The 8 Key Concepts
1. Yes, You Really Can Reprogram Your Genes
People typically think of genes as “a weird collection of DNA and chromosomes and other stuff that determines whether or not you’re going to get a certain type of cancer, how long you’ll live and if coronary bypass surgery is headed your way.” The popular notion is that genes are immutable, that they represent a sort of cosmic destiny for an individual. But, aside from some heritable traits like eye and hair color or the number of fingers on your hands and feet, genes are actually programmable. They “express” themselves in different ways according to information gathered from our environment, our food and our behaviors. They “turn on” or “turn off” in response to these environmental signals. So, even though you might have “the gene for type 2 diabetes”—which is really just a genetic proclivity towards the disease, not a sentence—providing the right environmental signals will prevent the gene from ever turning on*.
How you eat, exercise, sleep, interact with your social circles, manage (or fail to manage) stress and connect with nature (plus tons of other environmental signals) determines how your genes express themselves; how your genes express themselves, in turn, determines your level of health. Genetic predisposition is not your destiny. Repeat: genetic predisposition is NOT your destiny!
2. The Clues to Optimal Gene Expression Are Found in Evolution
While we can’t sit at a control panel and fiddle with our gene expression like mad scientists just yet, we can make some very good guesses based on a powerful heuristic: human evolution.
Two million years of selection pressure exerted upon the hominid line designed a healthy, successful, productive, vibrant organism. We didn’t just “happen,” after all. We look like we do and work like we do and have the genes that we do—that express themselves the way that they do—because of very powerful selection pressures. The habitats in which we lived, the foods we ate, the movements we had to perform in order to survive, the sunlight to which we were exposed, the stressors we faced—each of these environmental factors shaped our genetic code, and it is to these various environmental stimuli that our genetic expression responds most favorably. The clues to realizing our Primal Blueprint lie scattered throughout our evolutionary history.
Until that day when we can sit at a computer terminal and decide which genes we want to express, and how, the best we can probably do is to use human evolution as a base level tool for making lifestyle decisions. You’ll probably refine the details later, but evolution is a darn good place to start.
3. Your Body Prefers Burning Fat Over Carbohydrates
We’ve evolved to be fat burners (must be why we’re so adept at storing it on our bodies!). It’s easy to see why. Fat burns slow and evenly, providing all-day steady energy levels. Carbohydrates burn quickly; they’re gone in an instant, leaving you groggy and depleted unless you “carb up.” Furthermore, carbohydrates are an inherently unreliable and fleeting source of energy for the body, with most people only able to store about 400-500 grams of carbohydrates at any one time. Our storage capacity for fat, on the other hand, is virtually endless. Just 10 or 15 pounds of body fat, which is the bare minimum available on even the leanest individuals, can provide tens of thousands of calories. Luckily, reducing carbohydrates and increasing fat intake sends the epigenetic signals necessary to help us revert back to fat-burning, and it only takes a few weeks to get things moving in the right direction*.
Become fat adapted and enjoy boundless energy. Free yourself from the shackles of a carbohydrate-based metabolism/dependency.
4. 80 Percent of Your Body Composition Success Is Determined by How You Eat
Food is the single most important factor in body composition. You can exercise all you want, but as long as you’re eating garbage, and too much of it, you won’t get very far with your body composition goals.
Any real attempt to modify your body composition starts with addressing what you put in your mouth, with the emphasis on quality, not quantity. We aren't discounting the importance of quantity, mind you, but we do find that honing in on the quality of food is more crucial and effective. Case in point: 2000 calories of fast food will have a very different effect on your body composition, satiety and nutrient intake than 2000 calories of grass-fed meat, wild fish and produce grown in rich, fertile, nutrient-dense soil. The fast food won’t be as satiating, or as nutrient dense, as the real food, so you’ll likely be compelled to eat more of it. The fast food will primarily contain trans and polyunsaturated fats, sugary sauces, refined grains and inferior quality meat, all of which promote insulin resistance and the storage of body fat while inhibiting fat burning. Eating primal food, rich in animals, plants and healthy fat, on the other hand, will normalize insulin sensitivity, thereby allowing fat burning.*
In effect, quality determines quantity; you’ll eat less spontaneously when you eat healthy primal foods. Quality paired with proper quantity, in turn, determines your body composition.
Sleep matters, exercise helps, stress has an effect, but how you eat, what you eat and how much you eat, are the prime determinants of your body composition.
5. Grains Are Totally Unnecessary
Despite their exalted position in the conventional hierarchy of healthy foods, grains are completely and utterly unnecessary. And yes, that even goes for whole grains.
Let’s take a look at the “grainy” truth about grains. What unique nutrients do they provide? If you want fiber, eat vegetables. If you want antioxidants, eat colorful produce. If you want carbs, eat fruits and tubers. Humans got along fairly well without wide scale grain agriculture for many thousands of years, and there’s no real reason to buy in today, especially when you consider the antinutrients in grain, like gluten that impairs digestion, reduces mineral absorption and damages the intestinal lining.
What is it, then, that necessitates 10-12 servings of whole grains a day? It’s madness. As for all the supposed health benefits that the grain-obsessed like to say are supported by tons of studies, well…look a little deeper (like we did) and you’ll see this just isn’t the case. Those studies invariably compare whole grains to refined grains, and in those circumstances the whole grain will generally win out. I’d suspect that if you compared a whole grain-based diet to a grain-free Primal way of eating, you’d get very different results. Unfortunately, that study hasn’t been done.
Here’s the grainy truth in a nutshell: there’s nothing good in grains that you can’t get elsewhere, and plenty bad that you won’t find elsewhere. So, don’t eat ‘em!
6. Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Are Not Your Enemy
Another popular health canard is that saturated fat and cholesterol are horrible, evil dietary devils that seek only to clog our arteries, thicken our blood and pad our waistlines. That’s crazy, of course.
Fat, especially saturated fat, and dietary cholesterol are important building blocks for sex hormones like testosterone. Saturated fat helps us absorb nutrients from our food. Saturated fat is inherently the most stable fat, able to withstand heat and light stress without oxidizing; not to mention, it’s incredibly satiating.
Cholesterol plays a crucial role in the creation of vitamin D from sun exposure. And contrary to popular belief and the protestations of “experts,” neither saturated fat nor dietary cholesterol has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Sugar, refined PUFA oils, trans fats? Those are the real enemies. Oh, and consider this: every successful diet is actually a high-fat diet. When you lose weight, whether it’s through low-carb Primal or high-carb vegan, you are consuming ample amounts of highly saturated animal fat. This animal fat may be coming off your body, but it’s still saturated animal fat just the same.
A diet rich in animal fat and cholesterol is not just safe, it’s downright healthy.
7. Exercise Is Ineffective for Weight Management
Exercise is healthy. Exercise is necessary for lasting wellness. Exercise builds muscle and exerts beneficial effects on hormone expression and function. Exercise gets you strong, gets you fit and keeps you young. But exercise alone is highly ineffective for weight management.
For exercise to truly help manage your weight, it must be paired with a healthy eating plan, adequate sleep, effective stress management, ample sun exposure and healthy amounts of social contact with friends, family and loved ones*. Sure, some people take exercise to the extreme, training for hours and hours on end, all in the quest to burn a few hundred more calories to “make up for” those donuts at breakfast or to eradicate those love handles. And if you go long enough and hard enough, yeah, you’ll “burn calories.” But at what cost? Exercise is a stressor, after all.
Maintained at an extreme pace and frequency, exercise becomes a chronic stressor that does more harm than good. It makes you hungry. It increases systemic and local inflammation. It depresses your immune system. It fatigues you, leading to less activity throughout the day. You’ll eventually and inevitably burn out unless you eat a massive amount of calories to make up for all that you’ve lost, and, at that point, you’re back at square one.
You can’t out-exercise a bad diet and poor lifestyle.
8. Maximum Fitness Can Be Achieved in Minimal Time with High Intensity Workouts
Study after study shows that the key to optimal health, aging and fitness is muscle strength and mass. The more lean mass we have, the better we’re able to handle what life dishes out, whether it’s carrying groceries, playing with our kids, saving our own lives in a life-or-death situation or engaging in the time-tested essential activity known as love-making. Lucky for those of us who relish our free time, the most effective, most efficient ways to build and maintain lean mass are through intense strength and sprint training. Twice a week, spend 15-40 minutes lifting heavy things and using functional, full-body compound movements—squats, pullups, pushups, planks—and once every 7-10 days, spend 10-20 minutes doing 8-10 all-out sprints. If you don’t want to move heavy weights, you don’t have to; bodyweight exercises offer plenty of stimuli for most people. And if you’re not ready to run sprints on a track, plenty of lower impact alternatives exist, like cycling, swimming, rowing or even sprinting uphill.
Make your short, intense workouts shorter and more intense. Round them out with lots of slow moving—walks, hikes and the like—throughout your everyday life, and you’ll be incredibly fit and well-rounded, in a fraction of the time most people presume is required. Short. Speedy. Strong. This is Primal Blueprint Fitness.*
*Disclaimer: There is no guarantee of specific results and results can vary from person to person. However, we feel so strongly about our products that we offer a 30-day money back guarantee. Try our products today, and if you're not completely satisfied with the results, return your purchase for a full refund minus shipping and handling—no questions asked.