Finally, a Healthy Regime You Can Stick to and Enjoy
This comprehensive book goes after conventional wisdom, laying out the argument and methodology for his easy to follow and practical version of the “primal lifestyle.” Mark is a health and fitness expert and publisher of the popular health blog MarksDailyApple.com. His is a former endurance athlete who finished fourth in the Hawaii Ironman World Triathlon Championships.
BOYT: First of all, what is “Primal Blueprint” and what does it mean to live primally?
Mark Sisson: Within each of us lies the blueprint for optimal health, longevity, happiness, fitness, and productivity. Our genetic background— our Primal Blueprint—wants us to have all those things, but it isn’t suited to deal with the stresses, foods, and responsibilities of modern life. Instead, the Blueprint “expects” the environment of our hunter-gatherer ancestors to thrive. To live primally means to pay attention to the ancient expectations of our genes and to provide the foods, exercises, and lifestyle that it expects and works best under.
BOYT: What are the 10 Primal Blueprint Laws?
1. Eat plants and animals - We evolved to be apex omnivores, able to hunt, catch, dig up, pick, and eat just about everything that ran, walked, flew, swam, or grew.
2. Move around a lot at a slow pace - Humans are great slow movers. We covered six continents, mostly by foot, and our health improves the more we move.
3. Lift heavy things - Builds lean mass, improves bone density, makes you strong and sexy.
4. Run really fast once in awhile - The ultimate “bang for your buck” workout. Sprint 5 or 10 times and be done.
5. Get lots of sleep - Sleep is restorative, and most evidence suggests that lots of sleep was the norm for most of human history. Modern people get too little of it.
6. Play - Live a little. Life should be enjoyable, not drudgery.
7. Get sunlight every day - Our skin makes vitamin D, an important prohormone with hundreds of health benefits, when it’s exposed to UVB.
8. Avoid trauma - Don’t do stupid things and get yourself killed or hurt.
9. Avoid poisonous things - Avoid food toxins in large doses, like the ones found in grains or high omega-6 vegetable oils.
10. Use your mind - Millions of years of hominid evolution have produced an extremely impressive brain, so use it!
BOYT: In Primal Blueprint you talk about turning genes on and off. Can you tell is a little about that?
Mark Sisson: Sure. The behavior and role of our genes aren’t set in stone. If you have the “gene for breast cancer,” you are not destined to get breast cancer. Instead, certain environmental factors—diet, exercise, stress, toxins, etc.—may trigger that gene and may turn it on. By following the Primal Blueprint way of living, eating, and exercising, you are sending your ancient genes the right signals. By deviating from it, you may be sending your genes the wrong signals, and in the process deleterious genes could be turned on.
BOYT: What was the process for developing your approach to health? Is this something you’ve adhered to for a long time?
Mark Sisson: I got started with all this because my own way of living was ruining my health. As a top marathoner and then triathlete, I was falling apart. And then I started noticing all my peers suffering from the same health problems and realized that maybe, just maybe we were doing something wrong. I’d always been interested in evolutionary biology, and the fact that I, by all accounts a fit, healthy individual at the top of his game, was feeling 30 years older than my age didn’t jibe with my knowledge of evolution and health. It didn’t make sense that humans were just meant to fall apart and get sick and fat and die young (or live long on a steady diet of pills), so I started over, looked at things from an evolutionary perspective, and went from there.
BOYT: In your book you punch holes in conventional wisdom about diet and exercise. In your opinion, what are a couple of the most important fallacies out there right now?
Mark Sisson: That grains are good for you: it’s got people thinking “grains” are an essential food group, when actually they cause leaky gut, induce systemic inflammation, and provide more carbs than most people can use.
That animal fat is bad: it’s turned people onto garbage like margarine, vegetable oil, and refined carbohydrates like sugar and grains.
That the only way to lose weight is to count calories and run on the treadmill for an hour a day: it’s made people think losing weight is impossible, since both of those things make most people miserable.
BOYT: Although your diet recommendations are considered “paleo” you make a statement on your website (www.marksdailyapple.com) that natural isn’t always synonymous with good. Tell us about that.
Mark Sisson: I think looking at what’s “natural” is a helpful starting point. Things (foods, behaviors, exercises, etc) that occur in nature are worth examining because it’s more likely that we have experience dealing with those things than with things created in a lab fifteen years ago. But we have to take it a step further and confirm whether or not something natural is also good for us. That’s where modern science comes in. So, natural is a good start, but it’s not enough.
BOYT: How is the Primal Blueprint lifestyle different than the Paleo Diet?
Mark Sisson: More than anything, the Primal Blueprint is a lifestyle (as you mention), as opposed to just a diet. While the Paleo Diet and Primal Blueprint largely prescribe similar diets, the PB takes everything else into account, too—exercise, sleep, stress, sunlight, social circles, play, using your brain. It’s a total lifestyle approach.
BOYT: You say that there are a lot of unhealthy fit people. What does that mean?
Mark Sisson: Take my story of how I got into evolutionary health as a perfect example. I was fit, by all accounts. I made the Olympic trials as marathoner, I was a top finisher in the first Kona Ironman triathlon, I logged over a hundred miles each week, I was lean and fast and could run forever. But I was sick. I had arthritis. I got upper respiratory tract infections several times a year like clockwork. I had irritated bowel syndrome. I looked fit, and I suppose I was fit, but I felt terrible.
Normally, health and performance line up nicely. The better you perform at an athletic endeavor, the better your health. But this is only true up to a point. Too often, people sacrifice health for performance. They push themselves so hard when they train that everything else suffers. They push past that point. And, eventually, if you keep pushing yourself to the limit, even the training itself will suffer, which leaves you with nothing to fall back on.
About Mark Sisson
Mark Sisson is the author of a #1 bestselling health book on Amazon.com, The Primal Blueprint, as well as The Primal Blueprint Cookbook and the top-rated health and fitness blog MarksDailyApple.com. He is also the founder of Primal Nutrition, Inc., a company devoted to health education and designing state-of-the-art supplements that address the challenges of living in the modern world. Click here to visit his website.