Are Your Clients Going "Primal?": A Look At Primal And Paleo Nutrition In Today's Lifestyle Landscape

by Gary Collins on Jul 21, 2013

Diet Facts

To help your clients lose weight and boost health, you should encourage them to eat like their caveman ancestors, say proponents of the increasingly popular “Paleo” (Paleolithic) diet and “Primal” lifestyle movements. Chowing down like a caveman is becoming increasingly popular, judging from the arrival of bestselling consumer books on the topic such as Mark Sisson’s The Primal Blueprint (Primal Nutrition 2012).

While a Paleo diet might conjure images of roasting dinosaur meat, it’s actually based on the idea of eating meats like our ancient ancestors did—from animals that were humanely raised, grass-fed and free from antibiotics. A typical Paleo meal might look like this:

  • A fist-size portion of animal protein such as bison, cow, lamb, chicken, fish or pork.
  • A healthy serving of vegetables, cooked or raw.
  • A small amount of fruit and maybe a handful of nuts.

As the Paleo diet and Primal lifestyle trends go mainstream, your clients might start coming to you for information—if they haven’t already. While the terms and concepts of “Paleo” and “Primal” are similar, a few key distinctions separate them. Here’s a look at the basic, need-to-know differences:

Ancient Eating Explained

How did cavemen dine? According to an article in the European Journal of Nutrition, primal diets “were based chiefly on wild game, fish and uncultivated plant foods. They provided abundant protein; a fat profile much different from that of affluent Western nations; high fiber; carbohydrate from fruits and vegetables (and some honey) but not from cereals, refined sugars and dairy products; high levels of micronutrients and probably of phytochemicals as well.”

Ancient-diet aficionados believe that a return to an ancient diet can reverse a host of common health problems such as asthma, seasonal allergies, acne, eczema, chronic headaches, migraines, irritable-bowel syndrome, ADD, ADHD, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, mental fogginess and chronic fatigue.

Paleo Versus Primal

The main Paleo/Primal difference is that Paleo retains a strong food focus while Primal is more of a prevailing lifestyle than a diet. More on the differences:


  • Diet has no grains but is high in animal protein, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats.
  • Diet eschews all dairy.


  • Allows organic dairy, preferably raw.
  • Encourages consumption of large amounts of saturated fats found in animal meats, dairy products and coconut oil. Saturated fat would be a natural part of cavemen’s diet because they ate the entire animal, including organ meats and bone marrow.

Paleo and Primal can go hand in hand. Your clients might choose to start with the Paleo diet and then incorporate elements of a Primal lifestyle, such as functional exercise and stress reduction. Regardless of the approach, mindful eating and exercise can help your clients be successful—not only short term, but for life.

Photography By: Steve Parker

Further Reading

Collins, Gary. 2013. Primal Power Method: Unlock the Ancient Secret to Health. Albuquerque, NM: Second Nature Publishing.

Cordain, L., & Friel, J 2012. The Paleo Diet For Athletes. New York, NY: Rodale.

Eaton S.B., & Eaton S.B. 3rd. 2000. Paleolithic vs. modern diets—selected pathophysiological implications. European Journal of Nutrition, 39 (2); 67-70.

Konner, M., & Eaton, S.B. 2010. Paleolithic nutrition: twenty-five years later. Nutrition in Clinical Practice, 25 (6); 594-602.

Mark’s Daily Apple. 2008. What’s the Difference Between Primal and Paleo?; Retrieved May 3, 2013.

Sisson, Mark. 2012. The Primal Blueprint. Malibu, CA: Primal Nutrition.

IDEA Food and Nutrition Tips, Volume 2, Issue 4

Find the Perfect Job

More jobs, more applicants and more visits than any other fitness industry job board.

© 2013 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Gary Collins

Gary Collins IDEA Author/Presenter

Gary Collins, MS was born in Southern California and raised in the High Desert at the basin of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. He has been involved in organized sports, nutrition and fitness for ove...