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Book Review - The Primal Blueprint

People often ask, “Which diet is the best to follow?” My typical response is that no diet is good. I hate the idea that the advice I’d give someone would be seen as a diet — a short-term solution to shed a little weight. The more you understand how much you control your future health by the nutrition and lifestyle choices you make, the more you realize how silly it is to look at food choices as a “diet.”

That said, there are a limited number of resources that do a great job of outlining a healthy whole life plan. Some books are great technical resources. People may be looking for history, research and the politics of why we are recommended the nutrition information we see so common in conventional media. For those people, I steer them toward books like Good Calories, Bad Calories or Why We Get Fat, both by Gary Taubes. Others may be interested in more of the science, specifically behind altering macronutrients. I encourage them to read The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney. As I look at our bookshelf while writing this, there are about two dozen books I frequently recommend.

One book never seems to make it to the bookshelf, though. My wife and I grab The Primal Blueprint so often that it never gets put away.

The Primal Blueprint isn’t a diet book. As the book cover suggests, the intent of the book is to help you “reprogram your genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health, and boundless energy.” Mark Sisson explains that the foods we eat do far more than supply a source of calories. They actually turn on, or off, genes that influence our health and ability to maintain a lean, healthy body.

Mark Sisson is the real deal in terms of physical performance, vitality and health, and weight management. Mark’s top marathon time was 2:18, and his top finish in the Hawaii Ironman World Championship was fourth place. Since his days of competitive endurance training, he’s turned his focus to helping others find optimal health which — as we’ve said many times — provides the secondary benefits of easy weight management and improved physical performance.

According to the book, the best way we can positively influence our genes is to adopt nutrition, lifestyle and activity habits that mimic the way humans have traditionally thrived long before we were surrounded by the processed food we have available today.

A summary of the book’s philosophy is found in The Ten Primal Blueprint Laws. The brilliance of The Ten Primal Blueprint Laws is their simplicity. For example, the first five are:

  1. Eat Lots of Plants and Animals
  2. Avoid Poisonous Things
  3. Move Frequently at a Slow Pace
  4. Lift Heavy Things
  5. Sprint Once in a While

The first law, “Eat Lots of Plants and Animals,” makes grocery shopping so simple. As you might imagine, of the approximately 50,000 foods in the average supermarket, most don’t fit within that law. But that’s okay – there are plenty of foods that do. If you just filled up your cart with lots of plants and animals, you’d have a diet rich in protein, natural fats, vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytonutrients and top-quality carbohydrates. The second law, “Avoid Poisonous Things,” revolves around keeping foods off your plate that could harm your health. For the other five laws, you’ll have to pick up the book.

Mark Sisson’s approach in the book is to mimic, as best we can, the diet humans ate thousands of years ago, and to take advantage of other foods that may not have been available at the time, but have been shown to be beneficial to health recently. Plants and animals are the foundation to the recommended diet. Nutritional supplements also play a role, especially since even the best quality natural foods today don’t have the volume of nutrients they once did.

I really respect Mark and the way he approached the book; it is an easy-to-understand approach to nutrition, lifestyle and exercise. Some of my favorite healthy living books are quite technical, and could be challenging for those who are just beginning their journey. Others explain what one should do to improve his or her health, but without sufficient scientific support, they may not be convincing enough to get people to turn away from their poor choices. The Primal Blueprint falls right in the middle. It is easy and entertaining to read, yet provides plenty of support for why the approach works.

Your options for health and fitness books are almost overwhelming. While there are many I’d recommend, if you haven’t yet picked up a copy of The Primal Blueprint, I recommend that it be your next purchase. You can find it on Amazon or your local book store. 

Written by Tom Nikkola - Director of Nutrition & Weight Management

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader. 

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Reader Comments (2)

This is the one book my husband picked up for himself, and we have been using a modified version (completely casein-free, or using raw milk cheeses) for about a year, now. I had been unsuccessful in convincing him of the efficacy of high plant/protein diet by myself, even when supported by my favorite dietitian (Melanie Reyes). This book was written so that an engineer with no biology or fitness background could understand both the how and the why.

July 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz Gregory

The Primal Blueprint is a book that definitely changed my life for the better. I lost 50 lbs just by changing my diet to eat only plants and animals as outlined in the book. I am so grateful to Mark Sisson for putting this information out there in such a well written and researched, easy to follow format. Mark's blog ( is also an amazing resource and one I read everyday. The trainers I have worked with at Lifetime in Deerfield have helped me to really get into "lifting heavy things" over the last year and now I love it so much I am training for a powerlifting meet! Lol. I recommend the Primal Blueprint to everyone I talk to about nutrition. Thank you Tom for giving it such a great review!

July 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Kennedy

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