Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint

The following is from Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint. It is a great resource and guide to utilize if you are engaging in the Alliance Nutrtiion Challenge based on Mark’s 21 Day Reset.

The Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid, revised and updated in 2016. 

Recommended Macronutrient Intake Levels: The Primal Blueprint recommends a highly varied diet based mainly on personal preference within the guidelines of the Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid above. Animal foods (meat, fish, fowl, and eggs) comprise the bulk of dietary calories. Vegetables are recommended in abundance, comprising the bulk of emphasis on your plate. Healthy fats (macadamia nuts, coconut products, avocado, olives/olive oil) are another featured category. Moderation categories include other nuts, seeds, and nut butters, seasonal fruits, high-fat dairy products, and supplemental carbs in the form of starchy tubers, quinoa, and wild rice for high-calorie burners.

Following the Primal eating strategy should default you into an optimal intake of protein, carbohydrates, and fat to support health, peak performance, longevity, and effortless maintenance of ideal body composition. This includes plenty of room for daily and seasonal variation of macronutrient and total caloric intake. Those new to Primal eating or interested in a methodical approach to shedding excess body fat may wish to accurately calculate macronutrient intake from time to time, using an online resource like to determine whether their macronutrient ratios are at the desired levels.

Using an online macronutrient calculator entails first writing down all food and drink consumed for at least a couple days and perhaps up to a week and recording the amounts, weights, or volumes with as much accuracy as possible. Measuring cups, a teaspoon/tablespoon tool, and an ounces scale are recommended. Recorded data can then be input into an online calculator to reveal the total calories, the breakdown for each macronutrient in convenient pie chart form, and even the breakdown of each individual food or meal consumed. Particularly with the goal of moderating carbohydrate intake per Primal Blueprint Carbohydrate Curve guidelines, it can be quite illuminating to see just how grams of dietary carbohydrate accumulate over the course of a day. Following are the Primal Blueprint recommendations for protein, carbohydrate, and fat intake.

Protein: Start your macronutrient intake calculations with protein requirements, since adequate protein intake is critical for healthy metabolic function and the preservation of lean muscle mass. The Primal Blueprint recommends obtaining an average daily intake of around .5 grams of protein per pound (1.1 grams per kilo) of lean body mass. The original Primal Blueprint position was to fall in line with the widely-touted recommended range of .5 grams (1.1 grams/kilo) to meet basic needs, up to .7 grams per pound of lean mass (1.66 grams/kilo) for the moderately active, up to one gram per pound of lean mass (2.2 grams per kilo) for active exercisers. Mounting research now suggests that we might be overestimating our protein requirements to our detriment. Dr. Ron Rosedale, a leading voice in the concerns about excess protein, suggests that .5 grams of protein per pound of lean mass is plenty for everyone. He believes that even high-protein-demand people (the highly active, growing teens, and pregnant women) need only to add 5-10 grams per day to that calculation to ensure optimal protein intake.

Lean body mass can be calculated by subtracting your fat weight from your total weight. You can multiply your body fat percentage (measured in a variety of ways) by your total bodyweight to determine your fat weight. For example, someone who weighs 150 pounds and has a reading of 10 percent body fat has 15 pounds of fat and 135 pounds of lean mass. Hence, they would calculate their protein requirement to be 135 pounds x .5 grams = 67.5 grams per day, perhaps 75 if highly active.

Carbohydrate: Carbohydrate intake should align with the recommendations presented on the Primal Blueprint Carbohydrate Curve, which will be presented in detail in module 4. For lifelong health, weight management, and disease protection, no more than an average of 150 grams or less per day should be consumed. When grains, sugary foods and beverages, and other processed foods are eliminated from the diet, it’s easy to default into this range. One hundred and fifty grams per day represents an abundant intake of vegetables, and a sensible intake of fresh, seasonal fruits, nuts, seeds, and even the sensible indulgence of dark chocolate. Those wishing to reduce excess body fat should limit carbohydrate intake to 100 grams per day or less in order to stimulate the burning of excess body fat for energy. This average can be easily achieved through Intermittent Fasting, strict attention to avoiding grains and sugars, and a reduced intake of fruits and starchy vegetables (sweet potatoes, etc.) during weight loss efforts.

Fat: With recommended protein and carbohydrate intake falling into relatively narrow ranges, it follows that fat becomes the predominant macronutrient in the diet and the main variable in obtaining dietary satisfaction. Recommended fat intake is generally not an absolute number (unless specific calculations are performed to lose a certain amount of body fat over a certain time period), but instead should align with obtaining dietary satisfaction at every meal. Although high-fat foods are calorically dense, they have a high satiety factor and do not stimulate an insulin response. By eating what amounts to a high-fat diet in comparison to the SAD, one can stabilize appetite and energy levels, and shed excess body fat without having to face the traditional struggles of deprivation and restriction.

Pursuant to a goal of reducing a specified amount of excess body fat over a specified time period, one can estimate the number of calories burned per day and prepare a fat intake calculation that will achieve that goal. Detailed examples are provided for a hypothetical male and female in Chapter 8 of the Primal Blueprint book. Briefly, the steps are as follows:

1. Estimate daily caloric expenditure using the Harris Benedict Equation. This is a formula that accounts for your basal metabolic rate (based on age, sex, and size) along with your average daily activity level to estimate how many calories you burn in a day. In the following example, our subject burns an estimated 2,500 calories per day.

2. Calculate desired pounds of fat reduction in 21 days, multiply by 3,500 calories = total fat loss in calories. Divide total by 21 = average caloric deficit per day and total intake per day to achieve fat loss goal.

Desired fat loss = 4 pounds

3,500 calories per pound = 14,000 calories total deficit

14,000 / 21 days = 666 calorie intake deficit per day, to be derived from stored body fat

2,500 estimated daily expenditure – 666 desired deficit = 1,834 (daily caloric intake to achieve fat loss goal)

3. Calculate carbohydrate and protein caloric intake per day

E.g. 140 pounds of lean mass, active person = 70 g/day x 4 calories/gram = 280 protein calories per day
75 grams of carb intake per day for weight loss x 4 calories/gram = 300 carbohydrate calories per day
Total protein and carbohydrate intake per day: 580 calories

4. Subtract daily caloric intake goal (1,834) from protein/carb total (580) to determine allowable fat calories per day to achieve weight loss goal

E.g. 1,834 – 580 = 1,254 fat calories per day
1,254/9 = 139 grams of fat per day

5. Goal macronutrient intake to lose 4 pounds of fat in 21 days
Protein: 70 g or 280 calories
Carbohydrates: 75 g or 300 calories
Fat: 139 g or 1,254 calories

Since it can be tedious and stressful trying to align with such calculations while enjoying your life and eating delicious primal foods, the Primal Blueprint recommends performing a macronutrient dietary analysis only occasionally instead of obsessively. Generating a report detailing a typical day of eating reveals where one’s habit patterns land, and where adjustments can be made if necessary. In the case of falling short with fat loss goals, macronutrient analysis can be very helpful in pinpointing ways to improve the rate of progress.

For example, many primal enthusiasts successfully ditch grains and sugars and take a liking to primal-approved foods to the extent that most or all of their necessary fat calories are provided from dietary fat. It is perfectly healthy to obtain all caloric requirements from food, and moderating insulin production will prevent the accumulation of additional body fat (since fat cannot be stored without insulin). However, those wishing to reduce excess body fat must create that familiar caloric deficit between expended calories and ingested calories, so that additional energy requirements will be pulled from storage areas on the body. The beauty of the Primal Health Coach approach to weight loss is that this deficit is achieved naturally through the optimization of appetite and metabolic hormones such as insulin and leptin.

Experiences With (Low Carb) Eating

Be a Part of the Alliance Nutrition Challenge

We have the Alliance Nutrition Challenge coming up on February 5th. In one of our last emails, we introduced that we would use Mark Sisson’s book, The 21 Day Keto Reset, as a template for the challenge. The reason I chose this book is that it resonated with me in regards to my own experience and research.

Here are a few of the key components that resonated with me.

  1. There is a transitional phase as you move from your current diet into ketosis.
  2. One of the goals is creating metabolic flexibility where you don’t need to stay in ketosis indefinitely.
  3. The effects of the plan are long-lasting in that you are able to move in and out of ketosis with ease in order to support whatever health and fitness goals you may have.
  4. You make adjustments to the plan based on how you are feeling and performing and don’t rely solely on blood measurements.
  5. You are meant to enjoy the food you eat and not suffer.
  6. You are able to go for longer periods of time without eating yet not suffer from hunger, lack of energy or performance declines.

My Low Carb Adventure

My previous experiences going from a higher carbohydrate to a lower one were quite an adventure.

My first experience into a low carb diet occurred nearly 30 years ago when I was preparing for a bodybuilding competition. For those of you who are old enough to remember, back then it was thought that the best diet for losing body fat while retaining muscle consisted of eating mostly protein and carbohydrate while eating very low fat. That is as low as 10% of calories from fat. It worked well for me back then as I was able to lose 20 pounds and become the leanest of my life while consuming 3,000 calories a day. It was also common practice to perform a carb depletion followed by a carb load the final week before the contest. The purpose was to create a rebound effect of storing more glycogen in the muscle while pulling water along with it so that you had a more “ripped” appearance. I don’t remember how effective this was for my physical transformation but what I do remember is how I felt going from 300-400 grams of carbs a day to 50. it was my first experience of what some call “keto flu”. I had no energy, was very grumpy, and lost strength. Needless to say, it was a miserable experience. Fortunately, this only lasted a week and I was back to my high-carb eating.

Getting in The Zone

A few years later, I read Dr. Barry Sears book, The Zone Diet. The science and anecdotal evidence intrigued me enough that I was willing to give it a try.  The ratio of protein to carbs and to fat was 30/40/30. When I tried the Zone diet I did not have as severe a response as with my carb depletion experience. However, I stopped within a week or two because I thought it just wasn’t for me due to the fact I was always starving and again very irritable. Later after gaining a better understanding of the plan I was able to adhere a little better but did not notice a significant change in how I felt or performed so, I learned some things from this experiment and in general, continued to eat fewer carbs than before. I did not continue monitoring the macronutrient ratios and went back to more of my normal eating patterns.

The Path to Paleo

When I first read about the Paleo diet I looked at it from a different perspective and was more focused on food quality and what foods I might actually have a sensitivity to rather than simply focusing on macronutrients. I had a lot of clients achieve success on this program and I also had some success in terms of losing body fat and feeling better. With this program, I did indulge in a ‘cheat day’ and enjoyed the extra carbs. I had a much easier time transitioning into Paleo. I believe this was due to the fact I had become more fat adapted. During this time I was not concerned with calories or macronutrients per say but really focused on eating more high-quality whole foods. I still consumed carbs, especially after hard training sessions. I would also indulge in a cheat day from time to time. In general, I would say that some of these habits stuck even though I was no longer following a Paleo diet. I would try to eat more nutritious whole foods including fats and overall fewer carbs, especially refined ones. I also began to pay more attention to how certain foods made me feel. For instance, I love spaghetti and my wife makes great spaghetti but I realize when I eat it I don’t necessarily feel as good the next day.

The Keto Kraze

About a year ago, after reading about the Ketogenic diet and its benefits from a number of top biohackers, I decided to give it a try. I was actually surprised at how I felt. My energy was pretty good and overall I felt good. I also, lost some weight rather quickly even though that wasn’t the goal. Looking back I made several mistakes but it was a learning experience which is mostly what I was looking for.

As I was preparing my goals for 2018, I knew that I wasn’t optimizing my nutrition and after listening to a podcast with Mark Sisson decided to give the Keto plan a more committed effort. It has worked much better this time. I have made some mistakes on this plan but continue to learn and improve. However, I have to say this is the best I have felt for some time. I feel my energy is very good, my mental clarity is good, my training is going well, I’m sleeping better, my joints feel better, and I would like to think that even my mood is better.

I wanted to share this because if this has the same impact on you then it will be a big win. What it has demonstrated to me is how much nutrition plays a role in our overall well being. Even if I think I eat “pretty good” there is still lots of room for improvement. That is what optimization is all about.

If this particular plan isn’t for you then you will have learned from the experience.

Commit, Show Up, Don’t Quit, Be Uncommon, Be your Best Self,

Optimize Your Nutrition Life

A couple of weeks ago I sent out an email discussing our nutrition system for optimizing the way you look, feel, and perform. I realize it was a rather long email detailing the four different levels. I have had several questions about the system since then and wanted to send this out in order to simplify each of these levels.

Level 1:

No Cost. Basic General Guidelines as follows:

  • Do one thing at a time.
  • Eat a variety of real, whole, unprocessed foods that add value to your body.
  • To lose fat, eat a little bit less. To gain mass or fuel athletic performance, eat a little bit more.
  • Make sure your overall eating environment and habits, as well as your feelings and beliefs about eating, help you rather than hinder you.
  • Be consistent and “pretty good” every day, rather than alternating wildly between rigid or “perfect” eating and uncontrolled or chaotic eating.
  • Commit to doing a habit consistently for at least 2 weeks before making any changes, to determine how habits are working for you.
  • Your body reflects what you put into it (food, recovery) and take out of it (activity, stress).
  • Make decisions based on data and close observation of yourself, not “rules” or someone else’s ideas.

These basic concepts hold true for everyone from beginners to pro athletes. Mastering these fundamentals and practicing them consistently can get you pretty far. These are the basic principles from our online coaching program.

Level 2:

Receive 40 Lessons delivered via email every day over 40 days. You also have access to our accompanying Transformation Manual.

These lessons were previously used in our eight-week challenges to help people make a physical and mental transformation. These lessons go into more detail about the principles listed above for Level 1 and the mindset of change.

Cost: Subscribe to 40 Nutrition Lessons email list.
Request the Transformation Manual via email.

Level 3:

12-Month Online Nutrition program done in partnership with Precision Nutrition.

Cost: $60 per month with a 12-month commitment or $600 paid in full. The family plan is $90 per month or $900 paid in full. You will receive daily nutrition lessons and accountability tracking for 12 months.

Level 4:

12-month online nutrition coaching plus monthly accountability session with a coach.

Cost: $100 per month with a 12-month commitment.

With level 4 you are getting a little more accountability in that you know you are going to be meeting with a coach each month to monitor your progress and your compliance to the agreed upon plan. This monthly session can also be a time to troubleshoot any problems you may be having or to ask any questions that have not been covered in your daily lesson.

Optimize Your Sleep Life

Last week we continued our discussion of implementing systems into your life in order to optimize your life and be the best you can be. There are five areas that we want to focus on to accomplish this.

  1. Eating (Nutrition)
  2. Sleep
  3. Physical Work (movement and exercise)
  4. Mental Work
  5. Spiritual

This week I want to focus on sleep. First, you have to accept the fact that quality sleep is necessary for you to be at your best physically and mentally. I have met many people who are hard-driving and successful that view sleep more as a luxury rather than a necessity. They almost view their lack of sleep with a sense of martyrdom and those who get 8 hours of sleep each night as being lazy.

As with almost everything, there are outliers. There are people who can consistently function at a higher level without much sleep. However, I think these are few. My view on sleep changed a couple of years ago when I heard Dr. Kirk Parsley speak at the Unbeatable Mind conference. Dr. Parsley, a former Navy Seal, spoke about working with the Seals and how even this hard charging group experienced negative effects from sleep deprivation. He also said that with a return to better sleep they began performing better. You can listen to his interview on the Unbeatable Mind podcast or listen to a shorter Ted Talk.

Getting more sleep is something I have placed a high priority on this year. As a result, I’ve been experimenting with the OURA Ring to monitor my sleep (actually Louise gave it to me for Christmas). It was very eye opening in that I thought just because I was getting to bed earlier that I would automatically get more sleep. When looking at my actual sleep patterns it makes sense why I feel tired on some days when I think I should be fully rested. If you are like me, you can definitely benefit from more and better quality sleep.

Here are some ways to improve your sleep:

  1. Go to bed at the same or near the same time each night, even on weekends.
  2. Avoid caffeine after 2 pm.
  3. Avoid alcohol at night.
  4. Avoid heavy meals right before bed.
  5. Avoid intense exercise at night.
  6. Avoid television or blue light (computer, phone, etc.) before bed.
  7. Have room temperature between 60-68 degrees.
  8. Use blackout curtains.
  9. Do five minutes of box breathing before bed.
  10. Magnesium.

I hope you find this helpful on your path to optimization. Next time we will be taking a look at improving your nutrition.

Optimize Your Physical Life


As we continue our discussion on 5 Ways to Optimize Your Life, our goal is to help you optimize your training in the gym, as well as, your life outside. We want to provide an integrated training that encompasses not only the physical but the mental and spiritual. It is, however, the physical that most often brings people to Alliance. Our training system continues to evolve as we gain new knowledge and make new distinctions. Since I am a firm believer in giving you the “WHY” behind our training, I would like to give you an update on our training system today.

Keeping It Simple

Although there are many pieces to each of the components involved in developing a complete and optimized physical training system, my intention here is to keep it simple and go into more detail in each of the components in the future. The three components that make up our physical training system in order of priority are:

  • Movement
  • Strength
  • Conditioning

The Priority of Movement

Movement quality is the number one priority in our training system. Just as the mental work lays the foundation for our training in general, proper movement sets the stage for all our physical work. First, you must move safely, then work on moving better, lastly move faster and stronger. Another way of thinking of this is learning to crawl, then walk, then run. Whether you are learning the squat or a new technique in Jiujitsu, this principle should be applied to any movement practice.

I can’t say that this has always been my priority. Up until the last couple of years, I would have prioritized strength as the number one focus. I have always emphasized form but was willing to sacrifice some of the that in order to get stronger. My realization is that if you sacrifice movement quality for more speed, weight, etc then there is a very good chance you are going down a road that will eventually lead to poor movement quality and injury.

Increasing Strength

Strength has always been a priority in our training. For the longest time, I would say that it was our number one priority. Your muscles move your body and if you have established good quality movement and become stronger then everything else improves with those strength gains. There is not a sport I can think of where increasing strength doesn’t help you perform better. This has not always been an accepted fact. I remember being in high school where the basketball, baseball, and golf coaches didn’t want their athletes lifting weights. Now steroids have become a big issue in baseball which wouldn’t be the case if strength didn’t matter.

Strength not only helps with performance but is critical for fighting the aging process. One of the biggest issues with aging is a loss of muscle and strength. This can be remedied through a good training plan. Some of our older students have made some of their biggest transformations doing just that. Increased strength also provides you with a bigger engine to drive your conditioning to a higher level. This is why I make strength a priority even if your primary goal is conditioning. The stronger you are the harder you can push your conditioning.

Lastly, strength helps protect us against injury. The muscles provide stability to the joints and they also provide armor to our body to protect us during contact sports and life in general.

The Importance of Conditioning

Conditioning is the last component I would like to discuss. Conditioning can mean many different things but in this context, I refer to three types of conditioning:

  • Metabolic
  • Armoring
  • Mental

When most people think of conditioning they are thinking of metabolic conditioning. To keep it simple, I will refer to metabolic conditioning as conditioning that trains both aerobic and anaerobic pathways. I think there is more bang for your buck training anaerobically but there needs to be some aerobic training as well. I mentioned armoring when talking about the benefits of strength but this can also be applied to conditioning.

Some strength and conditioning coaches would say that their job rests solely in getting people stronger and improving their metabolic conditioning and that it is not their job to work on developing mental toughness. I beg to differ and believe that much can be learned about mental toughness and resiliency through hard conditioning sessions.

Stay tuned for more details on “HOW” we incorporate these components.