible without being dumbed down. If someone wanted to read something that would sum up what I think is the cutting edge in health and fitness, this is where I'd point them.

The science is there - I think Mark expects intelligent readers - but it is well presented and explained so that you can make sense of what he is talking about.

After introducing the Ten Primal Blueprint Laws in Chapter 1, Mark gives us a parable of the laws and how far we have departed from this great Torah. We meet Grok and his modern antithesis - Korg. Grok naturally follows the laws..he has to, they define his life. Korg of course has departed far from that way of life. His food and movement is fundamentally unnatural.

Then Mark exlains the laws in detail - how to eat, how to exercise, to rest. Yes the rationale is doing what Grok would have done....but naturally we find that this is also what is healthy.

Lots of the material is on Mark's website, but here it is drawn together, integrated into a convincing and compelling argument that is difficult to challenge.

A nice thing as well is that this book is fun! Eating and moving like this is not work, it is play. It is doing what you were built for, what you were designed for. And when you do that you will be having fun!

Highly recommended!


Dan Hubbard, M.Ed. said...

I am looking forward to reading Mark's book. His ideas seem pretty simple and straight forward. I guess when you strip away all of the corporate marketing and bodybuilding hype, it all comes down to a simple, straight-forward, cheap, effective plan that works well for this species.

Jim Hansen said...

I ordered the book last week and am looking forward to reading it.

Tony said...

I would love to hear your thoughts regarding the comments at the bottom of page 97 where he discusses a carb loading day (in the neighborhood of 300 grams of carbs). I'm interested in the physiological underpinnings of this approach from a anthropological (Groc!) perspective.

Chris said...

Hi Tony

Mark says:

Primal diehards who average very low carb intake over extended periods (50-100 grams or less per day) will likely benefit from having an occasional higher carb day (maybe 250 -300 gms of non sugar carbs) to fine-tune insulin sensitivity.

Lets look at what he says:

occasional - this is not a daily thing
250 -300 grams - is not actually that high for many people.

Anyway, why is he saying that?

Well as I understand it - and I'd recommend that you read Lyle McDonald's The Ultimate Diet 2.0 to understand the biochemistry- when you reduce carbs, blood sugar and therefore insulin goes down. Which is good - it lets fat burning start. But lowered insulin can also be problematic - it can limit muscle growth for example. What you want is high

Temporarily elevating insulin levels will boost a variety of other anabolic hormones which
contribute to anabolism - i.e. gaining muscle.

Do a Google search on the "anabolic diet" or carbohydrate cycling / refeeds and you will find out the biochemistry behind all this.

Tony said...

Hi Chris,

That's very interesting. I'll do some research on that. Thank you!

Anonymous said...


I'll just post why higher carbs (or calories) are good (straight from Lyle's mouth):
Calories Up
Protein Up
Carbs/fat (energy) Up
Insulin Up
Total testosterone Up or no change
Free testosterone Up
IGF-1 Up
Thyroid Up
Catecholamines Down
Cortisol Down
Leptin Up
Ghrelin Down
Cellular energy state Up
Protein synthesis Up
Bodyfat levels Up
Muscle mass Up
Net effect: Body is systemically anabolic


Chris said...

Skyler - thanks

I thought about cutting and pasting that but tried to explain it myself - badly!

A lot of info is out there if people just use google and know what to search for.

John Sifferman said...

Tom Venuto covers this thoroughly in his Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle program - it's called "Carb Cycling" or the "Refeeding Method."

It's nothing new, nothing primal - just good nutrition practice.

I've had Mark's book sitting on my desk for several weeks now, I really should crack it open sometime :)

too many other books to read!

Anthony said...

Ordered my copy yesterday. Was a little hesitant, but after being disappointed recently with Cordain's writings I figured why not give it a shot and support the author.

Ill post my own review up soon enough and link yours as well Chris.


a feng said...

If I can just put my negative and unconstructive 2 cents in ... first, I think Sisson is a genius, a tireless worker, and an incredible writer. I try in every aspect of my life to follow his advice, and I proselytize his ideas to my friends whenever appropriate. His website is amazing (this one is superb too, by the way). Here's my criticism: the whole Grok thing is beyond stupid. Hunter gatherers aren't a fucking cartoon. So I can't really see much use for this book outside of "preaching to the choir" - I can't really see myself recommending it to my friends because the main device is so fruity.

Apparently this doesn't bother anyone else?

Anonymous said...

I am reading the book it is fun. I pretty much have followed the rules most of my life. I am a housewife so it is easier since I am home al day. However thank god for all the people who abuse them selves with caffin, and carbs so they can get up and work at those jobs or we wouldn't have all the convients of modern living. We need people with hugh egos to get things done. And those egos need junk food and drugs to keep going.

Anonymous said...

I'm with A Feng. I really needed this book. Sisson is an excellent writer and his information is really important. That said, the Grok stuff is sooooo hard to swallow. I mean it's so romanticized. Of course, Grok's wife is a hottie, despite that fact that she probably has no access to a razor or laser. Of course when they lost their kids they "mourned deeply but moved on quickly" Of course most of their movement is effortless and they aren't pissed when a bear eats their rabbits. They are a total cartoon and it's just not necessary. The Krog's are similarly hyperbolic. I think it might be a California thing. I mean the ability to just suspend all critical thinking and indulge is some fantasy (tv/cartoon) in order to make a point. I just don't need it. I don't need to feel magically connected to people who I really don't know were all that nice or happy. I mean, I hope they were, but I don't have access to that information. Not to mention, it's so obviously and relentlessly self-serving. It's hard, because I love eating and cooking this way, and I want to tell people to read the book, but that Grok/Krog stuff is pretty intolerable.