‘Choosing Raw’ Review and an 80/10/10 Update

9780738216874 2scaledA few weeks ago, I published a podcast episode about my most recent diet experiment: 80/10/10, also known as fruitarian.

The diet is 100 percent raw and very low in fat (only 10 percent of calories), but I’ve made it slightly less extreme by eating cooked food for dinner most nights.

I’ve felt spectacular on modified 80/10/10, but after a month of giant salads, half-watermelon lunches, smoothies made from eight bananas, and more mangoes than I’ve ever eaten in my life, I’ve had to make further modifications, and the way I’m eating now only barely resembles true 80/10/10.

The problem? It has nothing to do with all the fruit — that’s actually been really fun. Instead, it’s my weight. Eating this way, I simply couldn’t keep it on, even with only moderate training (25-30 miles per week right now). I don’t keep close track of weight these days, but I know I lost a good eight pounds in the last month, maybe more. And considering I started around 140 lbs, that’s too much for me to lose.

The thing is, I’m not convinced the weight loss is unhealthy.

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Who’s that in the ‘Vegan’ Socks on the Cover of Runner’s World?

RW1014 COV 792x1024When Runner’s World redesigned their magazine starting with this month’s issue, their stated goal was to have the magazine fit better into every runner’s world.

I’ll go ahead and speak for our crowd on this one, and say they’ve already hit a home run — in the form of two knee-high socks boasting “VEGAN” right on the cover (not to mention another instance of “vegan” in reference to the recipes).

But it gets better. On page 23, there’s a full-page feature on Micah Risk, the cover model — a 29-year-old mom, November Project devotee, 3:18 marathoner (a BQ in her first 26.2!), and nutritionist at Lighter, a company she co-founded in Boston to help women take control of their diets, with a focus on real, plant-based food. Plus she’s got a PMA tattoo … not quite NMA, but just as good!

It seems to me that you couldn’t pick a better person than Micah to spread our message on a mainstream platform, and today I’m thrilled to present an interview with this intriguing, street-stylish woman on NMA Radio.

PS — Speaking of Runner’s World, I’ll be at next month’s Runner’s World Half and Festival in Bethlehem, PA, along with Doug Hay, author of Rock Creek Runner and co-host of our podcast. The last RW event (in Boston) was a blast, so you’d like to join us, the discount codes below will save you 15% on any (or all) of the races. Hope to meet you there!

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • How Micah became a Runner’s World cover model
  • The power and community of the November Project
  • How Micah trained to run her Boston-qualifying first marathon
  • What to eat before, during, and after a long run
  • Micah’s goals as a plant-based nutritionist
  • Where she got those socks!

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My New Food Experiment: The 80/10/10 Fruitarian Diet

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Last week in the NMA newsletter, I promised to start publishing more frequent podcast episodes — and for the first time ever (I think), here’s our second episode within a week!

We’re shooting for 1-2 episodes per week now, and I may decide not to post all of them to the blog like this. So if you want to make sure you’re notified whenever there’s a new episode of NMA Radio, subscribe in iTunes. (And if you’d like to leave a nice review while you’re there, I’d really appreciate it.)

In this new episode, we talk a lot about fruit.

First, the Woodstock Fruit Festival, where last month my family spent a week camping and eating nothing but raw fruit and vegetables, and having a blast doing all the typical summer camp stuff surrounded by such amazing food. It’s put on each year by elite ultrarunner and fruitarian Michael Arnstein, and being able to hang out with him in person left me really inspired.

So much so that we took the diet home with us. Not quite 100 percent, but close — we’re eating fruitarian (also called 80/10/10, as in 80 percent carbs, 10 percent protein, 10 percent fat) until dinnertime each day, then a cooked meal for dinner most nights. (Our kids are still eating their normal diets all day, with just a little more fruit.)

We’re treating it as an experiment, and we’re not quite sure which way we’ll go: toward eating this way all day long (even dinner), or gradually back to our more typical (cooked) plant-based diet with slightly more focus on raw than before.

Whichever way it ends up, we’re having a lot of fun right now. Once we got over the “it’s weird to eat 3 mangoes for lunch, or make a smoothie out of 7 bananas and some water” thing, my wife and I started really looking forward to these simple “mono meals” (eating just one food until you’re full). And after three weeks of eating this way, we really feel great.

It’s way too early to say whether this diet works for us or not, but you’ll get a sense for my excitement in this new episode of the podcast.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • The Woodstock Fruit Festival
  • Transitioning from cooked to raw fruitarian
  • Typical meals on the 80/10/10 diet
  • “Mono” meals — why eating just one food at a time might make sense
  • Why you often feel great a few weeks after changing your diet (no matter which type of diet)
  • Concerns about eating this way
  • Fruitarian before 4: the struggles and the rewards

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How to Do the Impossible, with Joel Runyon

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After graduating from college, Joel Runyon couldn’t get a job. Not at Starbucks, not at Caribou Coffee, not at Target. He also wasn’t an athlete, and had never run a 5K.

Just five years later, he’s actually spoken at the headquarters of Target, one of the very companies that wouldn’t hire him. He’s spoken at TEDx, done a half Ironman, run an ultramarathon, raised $25,000 to build a school in Guatemala, and traveled the world. Joel now doesn’t need a job, because he makes a living documenting his perpetual quest to do the impossible and helping tens of thousands of readers to the same.

And it all started with a list. Not a bucket list, but an Impossible List.

Next on the list: run 7 ultras on 7 different continents (ending with the Leadville 100) to raise money to build 7 schools. All in the next year.

Joel has been a friend of mine for about as long as I’ve written No Meat Athlete, and it was a pleasure to have him share his knowledge and inspiration for doing the impossible on this episode of NMA Radio.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • How Joel went from unemployed and living in his parents’ basement to doing the impossible
  • How an “Impossible” list differs from a “Bucket” list
  • The 777 Project: 7 ultramarathons on 7 continents to build 7 schools
  • Breaking through self-imposed limits to do the impossible
  • How running helps build the “do the impossible” muscle
  • Joel’s tips for going from non-runner to multiple ultramarathons in just 5 years

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7 Tips for Getting Your Kids to Eat as Well as You Do

Note from Matt: I’m at the Woodstock Fruit Festival, eating nothing but raw fruit and vegetables for a week and doing all sorts of fun stuff, from high ropes and lake swimming to listening to talks by Mike Arnstein, Tim Van Orden, and Dr. Doug Graham (I’m actually listening to him give a food prep demo right this minute).

It’s been a great experience, not just for me and my wife but for our kids, who at ages 4 and 1 are getting the chance to try all kinds of exotic fruits like lychee, durian, longans, and dragon fruit.

In that spirit, I invited my friend Sid Garza-Hillman to write a guest post about raising healthy kids. Why Sid? Because of this (those are his twins).

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Meal Planning Tips for the Busy Athlete, with YumUniverse’s Heather Crosby

Heather Crosby, creator of YumUniverse and author of the upcoming book by the same name, knows a thing or two about creating a healthy lifestyle.

At first glance, YumUniverse is beautiful and artsy and obviously focused on healthy, plant-based, gluten-free, whole food. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll discover that Heather has the same fascination with habit-change that I do, and she incorporates those critical concepts into her recommendations for meal planning or getting started with a plant-based diet.

Heather was our guest expert in the No Meat Athlete Academy last month, and today I’ve got a 20-minute clip from our seminar to share with you. It’s packed with Heather’s brilliant tips for simplifying your entire process around food — from planning to shopping to getting it on the table — without ever sacrificing health for convenience (down to the soaking of the nuts and seeds and cooking beans from scratch).

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Two New Energy Bar Recipes (with Tart Cherries!)

It’s been a full month that I’ve been drinking tart cherry concentrate, twice a day, and today I’ve got the promised third and final post in this series, including two new recipes and answers to some FAQ’s from my previous posts.

Once again, to be absolutely clear: this series was sponsored by the Cherry Marketing Institute. It’s the first time I’ve done any sponsored blog content, and I really do appreciate any feedback you have about it.

Believe it or not, I was relieved to read in the comments of the second post that a lot of you tried the 7-Day Tart Cherry Juice Challenge and reported the same results I experienced with my shoulder — an otherwise inexplicable lessening (or even disappearance) of minor pain. I say “relieved” because I’m always so suspicious of supposed superfoods, thinking them usually to be little more than placebos, so it felt almost wrong to be reporting such overwhelmingly positive results in a sponsored series. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised by this whole experience, and while my shoulder hasn’t fully healed (I still plan on seeing a doctor to figure it out), I sleep so much better now that shoulder pain doesn’t wake me up.

So here we go with the two recipes (FAQ’s follow)! The first, Momo Granola bars, are from chef Mo Ferris, who contributed the recipe, along with two others, to my book. In this version, I doubled the amount of cherries (the best part anyway) and made sure to use tart cherries instead of sweet.

The second recipe is derived from the Ultimate Energy Bar Formula, also in the No Meat Athlete book but on the blog as well.

One more note: You’d need to eat 100 tart cherries per day to equal the amount of tart cherry concentrate (just one ounce, twice a day) that has been studied and shown to reduce muscle soreness. You’re never going to get that amount with these recipes, but hey, the dried tart cherries taste good! And it doesn’t hurt to get a few more throughout the day.

Momo Granola Bars with Extra Cherries

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  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup raw almonds (Mo suggests roasted, salted, but raw worked well for me)
  • ¼ cup rough chopped pecans
  • ¾ cup flax seed (I pulsed mine in the blender to barely chop)
  • ¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 3 tablespoons hemp seeds
  • 1 cup chopped dried tart cherries (Mo’s original recipe calls for half this amount)
  • ½ cup brown rice syrup
  • ⅓ cup peanut butter
  • 2 small pinches of kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Chop almonds, pecans and dried cherries at least in half, but with most pieces being even smaller.

3. Place dried cherries into a large mixing bowl.

4. Spread oats, chopped nuts, flax seeds and hemp seeds onto an ungreased baking sheet and toast in oven for 10 minutes. Gently shake and stir the oat mixture after 5 minutes of cooking to avoid burning the top layer and allowing both sides of the nuts and oats to brown.

5. Remove oat mixture from the oven and add to the bowl with the dried cherries. Add salt.

6. Decrease oven temperature to 300 degrees.

7. In a small saucepan, melt peanut butter over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Once the peanut butter is melted and slightly thinner, remove from heat and pour over oat mixture. Mix thoroughly.

8. In a separate small saucepan add brown rice syrup. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil. Bubbles will begin to form along the sides of the pan and gradually move in towards the center. When bubbles get big and meet in the middle, immediately remove from heat and pour over the oat mixture.

9. Thoroughly mix, coat all ingredients with brown rice syrup and peanut butter.

10. While it is still warm, pour the mixture out into the corner of a baking sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Using wax paper, firmly press and spread mixture into the shape of a rectangle that is ¼ inch thick (no gaps!). NOTE: the mixture will most likely not fill the entire sheet tray. Starting in a corner will give the rectangle 2 or 3 straight edges.

11. Bake at 300 degrees for 15 minutes or just until the edges begin to brown.

12. Remove from oven and gently re-press the rectangle using the wax paper. Cool completely on the tray. Flip rectangle out onto a cutting board and cut into 3×5 inch bars.

13. Wrap bars individually in plastic wrap and store in a large ziplock bag.

Chocolate-Cherry Happy Bars

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  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed (about 1.5 cups)
  • ½ cup almond butter
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup mashed banana
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1.5 cups of oats
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • ½ cup brown rice flour
  • ½ cup shredded coconut
  • ½ cup dried tart cherries
  • 3 tablespoons tart cherry concentrate
  • 1 tablespoon water

In a food processor, combine black beans, almond butter, maple syrup, mashed banana, vanilla extract, and salt until smooth.

Add the oats, cocoa, and brown rice flour and pulse just to combine. Add the coconut and tart cherries and pulse again, just to combine. Add the tart cherry juice and water and pulse a few more times to mix. if it’s too runny, add an additional 1/4 cup of the brown rice flour.

Grease 13×9 pan with baking spray or rub with 1 tablespoon oil, then spread mixture into pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes.

Tart Cherries FAQ’s

The first two posts in this series, especially the second, generated a lot of questions from readers about the specifics of tart cherries. I didn’t know most of the answers, so I passed the questions along to the Cherry Marketing Institute and have paraphrased their answers here.

Where can you buy tart cherry juice/concentrate? If I can’t find it in my grocery store, can I get it online?

It’s quite possible you’ll find it in your local grocery store, but if not, ask the manager to source the product you are looking for. Montmorency tart cherries are available for national distribution, so sometimes it just takes consumer demand to put the product on the shelf. If you can’t get them locally, you can order online directly from most of the cherry processors.

What brand of cherries did you use for the challenge?

I didn’t know the brand during the challenge, and that was intentional (all the juice, concentrate, and cherries that they sent me for the experiment came free of labeling). The Cherry Marketing Institute didn’t want this to be about a particular brand, but about tart cherries in general. You can find a full list of processors here.

What about capsules or chewables? Are these as good as juice or concentrate?

You could have guessed this answer: whole foods are better. Our bodies don’t really know what to do with nutrients when they’re taken out of foods, and our scientific understanding of the complex interactions within foods and in our bodies doesn’t yet let us capture the essence of whole food in a pill. I’m not claiming that juice is a whole food, but it’s probably a lot closer than whatever goes into a pill. The science was done on tart cherry juice, so that’s what the cherry people recommend you use.

Are tart cherries something you might build up a tolerance to, and need to take more in the future to get the same anti-inflammatory effect?

This hasn’t been specifically tested. There’s no research to suggest that you would build up a tolerance and would need more. (Nor is there research to suggest that you wouldn’t, I think.)

What about melatonin in Montmorency cherries? Does anyone report drowsiness during the day?

Straight from the cherries people: “Tart cherries are one of the few natural sources of melatonin, which is responsible for the regulation of the body’s internal clock and sleep-wake cycle. Researchers believe it’s the combination of melatonin and the anthocyanins in tart cherries that might help you sleep better at night, but this effect should not impact drowsiness. The research examined sleep efficiency, meaning that participants sleep more soundly once they were asleep.”

Anecdotally, from me: I’ve slept better since drinking tart cherry concentrate, but I think that’s because my shoulder hurts so much less (it hurts much less in the daytime, too, so I don’t think it’s “I’m sleeping more deeply; therefore I don’t notice the shoulder pain at night”). I haven’t noticed any drowsiness during the day (and haven’t in several years since going vegetarian and then vegan — that, for me, has been one of the great benefits of eating this way).

Thanks again for your enthusiasm about and engagement with this series of posts.

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3 Reasons Why I’ll Teach My Kids to Run Marathons

I don’t write about it often, but I’m a father to two wonderful little kids — a four-year-old boy and one-year-old girl.

The obvious question (that people always ask) is whether my wife and I are raising them vegan, and the answer is a qualified yes:

Yes, but we don’t want to choose this lifestyle for them, or to make them resent their plant-based diet and their parents who forced it on them. So we involve our son (and will our daughter too, when she’s old enough) in the garden and in cooking, and we talk to them about why we eat this way. But when they’re old enough to want other foods — say, at a friend’s birthday party — that will be their choice. Outside the home, anyway.

People are less interested in whether we’re raising our kids to be runners, but that’s what I want to write about today. Because the answer is yes. At least, I’m going to try my darndest to steer them toward running marathons when they’re old enough. (Of course, if they just don’t like it, that’s cool too.)

Why running? Why long distances?

Not because “I like marathons, and therefore they should.” Physical fitness entirely aside, I’ve learned that running teaches a lot of important qualities that aren’t so easy to find in other activities these days (cue crotchety old man fist shake at the internet).

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