I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the countless e-mails, Facebook comments and twitters I get almost daily inquiring into the specifics of my plant-based whole food nutrition regime. Its hard to reply to everyone, and with limited time I just don’t have the ability to get back to all of you. But it is clear that what most people want me to address is my diet.
How can you possibly train 25-30 hrs / week, work as a lawyer and handle being a husband and a father of 4 without eating any meat, dairy or any other animal products to keep you going!?! Impossible!
Not impossible. And not just plausible. In fact, I challenge each and every one of you to try it for 30 days. If after a month you don’t feel better, have more energy and realize scientifically verifiable improvements in your physiological and metabolic factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol and body fat, I will be very surprised.
Are you game? Then its time to let you in on a bit of Plant-Strong wisdom that has done right by me.
A couple things. First, let me be very clear. I’m not here to prostelyze or tell anyone what to do — I’m only sharing some of my experience over the last 3 years. Take it or leave it. But I can honestly say that it has changed my life in countless ways — all good. And my program is not whimsical. It is built on a foundation of scientific data established by leading medical professionals in the field such as T. Colin Campbell, author of THE CHINA STUDY, and renown cardiologist Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, author of PREVENT AND REVERSE HEART DISEASE, buttressed by such books as THE ENGINE 2 DIET by Dr. Esselstyn’s son Rip, a former All-American swimming colleague of mine, and Brendan Brazier’s THRIVE. That said, I’m not a doctor or a registered nutritionist. Pick up these books and do your own research. I’m just an average guy on this adventure trying to find the best solutions to not only realize my potential as a 43 year old athlete, but to improve my overall wellness for the duration of my life — so I can be as vibrant and healthy as possible for not only myself, but for my wife and kids. So far so good.
Second, in this day and age it can be very difficult even for the most discerning consumer to know what foods are good for you. We are so overly-saturated and inundated with conflicting advertising and marketing messages (primarily from the food conglomerates, pharmaceutical & food industry lobbies) telling us what to eat – low fat, non-fat, low in saturated fats, high in Omega-3’s, drink this, eat that, red wine, no red wine, eat chocolate, you need more protein, don’t eat chocolate, etc. It can make anyone’s head spin. Just walk the aisles at any typical grocery and read the packaging – almost every product has some banner slogan about why its good for you. And on top of this we have all the supplements – vitamins, protein, etc. It can literally cause vertigo. What do I see? Lies. Deception. Everywhere. Carefully crafted to dupe and confuse. Marketing dollars spent to get you to buy foods that simply are not good for you. Plain and simple.
My point? Get back to basics. This does not have to be ROCKET SCIENCE! When in doubt, organic fruits, veggies, grains & legumes. Every time. All the time. Honestly, keep it simple. The fewer ingredients the better. And if you can’t pronounce the ingredient, its probably not good for you. This doesn’t have to be hard or complicated, people. In fact, you very well may find it easier to eat plant-strong, as most of the foods are so close to their natural state and thus very simple and easy to prepare. The closer your plant-based foods are to their natural state, the better.
As I have mentioned before, my wife Julie (she’s the genius cook and deserves all the credit!) and I are working on our eCookbook and hope to have it ready for download by Thanksgiving. Of course, I will keep you posted. Were saving specific recipes for the book, but wanted to at least share the basic structure of how I fortify myself (and my family) while training 25-30 hrs / week, working a full time job and raising children with my wife. Not only has this regime nourished me, it has propelled me to feats of athletic excellence I didn’t believe I was capable of, boosted my ability to recover quickly between training sessions, enhanced my energy levels and significantly contributed to my overall health and wellness. Its not opinion – its a fact.
So let’s start with some of the things I have been eating during heavy training. Bear in mind that my caloric intake is likely higher than most, so I’m not recommending everyone eat as much as I do, particularly when it comes to the amount of oils I eat. That said, fats are NOT the enemy. Especially for the endurance athlete where one of the primary physiological adaptations you are trying to improve is your body’s ability to efficiently metabolize and burn fats. OK enough. Here’s the goods. All of these products can be found at Whole Foods (if you have one) and likely at any decent health food market. If you strike out, just google them and I’m sure you can get everything online. The brand names I can recall are in parentheses.
PRE-WORKOUT VITA-MIX SHAKE
For those who don’t know, a Vita-Mix is like a blender with a jet engine. It will literally make juice out of anything. Anything. Its a pricey item, but I couldn’t live without it.
With some variations, this is what I eat before a very long morning ride or a very long morning run. If the ride/run is shorter I obviously reduce the portions. Often the shake is more than enough for me.
VEGA Whole Food Optimizer (yes, it has that precious B12)
VEGA EFA Oil
Chia Seed – great for endurance
Maca – also great for endurance
Coconut Keifer (So Delicious)
Coconut Milk (So Delicious)
Coconut Oil (365)
Rice Protein (Sun Warrior) – very small amount / tablespoon
Barley (Sun Warrior)
Hemp Protein (Living Harvest) – very small amount / tablespoon
Small amount of juice (your choice)
Generally the shake is enough but sometimes I will have these
Gluten free toast w/ almond butter
Gluten free granola with coconut milk or almond milk & berries / fruit
Quinoa with coconut milk & berries / fruit (Quinoa makes a great breakfast food!)
NUTRITION DURING LONG RIDES
I am generally mostly liquid unless the ride is VERY long
Endurolytes or Nuun (salt tabs)
Cliff Bars (non-dairy ones only)
almond butter sandwiches
bananas — lots of ‘em!
NUTRITION DURING LONG RUNS
Gels (only if I get into trouble)
POST RIDE / RUN NUTRITION
1st: Coconut Water — GREAT FOR ELECTROLYTE REPLACEMENT! Drink immediately
Within 30 minutes: Replace glycogen stores & protein. I will eat a small amount of something high in carbs right away, like brown rice, gluten free pasta, mashed potatoes, toast, etc. When I feel a bit settled, I will have a shake with many of the items listed above for the pre-ride shake. I will also add in alot of foods high in anti-oxidants, such as blueberries, pomegrante and acai. In general — replace your electrolytes, replenish your glycogen stores, get some protein (can be in the form of rice or hemp protein but prefer leafy greens) and make sure you eat foods high in anti-oxidants to combat the free radical damage to your cells caused by heavy exertion.
(yes its night time by the time I’m done) or post-workout meal / lunch, I will have some variation of:
VITA-MIX drink with ALOT of veggies (see list below);
GRAINS — brown rice, quinoa, red & brown lentils and gluten free pasta are typical, generally with steamed veggies — broccoli, spinach, carrots, beets, brussel sprouts, etc.
POTATOES: — mashed with veganaise (recipe coming in eCookbook!) or wedges baked with olive or coconut oil
KALE CHIPS (secret recipe in eCookbook!)
SALAD: Variation of greens with veggies with vinagrette dressing
NUTS: cashews and almonds & pumpkin seeds (high in iron)
AVOCADOS: Love ‘em and eat tons of them
VEGGIE BURGERS: home-made only (again, you’ll have to wait for the eCookbook). I avoid the store bought versions as they tend to be loaded with alot of junk. Many of them are not plant-based (have dairy products in them) or are full of wheat gluten, which I avoid. Gluten free bun with avacado, onion, tomato, lettuce, veganaise & mustard
BLACK BEANS: eat tons. Black bean vegan chili – love it!
I’m really not a sweet tooth, but a nice fruit based Vita-Mix concoction with coconut milk or cacao is great. Also “So Delicious” makes some great coconut milk ice cream. Julie makes an AMAZING Chia Seed Pudding — but you will have to wait for the cookbook for that one:)
VITA-MIX TYPICAL INGREDIENTS
Again I vary it and its usually either a fruit based concoction or veggie — we will have our favorite special recipes in the eCookbook. Julie and I have some really amazing concoctions that are simply delicious and ridiculously nourishing.
Beets — tons of beets!
Kale – again, tons
Aloe (cut from our own Aloe plant)
Pumpkin (or pumpkin seed – great for iron and best absorbed when taken with foods high in vitamin C — thanks Holistic Guru for this tip!)
VEGA EFA Oil
Almond / Walnut / Cashew
One final note for now. THE PROTEIN QUESTION. I get it almost every day — how do you get enough protein on a plant-based diet? First, if you are eating a well-balanced plant-based diet, your protein needs will be met. You would be surprised at the protein content of many plant foods. End of story. Second, people don’t need the massive amounts of protein the food & supplement industries want you to believe. I stress my body more than almost anybody, and I do not have an issue with this. Without going into a dissertation on this and the metabolizing of amino acids, in general, only about 10% of your diet need be protein. In fact, I only use rice and hemp protein poweder if I put in a massive workout. Otherwise, I don’t find it necessary and get all the protein I need from my whole food intake. The marketing machine wants you to believe you must drink all these high (whey) protein drinks. Don’t buy into the hype, as it based on a lie. Not only that, it puts undue stress on your kidneys and is overall NOT HEALTHY.
I’m sure I’m missing a lot, forgetting many things and oversimplifying almost everything. But I think you get the general drift. I will continue to supplement and please feel free to post any comments or questions.
I look forward to hearing from all of you.