Paleo (aka Primal) lifestyle: a (very) brief primer

Note: this post is meant as a 2 mins primer, if you’ve already read a bit about Paleo/Primal lifestyles, you should skip it happily!

The “Paleo Diet” is starting to be discussed by the mainstream media and to attract an ever increasing number of followers. But “diet” is the wrong word here: it’s not a diet as much as a lifestyle. Sure, if you’re overweight and you’re switching to Paleo, you’ll lose your excess weight. But if you’re very skinny, you might gain some; if your weight is ideal, but body composition is not, you will see it changing, etc.

And while nutrition is a very important aspect, exercise choices are also critical, and the diet lens misses this aspect entirely. The rule of thumb commonly accepted is an impact on your health of 80% from nutrition / 20% from physical exercise.

There are many flavors possible to a “Paleo Lifestyle”, as is the case for any theory of even moderate complexity. But fortunately, they nearly all share the same ingredients. The finer differences can always be examined when you’re ready to go deeper in your exploration.

So here’s the Paleo Lifestyle defined in 4 don’ts and 2 dos:

  • Stop eating sugar in all its forms (high fructose corn syrup, glucose, honey, maple syrup, etc.): so you cut sodas, cakes, candies, and so on.
  • Stop eating gluten grains in all their forms: no more pasta, bread, pancakes, even made with exotic and supposedly healthy grains (quinoa, bulgur…), even made with whole grains.
  • Eliminate common vegetable oils but do use coconut oil, palm oil, and also olive oil in moderation (all oils virgin and unrefined).
  • Eliminate processed foods: if it has a label with ingredients, you should probably not eat it (but don’t be silly, if you buy anchovies in olive oil with no other additives, go for it).
  • What do you eat then? Grass-fed meats, pastured eggs, wild fishes, pastured dairy (not in all Paleo flavors) for proteins. Animal fats – pastured butter, lard, ghee – from grass-fed animals, coconut oil, palm oil for fats. Veggies (starchy veggies in moderation) and fruits (highly sugary fruits in moderation) for carbohydrates. Portions pretty much as you see fit: it’s difficult too overeat with such a regimen.
  • How do you exercise? Avoid frequent cardio activities (ie running, biking, etc). Instead, train briefly (anywhere from 15mins to 1h) but intensely: heavy weight lifting, sprints, tabata intervals, and other protocols in the same vein. Be as active as possible in general (take the stairs, do your groceries by foot if practical, etc.).

Those 6 bullet points are rough approximations but capture the essence of what we are trying to live by in a Paleo Lifestyle. Now if you’re even remotely intrigued by this way of life, you might want to read a bit more. There are many great resources for this, free blogs and a couple of books:

Blogs (free)

  • Mark’s Daily Apple: not amongst the most popular for no reason. Huge resource and great primers. Start on this page then muse among the subjects. Mark’s a solid and very accessible writer and has been at it for a few years now. You can get all the info you need by exploring the blog, for free.
  • Kurt Harris’s Archevore: his 12-points summary is fantastic and takes 5 mins to read. Go read it now. His style is more dense and scientific than Mark’s though, so the rest of his blog will probably attract you more later on.
  • Many other blogs also provide a great deal of info: Robb Wolff, Sarah Fragoso’s Everyday Paleo and a few others


  • Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson: excellent and very accessible intro. Recommended for everyone.
  • The New Evolution Diet by Arthur de Vany: a style more dense than Mark Sisson, but also excellent. Highly recommended.
  • Primal Body, Primal Mind by Nora Gedgaudas: strongly focused on nutrition and not a lot on fitness. Excellent for the nutrition part, but needs to be complemented regarding the fitness aspect.
  • The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf: yet another good intro, again very recommended.
  • Everyday Paleo by Sarah Fragoso: very good book more focused on switching to a Paleo lifestyle for families.
  • Others: There are many books now that cover many aspects of this lifestyle. Listing them here would be tedious, but you can see the books section on HLTribes and make your own choices!

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