Tarahumara Barbecued ‘Mice’

Post by Christine Frazier

Thank you for the overwhelmingly receptive response to the announcement of the first No Meat Athlete cookbook!  Creating the recipes for Fuel Your Run the Tarahumara Way was by the far the biggest culinary project I’ve ever taken on, and it’s so exciting to finally share our work with you all.

Behind the scenes, there was plenty of trial and error and a lot of discussion on what pinole and chia recipes would make the final cut to be included in the book.  I had to giggle yesterday when K from Weight in Vain tweeted “What about the beer and the mice they also consume?”

She’s got a point; though the Tarahumara diet consists mainly of pinole, chia, pinto beans, squash and leafy greens, Born to Run did mention crazy all-night corn-beer ragers and the occasional barbecued mouse.

Of course, neither of these are described as miracle foods for endurance running.  (Unless you count running away from plate full of mice.)

Tarahu-Mar-B-Cue, Anyone?

Still, after working on a project so intensely for a long time, I have to admit that I started to get a little brain-fried and silly.  As a joke for Matt, I decided to recreate the Tarahumara party experience with my own vegetarian barbecued “mice,” complete with beer and all.

Well, my joke backfired because these little nuggets, now affectionately referred to in the NMA household as Tarahu-Mar-B-Cue, turned out so freakin’ delicious.  What a shame, since there’s no place in a running-fuel cookbook for a faux-bbq-mice-and-beer-nugget, even if they are made with good stuff like pinole and pinto beans.

I couldn’t stand to see something this yummy hit the cutting room floor, so even though it’s not technically running-fuel I’m sharing the recipe with you all now as a way of celebrating the release of our cookbook.

Barbecued Pinole Nuggets

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups pinole
  • 1 cup beer or vegetable broth
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained,rinsed, and lightly mashed
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and fry the onion for about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook another 3 minutes.  Stir in the chili powder, smoked paprika, and salt and fry a minute until fragrant.  Stir in the tomato paste, dijon mustard, and maple syrup.

    Add one cup of the pinole (reserving half a cup) to the pan and stir to coat.  Slowly pour in the beer.  Add beans and chia seeds.  Keep stirring for about 5 to 10 minutes, until the alcohol cooks off and the mixture thickens.  The mixture should be thick enough that when you fold it over itself, you can easily see the bottom of the pan.

    Allow the mixture to come to room temperature, then form with your hands into nugget shapes or oblong patties.  Coat nuggets in remaining 1/2 cup of pinole.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

    Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and fry the nuggets for about 3-4 minutes each, turning to brown on all sides.  Remove from pan and place on a plate lined with a paper towel.  Makes 2 dozen nuggets.

Try stuffing a few of these in a big pita with coleslaw and smothered in tangy barbecue sauce.  Or these are really great served croquette-style with a few dipping sauces like sweet mustard, garlic nayonaise, and hot wing sauce…just don’t let on to your guests what inspired these nuggets!

Thanks again for all the support for our new book.  I can’t tell you how proud I am of what we created.  Don’t forget, if you’d like to download a copy of Fuel Your Run The Tarahumara Way, do it this weekend before the price goes up on Monday.  I promise, no more mice.  I can’t wait to hear your feedback about the recipes!

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Fuel Your Run With Pinole and Chia: 15 Pinole & Chia Recipes For the Modern Athlete

Big news today!

[fuel your run with pinole and chia cover]After several months of doing research, coming up with recipes, and testing them out, I’m so proud to announce the release of the first downloadable cookbook from No Meat Athlete—Fuel Your Run with Pinole and Chia .

The cookbook is a collection of recipes based on two ingredients—pinole and chia. They’re the foods eaten by the Tarahumara tribe of superathlete endurance runners, as popularized in the bestselling book Born to Run. (If you haven’t read that one yet, stop what you’re doing and drive to the bookstore right now to buy it. It’s fantastic.)

After I read Born to Run, I tried to make pinole and iskiate (another name for chia fresca). The pinole the Tarahumara eat is either a paste or a drink, and neither one is practical for carrying on a run. I felt pretty hardcore fueling up this way, but the taste and hassle were just too much.

Then—BAM—I got the idea to enlist the help of my professional-vegan-baker sister, Christine, to create pinole and chia recipes fit for today’s world. Recipes for stuff you could bring on a run with you.

So that’s what we did. Energy bars, pancakes, muffins, smoothies, and more, all with pinole or chia, or both. Portable, practical, easy, and all with vegan options. And—to my amazement—delicious. (I guess that’s a perk of having a sister who makes things like vegan black-bean brownies, chocolate avocado mousse, and cauliflower cookies taste good, just for fun.)

Click here to see more details about Fuel Your Run with Pinole and Chia. I know you’ll love it.

Update: 10% of sales from Fuel Your Run with Pinole and Chia go directly to the Tarahumara Children’s Hospital Fund!

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What Every Runner Should Know Before Becoming a Triathlete

Welcome to the No Meat Athlete Triathlon Academy.

I’m Professor Lacke. You can also call me Professor Newbie, or “Noob” for short. I’ll be guiding you through your learning experience as you transition from runner to triathlete.

You’re probably thinking, “Professor Lacke, I’ve read your articles on this site. You’re a freakin’ schmuck who isn’t qualified to teach a class on triathlon.”

And you would be right.

I’m not an expert on triathlon — far from it. I’m about as graceful as a lobotomized duck in the water, almost always have some form of road rash from crashing on my bike, and the run? Heh…well, the day I do an eight-minute mile is going to be the same day pigs fly, hell freezes over, and Flavor Flav wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

If you want to read up on a good no-meat triathlete, go visit Brendan Brazier’s site. He’s got his shiz together.

What I do know is what it’s like to transition from runner to triathlete.

As a newbie, I’ve learned a lot of very, very valuable lessons as I’ve moved from only running to the swim/bike/run combo. The most important lesson I’ve learned is that triathletes help each other out.

Unless you’re in my age group. Then I’ll throw a stick in front of your bike.

I kid, I kid. Seriously, it’s a friendly sport with friendly people. Triathletes are a lot of fun and will talk to you about the sport for hours if you’ll let them. In the spirit of triathlon friendliness, I’ll be providing you with those lessons I’ve learned in hopes that you’ll take up this sport with the same love and enthusiasm I have.

Here’s what you need to know, NMA tri-noobs:

It’s one thing to be a runner. It’s a totally different thing to be a triathlete.

Running a 5K, 10K, half-marathon, full marathon…that’s one discipline, one start, and one finish. It’s not the same when you run that same race after swimming and cycling. It’s truly a test of skill and endurance, and the run in the triathlon is much harder than what you’re used to as a runner, since you’ve already been exerting yourself in the swim and the bike. Mentally, it can really mess with you.

When you first transition from running to triathlon, it’s best to think of a triathlon as an extended workout. The swim is your warmup, the bike is a good way to dry off from the swim, and THEN you jump into the real race. Trust me on this one.

The swim ain’t your grandma’s lazy lap workout.

I’m annoyed with runners who almost always say “the swim can’t be that hard.” When we think of swimming, we think of the fun splashing around we did as children, and that evokes happy memories.

Your first open-water swim will crush every single one of those happy memories like a bug.

Nothing can truly prepare you for your first open-water mass swim start, especially if all of your training has involved swimming laps in a pool with a blue stripe on the bottom. It is chaos. There’s no blue stripe on the bottom of a lake to keep you on course.

You will get hit. You will get kicked. You will want to give up. Check out this video – it’s humorous, but it’s actually a pretty accurate depiction of what your first open-water start is going to feel like.

I assure you — it gets easier. Eventually, you’ll learn to adapt to the chaos – and if you become a true triathlete, you’ll actually LIKE it. There are people who are actually capable of entering a zen-like state during mass swim starts. It’s amazing, really.

Most runners have a difficult time adapting to the equipment of cycling.

When I went in for my first road bike fitting, I learned that most triathlete newbies (myself included) don’t know how to ride a bike. Rather than use proper cycling form, they instinctively mash the pedals or try to “run” on the bike – no wonder their legs are shot by the time they get to the run!

Instead, it’s important to learn proper form so you use one set of muscles on the bike and another set on the run. Additionally, most runners struggle with the bike leg because they don’t know how to shift, climb, or hold their line on a turn.

The phrase “it’s just like riding a bike” oversimplifies how hard cycling can be. We think it’s supposed to come naturally to us – after all, if a little kid can do it, anyone can, right?

It’s not complicated, but it’s not that simple, either. I’ll be recruiting the help of a bike coach to help me craft some posts with basic cycling info to help you as you begin your triathlon endeavors.

Triathlon doesn’t really give a crap if you qualified for Boston. (Sorry, Matt.)

Triathlon is the great athletic equalizer. A person may be proficient in running OR swimming OR biking, but not too many are skilled in running AND swimming AND biking. The first people out of the water can lose their standing during the bike, and people who are dead last out of the water can sprint past everyone during the run and win it all.

People who are normally strong runners may go out too hard on the bike portion, leaving them exhausted and cramped up in the run. Suddenly, their strong discipline ain’t so strong anymore.

My point? Don’t be cocky. You may have qualified for Boston or placed in the top 10 in your local 5K, but it’s no guarantee that’s going to translate well into triathlon. Don’t set out to prove anything to others – just race against yourself.

At some point, you will fail.

I’ve never taken a DNF as a runner. About a month ago, I was headed up to Deuces Wild, an Olympic-distance race with a friend. While talking about DNFs, I boasted that I may not be fast, but I could pride myself on being persistent. Sure, I’d taken the other acronym, DFL (Dead F*****g Last), in races, but never DNF.

During the race the next day, I felt awesome as I held my own during the swim start, blew through the water, and transitioned out on my bike. A few miles into the bike leg, I was involved in a four-person pileup. My bike and I took our battered selves to the first-aid tent – not the finish line. I hated myself for not finishing.

There are so many variables in triathlon that increase the likelihood that you’ll take a DNF at some point: The water may be extremely cold in the swim, you may get a flat tire on your bike, or you may get a severe cramp during that last mile of your run. I didn’t know this until discussing my DNF with fellow triathletes, but almost every single athlete in this sport, at some time, has had to take a DNF.

When it happens, you’ll be too busy beating yourself up that you won’t believe me then, so listen to me now: I swear – a DNF is normal, and it’s okay.

After you fail, you will bounce back 10 times stronger.

Each race is a learning opportunity. I guarantee you’ll discover something new about yourself and your race strategy each time. Maybe it’ll be a tweak to your nutritional needs, or maybe you’ll make a discovery in the way that you attack a hill on the bike or in the run. But each time you learn something new, you’ll not only become more physically competent during your races, you’ll gain psychological acuity.

Then one day, you’ll have an amazing race where everything just…clicks.

Over the 4th of July weekend, I entered a sprint triathlon – my first race since taking the above-mentioned DNF. It wasn’t a big race, by any means – only about 300 people. I used it as a fun way to change things up from the long rides and runs I’ve been doing in preparation for Ironman Wisconsin. I didn’t even bother paying attention to my watch or my split times during and after the race. I felt good, applied all my lessons learned from past triathlons, and had a lot of fun!

A few days after the race, I checked the race website to get my official results. My jaw dropped when I saw that I placed first in my age group. Suddenly, that DNF didn’t matter. I don’t care how small that race was, it was a total confidence booster. I’m going to Disneyland, people!

You’re gonna be a total badass.

Your status as a No Meat Athlete already places you in the upper echelons of coolness, but triathlon will kick you up a few more notches. This sport isn’t just a hobby. It’s a lifestyle. You’re about to undertake an activity that many people only dream of.

Is it scary? Yes. Is it hard? Certainly. Is it worth it? You bet your sweet triple-sport-lovin’ ass it is.

Don’t take my word for it. Find out for yourself. Stay enrolled in the NMA Triathlon Academy. I’ll be back each week with more information and answers to those awesome newbie questions poking holes in your brain.

Class dismissed.

This post is part of a six-part guide designed to help the beginning triathlete get started (without screwing up too badly).  Check out the entire series!

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Why Running Ultramarathons Has Actually Made Me a WORSE Runner

Back when I had never run more than 26.2 miles, I would try to picture myself as an ultramarathoner.  And when I did, I pictured a stronger, fitter, faster athlete.  A tough, ripped, running machine.

I figured that I’d run a 50-miler and develop my ability to burn fat for fuel and improve my endurance, and then I’d go ahead and break three hours in a marathon this fall.

After all, once you’ve trained your body to handle 50 miles, a marathon is child’s play.  Or so I thought.

Today I’m actually a weaker runner than I was nine months ago, when I qualified for Boston and decided to do what I considered impossible, to run a 50-miler.

I’ve lost muscle.  I’ve lost aerobic capacity.  Most importantly, I’ve lost the competitive drive to get out there and pound the track/trail/pavement until I feel like crying, puking, or both.

What Happened?

I know exactly what went “wrong.”

Ready?  Running trails and hanging out with ultramarathoners is really fun.

When I trained to qualify for Boston, I drank customized, homemade sports drinks before and after every workout.  With my ultra friends, I drank beer after runs.

Before I started running ultras, I hated drinking caffeine before races—I just didn’t like how it made me feel.  With my ultra friends, long runs became fun (not work), and a cup of coffee and a bagel beforehand were only fitting.

And the worst part of all: I realized that I could succeed at ultrarunning without working hard.

The problem was in how I defined success.  In a 50K or 50-miler, all I had to do was finish and I’d be happy.  Not so with marathons, where anything short of a PR would have been a disappointment.

And once simply finishing became the goal, the mindset changed.  Completely.

Why suffer through a track workout when I can log 10 easy miles instead?

Why run hills when I’m allowed to walk them?

Why bother with strength training, foam rolling, and proper workout nutrition, when the intensity of my training and even racing would never be high (just long)?

What to Do About It

I don’t mean to downplay the difficulty of the sport of ultrarunning, and especially not the people who do it.  It’s a tough sport, and they’re the most hardcore bunch of runners I know, while at the same time being a blast to hang around with.  The problem is in my own approach to it.

The answer is not to stop running ultras—and good thing, since I’ve got another 50-miler in Vermont in about 10 weeks.  No, the answer is to try harder.  To train with the intensity that I’d train if I had a time goal. (Perhaps, to set a time goal at all.)  And to understand that even though I might be able to relax and let the ultras come to me, what I need to do is go get them.

Pro Ironman Triathlete Brendan Brazier and Me

I am lucky that at right around the same time I was thinking about this, and pondering whether I had it in me to commit to training hard again after 9 months of really fun, relaxing running, I had the opportunity yesterday to see Brendan Brazier speak.  And then I got to meet him, which was really cool since he’s a constant source of inspiration for me.

I also bought a few of his sports nutrition products: Vega Sport Performance Optimizer and Vega Sport Performance Protein (affiliate links, by the way).  Both are products I’ve reviewed on this blog, and I truly believe they’re the best plant-based supplements you can buy, but they’re expensive enough that I’ve had trouble justifying the purchases in the past.

The way I’m looking at it now is this: If my spending a few more bucks than I usually do puts some pressure on me to actually get my butt out there and work hard enough that supplements make a difference, then that’s a plus.  This type of thinking has worked for me before, and it’s going to work for me again.

Today I plan my training for the next 10 weeks.  Tomorrow I start.  With a new attitude.  Who’s with me?

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GreatNonProfits 2010 Animal Welfare Campaign

We all have our own reasons for choosing to eat a vegetarian or vegan diet.  For some, the decision is based entirely on perceived health benefits, not the least of which is improved performance in endurance sports.

I think it’s pretty frickin’ cool that an animal-free diet is starting to be viewed as an advantage, not a hindrance, for endurance athletes.  Perhaps one day we’ll even be able to stop coming up with answers to “Where do you get your protein?”

I was only able to succeed in adopting a vegetarian diet once I became convinced that it would make me stronger, not weaker.  In the back of mind, though, and the driving force behind my earlier attempts at limiting meat in my diet, was a compassion for animals.

Having succeeded in going vegetarian and being plugged into the vegetarian community for over a year now, that compassion has only grown.  And I’d be willing to be that others who go vegetarian primarily for health reasons experience the same (perhaps surprising) increase in concern for the well-being of animals.  Is this how it went for you?

What’s Your Favorite Animal Welfare Nonprofit?

It’s for the above reasons that I’m very proud that No Meat Athlete has become a medium for helping others see the benefits of cutting meat from their diets.  And I’m especially proud, today, to announce that No Meat Athlete has partnered with GreatNonProfits.com and eight other organizations that love animals (American Humane Association, Animal Legal Defense Fund, DogTipper.com, the Humane Society of the United States, I Love Rescue Animals, K9 Magazine, the Pet Museum and Wildlife Forever), to help identify the most outstanding nonprofit organizations working to protect the welfare of animals, both wild and domestic, in the U.S. and around the world.

As part of the campaign, I’m asking you to participate by heading to GreatNonProfits’ Animal Welfare Campaign page and writing a review of an animal welfare nonprofit that you’ve dealt with.  By doing so, you’ll be letting others know which nonprofits are doing the most to help animals, and which ones need to make improvements to make what they do more effective.  Every organization that gets 10 or more positive reviews during the month of July will make the GreatNonprofits Top-Rated Animal Welfare Nonprofits List.

The campaign runs through the end of July, and you can find more details here.  Thanks for taking the time to share the experiences you’ve had with animal welfare nonprofits.  (And thanks even more for having had an experience with an animal welfare nonprofit in the first place!)

More Reading for a Lazy Sunday…

I did an interview over at Running Somewhere last week.  David had some fun questions for me, and his site is worth exploring if you’ve never been there.  Lots of good running info.  And my friend Brett from Step 1 Runner is a frequent contributor too, so check it out and say hi to David and Brett.

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    Four High-Protein Vegetarian Alternatives to Soy

    Ever since I wrote a guest post for Zen Habits, I’ve discovered a bunch of Zen and minimalist blogs.

    One such blog, Zen to Fitness, caught my eye with a post called Four Healthy Alternatives to Chicken.

    My first thought:

    “Yes!  The idea that factory-farm chicken is pretty gross and completely unhealthy (fecal soup, anyone?) is spreading to the non-vegetarian community!”

    Not quite.  The four alternatives–rabbit,venison, bison, and quail–are suggested as ways to expand your menu, under the tacit assumption that chicken is pretty healthy, but these are just as good for you and offer some variety in your diet.  To the credit of Chris, the author, I do think that if you’re going to eat meat, these alternatives are better than chicken, if only because they’re more likely to be wild, or at least not mass-produced the way most chicken is.  And the better an animal lives and eats, the healthier it is for you to eat.  Michael Pollan will tell you this.

    Four Vegetarian Protein Foods Not Named Tofu or Tempeh

    Since the healthy alternatives on Chris’s list weren’t vegetarian, I decided to use the post as inspiration for my own “Four Alternatives” list: four high-protein, non-soy, vegetarian foods.  I have nothing against soy as long as it’s minimally processed, but a lot of people seem to think that’s the only decent source of protein out there for vegetarians.

    I recently finished Robert Cheeke’s Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness, and I used his list of common, high-protein vegan foods to decide on the four non-soy protein sources for my list.

    Seitan

    For a long time, I thought seitan was another soy product.  Turns out, it’s made mostly from wheat.  And it has a texture very similar to meat, earning it the nickname “wheat-meat.”  A four-ounce portion of seitan has between 20 and 30 grams of protein, making it the most densely-packed vegetarian protein source I know of.  That it could pass for meat in a vegetarian dish is pure bonus, even if it’s not quite a whole food.

    Beans

    Nothing new here; beans are a staple of almost every vegetarian athlete’s diet.  My favorites are lentils, chickpeas and black beans, but almost every starchy bean contains 12 to 15 grams of protein per cooked cup.  Soybeans, interestingly, contain the most of all (29 g per cup); perhaps that’s why soy plays such a big role in many vegetarian diets.  Lentils, at 18 grams per cup, come in a distant second.

    Quinoa

    Some call it a super-grain; technically it’s a pseudo-grain.  Quinoa is actually a seed, and it comes in at 11 grams of protein per cooked cup.  It has the benefit of being gluten-free, too.  Quinoa contains a bitter coating that helps it to avoid being eaten by birds, so rinse your quinoa well before you cook it.  (Cooking only takes 12-15 minutes in hot water.)  Quinoa makes a good substitute for rice as part of a high-protein vegetarian meal.

    Broccoli

    Chances are, you’ve never thought of broccoli (or any green vegetable) as a high-protein food.  But per calorie, vegetables like broccoli and spinach are very high in protein.  The “problem” is that they take up a lot of room in your stomach, so it’s hard to eat enough of them to make them a significant source of protein.  Still, at 5 grams of protein per cup, I think broccoli deserves a place on list, if only because it’s interesting.

    High-Protein Vegan “Beef” and Broccoli over Quinoa

    This recipe that Christine came up with includes all four of the high-protein vegetarian foods from this post.  (My contribution was coming up with the moniker “wheef and broccoli,” which I recommend you avoid calling it if you don’t want to gross out your friends.)

    Okay, so the bean contribution isn’t much—a little bit of black bean sauce only.  But hey, we tried.  This is a tasty meal, the closest thing I’ve ever had to beef or chicken with broccoli since going vegetarian.

    Ingredients for the quinoa and stir-fry:

    • 1 1/4 cups dry quinoa, rinsed well
    • 1 1/2 cups water
    • 1 lb package of seitan
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 onion, diced
    • 1 large head of broccoli, chopped into pieces
    • 4 teaspoons canola oil

    Ingredients for the sauce:

    • 1 tablespoon corn starch
    • 1 teaspoon agave nectar
    • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
    • 1 tablespoon black bean paste
    • 1/4 cup white wine
    • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
    • 2 tablespoons orange juice
    • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

    Bring the water to a boil, add quinoa and reduce heat to medium-low.  Let simmer for 12-15 minutes until tender, let stand 5 minutes.  Fluff with fork when ready to serve.

    Combine the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl and mix well to dissolve corn starch.  Set aside.

    Heat the two teaspoons canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the seitan, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes to brown.  Transfer to a plate and set aside.

    Heat the remaining oil in the same pan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and garlic; cook for two minutes and add broccoli.  Cover and let cook for 5-10 minutes, checking the broccoli until it is crisp-tender.  When it is, add sauce and browned seitan and cook until the sauce thickens slightly.

    Serve with additional soy sauce and Sriracha sauce if desired.

    Also check out:

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    Milk—It Does a (Baby Cow’s) Body Good

    This is a guest post from Courtney Carver at bemorewithless.com.

    Image via flickr (Dano)

    Milk and most other dairy products are considered part of a vegetarian diet, but it’s a fine line. I stopped eating all meat except for seafood in October of 2006, and dropped seafood in October of 2009. Prior to becoming a vegetarian, I only ate raw foods for 30 days to curb my meat cravings, and more easily adapt to a vegetarian lifestyle.

    My body feels best without any dairy products. The only reason that I still consume dairy products is because they taste good. Even though I don’t eat it daily, I love variety and flavor of cheese and the creamy, sweetness of ice cream. I don’t drink milk, but have justified my cheese and ice cream addictions, by only eating them “once in a while”.

    I stopped drinking milk several years ago, when I started to understand that the purpose of cow’s milk is to promote growth. A baby cow goes from 90 pounds to 2000 pounds in less than 2 years. Trust me when I say, I do not want to consume anything that promotes growth.

    I used to drink milk because…

    • I thought it was the best way to get calcium
    • It was inexpensive
    • It was convenient
    • I believed it would help me lose weight
    • I never considered the options

    It’s not surprising if, like me, you thought milk was the only way to go. The National Dairy Council spent 190 million dollars on their Got Milk campaign to convince you that you need 3 glasses of milk a day to stay healthy. Those celebrities wearing milk mustaches are cute but they don’t tell you about the ugly side of milk and other dairy products.

    Gotmilk.com tells you that drinking three glasses of milk a day may reduce your risk of bone disease and fractures. According to their study sourced, principal influences on bone mass are genetics, hormonal structure, mechanical loading and calcium intake. That means the only factor you have control over is calcium intake. They want you to believe that the best way to get calcium is by drinking milk, but there are better ways. Based on absorption, calorie for calorie, kale, bok choy and broccoli are all better sources of calcium than milk. Other veggies that contain high levels of calcium include kidney beans, black beans, arugula and spinach.

    Interestingly enough, hip fractures and osteoporosis are much more common in populations with high dairy consumption. American women consume 32 times the amount of cows milk as women in New Guinea, but suffer 47 times the number of broken hips. (The China Study has a great chart on page 209 showing the association of rates of hip fractures with calcium intake for different countries.)

    Top 6 Reasons to Drop the Dairy (Especially Milk)

    Cruel to calves – Cows produce milk to nourish their young, but calves on dairy farms are taken away from their mothers when they are just 1 day old. They are fed milk substitutes (including cattle blood-ugh) so that their mothers’ milk can be sold to humans.

    Cruel to cows – Cows have a natural lifespan of about 25 years and can produce milk for eight or nine years. However, the stress caused by the conditions on factory farms leads to disease, lameness, and reproductive problems that render cows worthless to the dairy industry by the time that they’re 4 or 5 years old, at which time they are sent to be slaughtered.

    Cows are also fed unnatural, high-protein diets, which include dead chickens, pigs, and other animals, because their natural diet of grass would not provide the nutrients that they need to produce such massive amounts of milk.

    Cruel to kids – Cow’s milk is the number one cause of food allergies among infants and children, according to the American Gastroenterological Association.

    Cruel to adults – A U.K. study showed that people who suffered from irregular heartbeats, asthma, headaches, fatigue, and digestive problems showed marked and often complete improvements in their health after cutting milk from their diets. This is especially true for people living with inflammatory conditions and auto-immune diseases.

    Cruel to the earth – In California, America’s top milk-producing state, manure from dairy farms has poisoned hundreds of square miles of groundwater, rivers, and streams. Each of the more than 1 million cows on the state’s dairy farms excretes 18 gallons of manure daily.

    It’s just weird – Besides humans (and companion animals who are fed by humans), no species drinks milk beyond infancy or drinks the milk of another species.

    If you are considering a vegetarian diet or dumping the dairy, I highly recommend reading The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone and Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin. There are many more great books, but these really made a difference in what I decided to put in my body.

    If you’re not convinced, here are a few more reasons to give up dairy…

    • “When you consume dairy products, you are ingesting the same antibiotics, pesticides, steroids and hormones you would if you ate meat directly.”- The Skinny Bitch
    • The biggest factors in breast cancer include fat, excess estrogen and animal protein. Milk delivers all three. Cows injected with bovine growth hormone have higher levels of IGF-1, which is connected to tumor growth. (Yep – Cancer)
    • Cows are milked by machine, metal clamps are attached to the cows’ sensitive udders. The udders become sore and infected. But the machines keep on milking, sucking the dead white blood cells into the milk” – Skinny Bitch
    • Records from the Food and Drug Administration show that “virtually 100% of the cheese products produced and sold in the U.S. has detectable pesticide residues.” – Skinny Bitch

    40 Day Dairy-Free Challenge

    • Stop consuming all dairy products for 40 days
    • Avoid dairy free cheese until you kill your cheese cravings (read ingredients – many dairy free cheese products contain milk proteins)
    • Add non dairy sources of calcium to your diet. Include leafy greens, soy, sea vegetables, beans, seeds and nuts.
    • Experiment with other types of milk, like soy, almond or hemp.
    • Bonus challenge: Drop eggs too. Eggs are not technically dairy, but the incredible, edible egg is really just a chicken period, and that is kind of gross.

    Here are a few of the perks you can expect from a dairy free diet:

    • weight loss
    • calm belly
    • better sleep
    • less anxiety

    Please let me know if you are up for the challenge, and how long it takes to start feeling the results of a dairy free lifestyle. I’ll post challenge updates on Twitter and weigh in, literally, at the end of my 40 days and tell you how I did.

    Courtney Carver writes about minimalism and living with less to enjoy more at be more with less.

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    On Quitting, Failure, and Eating Solid Food

    I caved. And I didn’t just go down, I went down in flames.

    Just a few hours after I wrote about how hard, emotionally, it was to abstain from eating solid food, it all became too hard.  As I went to warm up yet another bowl of pureed green vegetable soup, my wife and sister poured themselves a glass of wine and cut up a loaf of French bread to dip in some herb-infused olive oil, and the temptation got the best of me.

    My wife did her best to keep me from making a rash decision, but I chased her around for a while and was eventually able to steal a piece of the bread. I smelled it, put it in my mouth but didn’t let go, and finally said to hell with the cleanse.  Down the hatch.

    And once the dam was broken and the cleanse ruined, I binged.

    Bread and oil (LOTS of bread and oil).  A glass of wine.  Some banana-nut granola that I had been craving.  A stout.  And two lentil sloppy joes.  It was all so solid.  So deliciously solid.

    And just like that, the seven-day liquid cleanse came to an abrupt end. After only two days.

    The Decision to Quit

    I actually deliberated for a while before I ate that bread.  I like to think that I’m reasonably strong-willed, but it was easy for me to decide that I’d rather accept failure than to go through the next five days of my life without solid food.

    What made the decision harder was that I had written about my cleanse on this blog.  Not because the public failure would bother me—failing to qualify for Boston in five consecutive races, after making it very clear to others that qualifying is your only goal, has a way of hardening you and squashing any fear of failure you might have.

    But in this case, many more people than I expected had expressed interest in seeing the result of my experiment.  I was a guinea pig, and I had the opportunity to publicly demonstrate the unbiased results (or lack thereof, if that were the case) of such a cleanse.

    In the end, the bread, oil, and wine won out.  I figured I could use the opportunity to write about failure, what went wrong, and what I learned.

    Plus I could devour some wonderfully solid food and a few drinks. Win win win.

    Why I Couldn’t Finish the Cleanse

    Let me first say that what follows are NOT excuses.  Something else all those years of training to qualify for Boston taught me is that excuses suck. Take responsibility. So while these are explanations, they’re all things that were within MY control, so I’m responsible for them.

    Everything I’ve learned about how to create change says that you’ve got to get leverage on yourself.  Willpower will only get you so far; once that runs out it comes down to how much you actually want to succeed.

    My problem here, I think, was that I didn’t want it enough.  It was an experiment, so the reward for finishing would have been mere knowledge.  It’d have been far easier if I’d have convinced myself beforehand that a cleanse would give me more energy than I’d ever felt in my life.  That’s a more exciting reward than just learning whether or not something works, and perhaps that would have been enough to get me through the tough times.

    The other reason I failed is that I was unprepared.  Not in terms of planning the liquid “meals,” but in terms of knowing what to expect.  Honestly, I thought the cleanse would be pretty easy: I know, from running, that I’m able to handle moderate physical discomfort for a long time. Getting past the mild hunger pangs was no problem.

    But I was not prepared to deal with the emotional difficulty of not eating.  As I wrote before I quit, you have no idea how comforting food is until you take it away.  You’re left to deal with emotions that you normally bury with food, and I was shocked at how extremely difficult that proved to be.

    Lessons Learned

    So even though the cleanse was technically a failure, it wasn’t a total waste.  I learned three important things about food and about myself:

    • I learned that food plays a huge role in our emotions, and that a cleanse like this is an emotional test as much as a physical one (and perhaps an opportunity to grow emotionally).
    • I learned that green vegetable juice with a little bit of lime is a perfectly drinkable.  In the past, I always felt the need to sweeten it with other fruit, but even after quitting the cleanse I’ve kept the vegetable juice as part of my morning routine.
    • I learned that this is something I want to complete, and that when I attempt it again, I’ll have a better shot now that I know what to expect (and just how difficult it really is).

    Thanks for all your encouragement, and I’m sorry if I let you down.

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