Primal Blueprint Review: Is It the Right Option for You?
Primal Blueprint is a bestselling book and wellness program designed to help you achieve your “full genetic potential” through a philosophy based around the premise of restoring your daily dietary and exercise habits to the ways of our ancestors from two million years ago.
According to the company website, the Primal Blueprint challenges conventional wisdom and blame much of modern life for making us feel fat, sick, and exhausted.
Today, the Primal Blueprint brand offers a range of products and educational materials designed to help you reach your ideal weight, gain energy, and enjoy better health. Will the program give you results? We’ve looked through the research to help you make a better decision.
First, let's look closer at the founder of this innovative lifestyle plan.
About Mark Sisson – Founder of Primal Blueprint
Per the company website, Mark Sisson is considered one of the leading health experts on primal living. He is the publisher at Mark’s Daily Apple and the author of multiple books about wellness and healthy eating, including The Primal Blueprint, which helped jumpstart the paleo diet trend in 2009.
Sisson got his start in wellness as a competitive distance runner, but he found out that the brutal training he underwent to qualify for the Olympic Trials took a brutal toll on his body. During recovery, he focused on improving his nutrition and supplementation and consequently experienced significant improvements in his health and overall performance.
After retiring from competition, Sisson devoted himself to helping others improve their health in holistic wellness ways that have since been developed into The Primal Blueprint books and accompanying online material.
How Does the Primal Blueprint Work?
Put simply, the Primal Blueprint is a set of food instructions for how you can control the ways your genes express themselves by taking cues from evolutionary biology.
The central idea is to follow a lifestyle that is similar to how our prehistoric ancestors lived, as the vast majority of human history was spent in a hunter-gather state. Sisson and other prehistoric diet proponents believe our bodies did the bulk of their evolving during this time and are optimized to thrive in pre-historic conditions.
In other words, this approach’s premise is that our current “modern age” has come on so quickly from an evolutionary standpoint that our bodies haven’t adjusted to the changes. That’s why the Primal Blueprint attributes your health problems to an unhealthy diet and too little exercise.
To optimize your health, the Primal Blueprint states that you need to return to the lifestyle your body has evolved for – the pre-agricultural paleolithic era. The details of how to do so are fleshed out in Sisson’s books, but he lays out the basic idea in his website, Mark’s Daily Apple:
- Eat lots of animals, plants, and insects (no processed foods)
- Move around a lot each day—preferably at a slow pace (two to five hours each week)
- Lift heavy things regularly (two to three workouts per week of 7-30 minutes each)
- Run fast occasionally (all-out effort for 20 seconds for fifteen minutes per week)
- Get lots of sleep (minimum of seven-eight hours per night)
- Stay playful
- Spend time in sunlight every day
- Avoid trauma and poisons
- Stay creative and mentally challenged
How Do You Follow Primal Blueprint?
At the time of writing, Primal Blueprint sells a range of products and educational material to help you follow its approach to healthy living. These are divided into the following categories on the company website.
Note: Most of Primal Blueprint’s consumable products like supplements and condiments are also offered as a “subscribe and save” option where you will save 10% off the purchase price and can choose to have an automatic delivery every month, two months, or three months.
Primal Blueprint’s online store sells a Primal Fuel protein powder—available in chocolate or vanilla—for $49.95. Made with 100% paleo ingredients, this powder provides you with 10g of whey protein and 1g of sugar per serving. It’s designed to be blended with milk, water, or your favorite smoothie or coffee drink.
Primal Blueprint sells a range of supplements, including a premium multivitamin and all-in-one nutritional supplement, probiotics, omega-3 fatty acids, a stress-relieving vitamin complex, vitamin D, and more. These supplements cost between $24.95–$129.95 per bottle, and you can purchase a “Platinum Package” of five for $199.95.
You can purchase a range of kitchen ingredients designed to make it easier to follow a paleo-friendly diet. These include flavored avocado oil “mayo” ($9.95), various flavors of vinaigrettes and marinades ($7.95), salad dressings ($7.95), avocado cooking oil ($12.95), paleo protein bars ($32.95 for twelve), a variety of powdered drink mixes both in bulk and single serving packets ($29.95–$49.95), condiments like mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard ($4.99–$5.99), and collagen fuel bars ($35.95 for 12).
The Primal Blueprint bookstore has over a dozen books for sale. Many were written by founder Mark Sisson, and topics include thyroid health, paleo recipes, general nutrition information, and even children’s books. They cost between $7.99–$29.99.
Primal Blueprint offered five courses at the time of writing that are designed to teach you what you need to know to follow its principles for a healthier lifestyle. Topics include a “21-Day Primal Reset,” “Primal Endurance Mastery,” “Paleo Cooking Bootcamp,” “Keto Reset Master Course,” and “Don’t Just Sit There!”.
The course costs range from $37–$347.
About the Primal Blueprint Shipping and Return Policies
Per the company website, Primal Blueprint offers free shipping on one-time domestic purchases over $50 and subscription purchases over $25. All other orders have their shipping costs calculated at checkout.
It’s also possible to buy some products in stores, and the Primal Blueprint store locator will help you determine what the options are near you.
The company offers a 30-day satisfaction guarantee. This means that you can contact the company for a full refund on any product you aren’t content with, minus shipping costs.
The company determines refunds for digital content on a case by case basis, and they suggest reaching out at firstname.lastname@example.org or (888) 774-6259 to start the process or ask any questions.
Is the Primal Blueprint Healthy? Experts Weigh In
The Primal Blueprint advocates for an extremely low-carb diet. To follow it correctly, Medical News Today tells us that you need to eliminate most grains (even whole ones), soy, peanuts, alcohol, and refined vegetable oils in favor of filling up on fiber-filled vegetables, meat, and fat.
Permitted foods also include seeds, some nuts, fruits, natural sugars like honey and maple syrup, raw dairy, and certain grains like quinoa and wild rice.
When you strip your diet down to what was readily accessible to our ancient ancestors, the Primal Blueprint promises to reduce your risk of developing lifestyle diseases like diabetes and obesity.
Does this advice make sense? There is a range of opinions on the Primal Blueprint among health experts, and we spoke with some who are skeptical.
Says Kyle Hoffman, muscle-building coach and founder of fitness website Noob Gains:
“I wouldn't recommend the Primal Blueprint Diet to clients. Even though it’s a stereotypically ‘clean’ bodybuilder-type method of eating, it’s extremely restrictive and I don’t believe the average person would be able to stick to this kind of diet over the long term. People who typically consume 50% or more of their normal diet from carbohydrate sources like bread and pasta have a difficult time dropping these items completely off their men.”
Hoffman also told us following a high-fat, low carb diet can leave you feeling sick.
“Some people actually experience similar symptoms as those trying the Keto diet for the first time. [This is] referred to as the ‘Keto Flu’ and is characterized by nausea, headaches, and extreme exhaustion. Of course, the content of [the Paleo Blueprint] is very healthy, and I think anyone would benefit from sticking to it over the long term.”
Put another way, Hoffman’s point is that the potential of developing flu-like symptoms and the psychological barriers to start might make the Primal Blueprint too difficult for people to follow longterm.
Caleb Backe, a certified personal trainer and health expert, also believes that there are some concerns from following the Primal Blueprint to the extreme.
In his words, “The Primal Diet only cuts out processed foods and carbohydrates that weren’t accessible to our primal ancestors (such as wheat and corn), so there’s no reason that it should break any dietary standards.”
But Backe goes on to say the eating strategy still has problems. “[However], there are two primary pitfalls to the primal diet. The first is that it can be expensive. The second pitfall is that the diet promotes an alarming amount of saturated fat consumption. An increase in these fats has the potential to increase LDL cholesterol, which is the ‘bad’ cholesterol that can impact your cardiovascular health.”
Comparing the Primal Blueprint with Paleo and Ketogenic Diets
The Primal Blueprint has many similarities to other carbohydrate-restricting diets, including the paleo diet and the ketogenic diet. What are the key differences between them?
Both the paleo diet and Primal Blueprint restrict your consumption of carbohydrates, particularly from sugars and processed foods. Instead, you’ll fill up on fats, protein, and fibrous vegetables.
The Primal Blueprint differs from the paleo diet in a few key ways. The Blueprint has a less restrictive stance on dairy and legumes, though both restrict your carbohydrate intake.
You can also consume coffee and produce from the nightshade family like tomatoes and eggplant on the Primal Blueprint, but not while going paleo. A good rule of thumb is that all paleo foods are permitted for the Primal Blueprint, but not all Primal-approved foods qualify for paleo.
As we’ve reported in our comprehensive beginner’s guide to the ketogenic diet, this popular diet puts the focus on fat rather than protein to transform how your body fuels itself. Your diet should be approximately 80 percent fat, 15-20 percent protein, and five percent or less of carbohydrates.
The goal is to get your body burn fat instead of glucose for energy, consequently helping you work through your fat stores. For this reason, the ketogenic diet is typically followed by people who want to lose weight, while the paleo diet and Primal Blueprint are followed for broader health reasons.
In that regard, one way that the Primal Blueprint stands out from both the ketogenic diet and paleo diet is the emphasis on lifestyle changes. Though most known for its dietary advice, this wellness strategy advocates for getting lots of sleep, getting consistent exercise, and staying playful and creative.
Our View: Should You Follow Primal Blueprint?
From what we’ve found, there’s a lot about the Primal Blueprint that’s hard to disagree with. Almost everyone could benefit from more moderate intensity daily exercise—see our article on the benefits of walking—as well as from cutting out excess sugars and processed foods.
We like that this approach doesn’t go as extreme as the paleo diet or ketogenic diet, as it permits you to eat fruit, starchy vegetables, some grain types like wild rice, and even small amounts of natural sugars.
Likewise, we appreciate that it takes a holistic perspective to health and emphasizes the importance of sleep, spending time outdoors, and creative stimulation for overall wellbeing.
Saying that Medical News Today shows that the science behind following in the footsteps of our ancient ancestors is murky at best.
According to Precision Nutrition’s recap of the pros and cons of the paleo diet, “Prehistoric times” is a broad categorization that spans thousands of years, people groups, lifestyle habits, and diets, so claiming any single approach as the eating strategy of our ancestors is overreaching and inaccurate.
Likewise, we think that the Primal Blueprint leaves enough room for interpretation that it’s possible to make some poor dietary decisions, like eating too much meat and undereating vegetables.
It’s our opinion that following the dietary and lifestyle advice of Mark Sisson on his website and in his bestsellers is likely to improve your health if you are currently eating more processed food than you should. Whether you need Primal Blueprint-brand supplements and weight-loss products to achieve those results is more up for debate.
» Recommended Reading: A Beginner’s Guide to Losing Weight and Getting in Shape