The Primal Blueprint is a lifestyle philosophy that emphasizes the importance of mimicking the lifestyle of our primal ancestors to improve health and well-being. The following are the 10 Laws of the Primal Blueprint created by Mark Sisson. How they worked for our ancestors and why they can work for modern humans:
Law1: Eat Plants and Animals
Then: Our ancestors thrived on a diet of plants and animals, providing them with vital nutrients for life, brain function, fitness, and immunity. Today's diet differs greatly from our primal ancestors, so it's crucial to look back and model our eating habits after theirs. Primal humans had diverse diets based on environmental factors, and there's no one-size-fits-all diet. Our ancestors ate sporadically due to food availability, leading to efficient energy storage in the form of body fat, muscle, and liver glycogen, to be burned during food scarcity.
Now: Don't be dismayed by the genetic trait to store extra calories as fat - by choosing the right foods, prioritizing whole, nutrient-dense foods and minimizing processed and industrialized foods, you can leverage this mechanism to your advantage, maintaining optimal body fat and stabilizing appetite and energy levels. It's about moderating excessive insulin production resulting from our modern processed diet and taking control of our genetic traits.
Law 2: Avoid Poisonous Things
Then: Throughout history, humans have conquered every corner of the earth by consuming a diverse array of plant and animal life. Our primal ancestors developed keen senses of smell and taste, as well as efficient liver, kidney, and stomach functions, to adapt to new food sources and avoid falling victim to poisonous plants that were common while foraging and settling in new areas. Our sweet tooth today is likely an evolved response to the universal truth in the plant world that anything sweet is safe to eat. Moreover, the ability to gorge on sweet foods and store excess calories as fat was an evolved survival mechanism to endure harsh winters with limited food availability.
Now: Modern humans can benefit from this rule by avoiding processed and industrialized foods that we are learning can contain harmful toxins and chemicals. Though some might not be immediately harmful, many are being recognised as potentially having long-term harmful effects on our health.
Law 3: Move frequently at a slow pace
Then: Early man was constantly on the move, engaging in a variety of low-level aerobic activities like hunting, gathering, foraging, and migrating. This daily movement prompted their genes to build a robust capillary network, providing oxygen and fuel to their muscles while effectively converting stored fat into energy. Unlike today's sedentary lifestyle, early man did not go for long periods without moving, avoiding the metabolic and cognitive problems that arise from prolonged inactivity. They also didn't engage in chronic sustained high-intensity workouts like modern fitness enthusiasts. Such counterintuitive behaviour would have depleted their muscle and liver glycogen stores, leading to fatigue and vulnerability to predators or starvation. Our genes are designed for occasional feats of endurance with ample downtime, including sprinting for survival when facing danger, and extensive daily movement like walking.
Now: Modern humans can benefit from this rule by incorporating low-intensity physical activity into their daily routine, such as walking or gardening.
Law 4: Lift Heavy Things
Then: Our ancestors were constantly on the move, engaging in bursts of intense physical activity - hauling firewood, building shelter, climbing rocks and trees, and foraging for food. These brief but intense muscle contractions triggered biochemical signals that led to improvements in muscle tone, size, and power. Their active lifestyle demanded physical effort, and their bodies adapted accordingly.
Now: Get the most out of your workouts with brief, intense full-body exercises like squats, pushups, and pull-ups. These functional movements are key to developing and maintaining lean muscle mass, optimizing your metabolism, increasing bone density, and preventing injuries. Plus, they help balance your hormones and blood glucose levels.
Law 5: Sprint Once in a While
Then: Survival of the fittest was the rule in the primal world, and running was the key to staying alive. Primal man's ability to sprint when danger struck determined whether he would pass down his superior genes. Those life-or-death sprints triggered a hormonal cascade that built his resiliency to go even faster next time
Now: Brief, all-out sprints help increase energy levels, improve athletic performance, and minimize the effects of ageing by promoting the release of testosterone, human growth hormone, and other hormones into the bloodstream.
Law 6: Get Adequate Sleep
Then: Our ancestors were in tune with their hormonal rhythms, guided by sunrise and sunset. Early mornings marked the start of the day, while evenings meant safety in huddling together and resting. Hunter-gatherers needed this downtime for repair and rejuvenation after their active lifestyles.
Now: In today's fast-paced, stressful world, sleep and restoration are often overlooked. Sleep is vital for immune and endocrine function, cognitive function, tissue repair, appetite regulation, and fat metabolism. Excess artificial light, digital stimulation, toxins (sugar, alcohol etc), and stressful morning routines disrupt our sleep patterns.
Law 7: Play
Then: Our ancestors spent hours every day involved in various forms of social interaction not related to their core responsibilities of securing food and shelter and caring for their young. Studies of modern hunter-gatherers reveal that they generally work far fewer hours and have more leisure time than the average 40-hour-plus modern working week.
Now: Modern humans can benefit from this rule by incorporating play and leisure activities into their daily routine, such as playing sports or engaging in creative hobbies.
Law 8: Get Plenty of Sunlight
Then: Early humans, or cavemen and women, were not cave-dwellers; they spent their time outdoors pursuing survival and leisure activities. Sun exposure was essential for manufacturing vitamin D, critical for healthy cell function and cancer prevention. Diet alone cannot provide enough vitamin D; we need sunlight on large skin areas during peak solar intensity periods. Developing and maintaining a slight tan during summer indicates sufficient vitamin D production for year-round health. Our Homo sapiens ancestors in East Africa easily obtained enough vitamin D and adapted with dark skin pigmentation and thick hair to prevent overexposure. The importance of vitamin D is evident in the evolutionary adaptation of lighter skin pigmentation among populations who migrated farther from the equator. Lighter skin enabled more efficient vitamin D synthesis from sun exposure, crucial for survival in less sun-kissed regions like Europe. Alternatively, oily, cold-water fish remains the only significant dietary source of vitamin D.
Now: In today's modern lifestyle, getting enough sunlight for sufficient vitamin D levels is not a given. We tend to spend a significant amount of time indoors, in confined spaces like cars, offices, and homes, and often use sunscreen excessively when we do go out in the sun. Additionally, many people live in regions with latitudes that are not in sync with their ancestral genetics, which puts darker-skinned residents of higher-latitude areas at risk of vitamin D deficiency. These abrupt changes in human lifestyle are believed to contribute to various serious health issues. To ensure optimal levels of vitamin D for overall health, it's crucial to make a conscious effort to spend ample time outdoors, allowing large skin areas to be exposed to direct sunlight strong enough to generate a tan. In cases where sun exposure is compromised, taking vitamin D supplements can also help. In today's predominantly indoor lifestyle, prioritizing adequate vitamin D intake is essential.
Law 9: Avoid Stupid Mistakes
Then: Our ancestors possessed keen observational skills and a strong sense of self-preservation to avoid danger. They were constantly scanning, smelling, and listening to their surroundings, always vigilant for potential threats like saber-toothed tigers, falling rocks, poisonous snakes, or even a simple twisted ankle from a careless step. They honed their risk management skills to perfection, as even minor mistakes could have disastrous consequences. For instance, a scraped knee could lead to a life-threatening infection if left unchecked. The ability to keenly observe and manage risks was crucial for survival in their daily lives.
Now: While we no longer face the threat of vicious tigers in our modern lives, we often invite different forms of pain and suffering through careless actions. It's important to buckle your seat belt, avoid drinking or texting while driving, and be prepared and vigilant during outdoor activities such as backpacking or biking down steep hills. Even when using tools like blowtorches, chainsaws, or tile cutters, it's crucial to exercise caution. By dedicating a little more attention and energy to risk management in our day-to-day lives, we can ensure a long, happy life and pass on our superior genes to the next generation.
Law 10: Use Your Brain
Then: Not too long ago, Homo sapiens coexisted with other hominid species on our planet. However, today, we are the sole surviving human species. Scientists attribute our survival not solely to our big brains, as other hominids like Neanderthals also had large brains. Instead, it was our capacity for complex thought that gave us the edge. Our superior abilities for language, abstract thought, and higher-level cognition allowed us to adapt to a changing world.
Early Homo sapiens used their brains to develop better tools, hunting strategies, and communication skills, which further fueled the growth of our brains. Over just a few thousand generations, the size of the human brain rapidly increased due to optimal dietary choices and our continued reliance on complex thought, much like a muscle that gets stronger with use. The remarkable evolution of our brain function is evident in the fact that hunter-gatherer communities across the world independently developed language, tools, and advanced hunting methods.
Now: While it may be argued that we utilize our minds extensively to navigate and survive in today's world, the reality is that many of us find ourselves stuck in unfulfilling or monotonous jobs, lacking continuous intellectual challenge and stimulation. Studies on general intelligence have consistently shown that curiosity is a key indicator of profound intelligence. The good news is that opportunities for intellectual stimulation abound in our daily lives.
By committing to personal challenges, such as learning a new language, playing a musical instrument, or enrolling in an evening college class, we can actively engage our minds and keep them sharp. Research has shown that keeping our brains active, just like our bodies, can reduce the risk of devastating mental conditions such as depression, dementia, and Alzheimer's.