iHerb.com Shopping Spree and Immune Punch Giveaway

Lots of exciting stuff today!  Before we get to the giveaway, here are two other things you might find interesting:

1. Yesterday I had the immense pleasure of interviewing Scott Jurek, vegan ultrarunning legend and inspiration to so many vegetarian and vegan athletes.  We talked about vegan nutrition, ultrarunning, his new American 24-hour record of 165 miles, the Brooks Green Silence, barefoot running, the Tarahumara, and a whole lot more, so you won’t want to miss it.  I’ll do my best to get that one published on Thursday, in both audio and text formats.

2. We just got in a big new shipment of about 175 No Meat Athlete shirts for the holidays.  And—bonus!—this time we have a limited number of long-sleeve shirts available, so you can show your NMA pride without freezing your plant-powered ass off!

As always, the popular sizes will go quickly, and I expect the long-sleeve shirts won’t last more than a few days, so if you want one for yourself or as a gift for somebody else, don’t wait.  (I’ll get new pictures on the shirts page soon, but for now, here’s one.  All the shirts are made by a new company, so none are v-neck anymore.)

Alright, let’s get to this sweet giveaway!

Madre Labs Immune Punch

Let’s all take a minute to toot our own horns.  NMA readers are pretty awesome, because: (a) Most of us are runners or triathletes; and (b) We’re vegetarians, vegans, or at the very least, reduced-meat-eaters or “selective omnivores.”

This means we’re motivated, active, and not likely really into sitting around watching TV, sleeping a lot, or doing a lot of “normal” stuff.

That’s why much of my focus over the past few months has been on finding a way of eating that maximizes energy, so that I can sleep less and be awake doing awesome stuff more.  But even if you’re not quite as psycho about it as I am, the simple fact that you’re an NMA reader makes it likely that you’re pretty busy every day.

And when you get sick, it wrecks it.  Who wants to stay inside on the couch or in bed all day?

This is why I was excited to try out Madre Labs Immune Punch when iHerb.com offered to send me a 45-day supply to review.  Even better, they’re going to give away a tub to one NMA reader, along with a $50 iHerb.com shopping spree to spend on whatever you want!

Immune Punch is a blend of superfood juice powders (elderberry, pomegranate, chokeberry), six organic mushroom species, dried yeast, and berry extracts including Camu Camu (which is kind of a big deal, apparently).   Immune Punch is a vegetarian-friendly, red powder that you mix with water, juice, or a smoothie and take once per day.  The company claims Immune Punch helps to eliminate free radicals and support immune function.

So, does it work?

Honestly, I can’t say one way or the other.  That’s no knock on Immune Punch, it’s just that it’s hard to say if the fact that I haven’t gotten sick is evidence that it works, since I don’t get sick too often anyway.  (I actually did start to come down with something earlier this week, but it didn’t really materialize, for whatever that’s worth.)  The only way to really test its effectiveness would be to study a large number of people, not just one random dude like me.

But here’s what I can tell you about it.  I’ve found the taste to be pretty neutral.  The name “punch” had me expecting something really sweet, but it turns out that it hardly affects the taste of whatever you mix it in.  There is the slightest “earthy” quality to the taste, presumably from the mushrooms, so I prefer to put mix Immune Punch with juice rather than water.  But it’s mostly berry-tasting, so not a huge deal.

As for the texture, I’ve found that using a shaker cup, as the instructions suggest, is definitely better for getting it to dissolve completely than stirring is.  A single serving is only a teaspoonful, which is good, since that way you don’t need to store a huge tub of it, and it doesn’t change the texture of what you’re drinking.

So that’s what I’ve got on Immune Punch. If you’re getting sick more than you think you should be, it might be worth a try.

iHerb.com Shopping Spree + Immune Punch Giveaway

So here are the details on the giveaway.  iHerb.com is giving away one tub of Immune Punch and a $50 iHerb.com shopping spree to one winner.  To enter, all you need to do is visit iHerb.com and leave a comment back here listing one or a few things you’d choose if you won.

The winner will need to register at iHerb.com (it’s free, and nothing scammy), and if you’re outside the U.S., you’ll need to pay any additional taxes, duties, or customs fees.

That’s it!  As always, Tweets and Facebook shares are greatly appreciated, but to keep it fair for those who are not yet social media dorks, these will only boost your Karma, not your number of contest entries.

I’ll choose the winner at random and announce it around Wednesday, December 15.  Good luck!

P.S. If you decide to shop at iHerb.com, you can use my code RAZ652 and five dollars off your first purchase there.  I earn referral commissions when you use my code, and after your purchase, you have the option of getting your own code to share with others and earn commissions if you’d like.



Have 1 Minute to Spend on Dinner? Try this Authentic Indian Lentil Curry

If you have young kids, you know not to plan to get much else done on the days when you’re watching them.  Once they’re mobile, as my 7-month old now is, they require your full attention, save for a few minutes, if you’re lucky, when they’re napping.

So you certainly don’t plan on making curry for lunch when you’re watching your little guy for 12 hours and he’s obsessed with yanking on anything that’s plugged into a wall.  But yesterday that’s what I did, thanks to this authentic recipe that takes literally one minute of active cooking time.

It was so good, I ate it for dinner too.  And I’ll eat the leftovers for lunch today.  That’s about 20 seconds per meal.  And you wonder how I have time to do so much stuff!

Curry isn’t what you might think

Until recently, most curries I’ve made have been of the one-size-fits-all variety.  You know, the ones where you throw in a tablespoon or two of whatever’s in the nondescript jar marked “curry powder,” and you create something that falls well short of the great food you get at an Indian restaurant.

But as it turns out, “curry powder” isn’t any particular spice.  It’s a blend of spices, and of course the mix varies from place to place.  Recently I’ve been cooking from Anjum’s New Indian, which Wiley Publishing kindly sent me to review and share a few recipes from, like the black-eyed pea curry I posted a while back.  And as far as I can tell, “curry powder” isn’t once called for in the book—in each recipe, an appropriate blend of spices is used, never simply “curry.”

Bengali Red Lentil Curry

If you’ve never cooked with red lentils before, you’re probably wondering what the yellow stuff is in the above image.  I swear my son was nowhere near the plate.

Red lentils are in fact red, but when cooked, they turn yellow.  They also lose their form pretty quickly to produce a sort of “stew” texture, which is why regular brown lentils won’t really work here unless you cook them for much, much longer.

While some curries take hours of slow cooking, this Bengali one is quick.  The lentils take 20 minutes to cook while you can do whatever else you want.  Once they’re done, you saute the spices for 20 seconds, stir them in, and eat like you just won the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire after growing up in the slums.  Dog.

What’s this ‘Panch Phoran’?

You’ll see that in the ingredient list is panch phoran.  Don’t let that keep you from making this.

If you have an Indian market nearby, you can probably find panch phoran premixed there.  Otherwise, just make it yourself—it consists of equal parts mustard seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, and nigella seeds.  The only one I didn’t have was nigella, but it supposedly tastes like pepper and smells like oregano, so I just mixed the two together as a substitution.

Another note on the recipe: It calls for ghee or vegetable oil.  To keep it vegan, I went with oil, but I used coconut oil since that has been my obsession recently.

Here’s the recipe, courtesy of Anjum Anand in Anjum’s New Indian, Wiley and Sons, 2008.  Really, get out of your box and make this one; it’s worth it.

Bengali Red Lentils

Serves 4-5

  • 1 and 1/4  cups red lentils, rinsed until the water runs clear
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp pure red chile powder
  • 1 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
  • 2 dried red chiles
  • 1 rounded tsp panch phoran (see above)

Bring 1 quart of water to the boil in a large saucepan  Stir in the lentils, salt, turmeric and chile powder.  Bring back to a boil, then simmer over a  moderate heat until the lentils are tender, around 20 minutes.  Some will start to break up while others remain whole and the lentils will become indistinct from the water.

Heat the ghee/oil in a small saucepan.  Add the red chiles and panch phoran.  Fry for 20 seconds and pour in to the lentils.  Stir well, taste and adjust the seasoning, then loosen with a little water from a recently boiled kettle, if necessary— it should be a thickish curry.



How to Burn Fat Instead of Sugar and Never Bonk Again

You know what it feels like to run a 5K, a half marathon, or even a marathon.  I want you to imagine that feeling now.

Now think about running three marathons, back to back to back.  We’re in the realm of pretty serious ultrarunners now—this is something few people will ever do.

Now imagine doing that the next day.  And the next day.  And every day for the next nine days after that, totaling 1000 miles in just less than 12 days.  We’re talking stupid mileage now.

That’s exactly what Stu Mittleman did.  He did it by burning a better fuel than anyone else.

Why Sugar Will Only Take You So Far

Most of us run on sugar.  We consume tons of it throughout the day.  And since we now live a go-go-go society, we’re in a constant state of stress that tells the body it needs to burn sugar to help keep us going.

But think about this.  According to Stu Mittleman, you have about 160,000 calories’ worth of energy in your body at any given time.  Of that, only 4500 to 5500 calories are in the form of sugar, and a lot of that is reserved for your brain and nervous system.

That doesn’t leave much for distance running.  The way most of us run, those sugar reserves are quickly depleted, at which point the options are (a) stop running; or (b) refuel with more sugar.  If you don’t do one of the two, your body physically shuts down, as a way of hanging onto what little sugar it has left for brain function.  And that’s what we call a bonk.

Since (a) isn’t an option for crazy NMA readers like you, you’re left with refueling as your only choice.  The problem with that, though, is that when you eat more sugar, you encourage your body to burn even more of it.  Soon, you’ve got to fill up again, and eventually you’ve sucked down so many gels that your stomach and GI system plot a coup to overthrow whoever is in charge, which happens to be you.

There’s an alternative to this vicious sugar cycle.  It’s called burning fat, and—surprise—you’ve got plenty of it to burn (sorry, you do).

Why Burning Fat Is Phat

Remember those 160,000 calories you’re holding onto?  Well, something like 85% of that is fat.

I suppose this could be bad news if your goal is zero percent body fat and the resulting death.  But it’s great news if you want to run far: If you can find a way to tap into fat as your primary fuel source, then the distance you can run will be limited by muscle failure or injury long before your fuel source runs dry.

That’s how Stu Mittleman ran 1000 miles in 12 days, and it’s how he ran across the country in about 50 days.  And lucky for us, Stu and others like him aren’t shy about sharing how they do it.

How You Can Train Yourself to Burn Fat for Fuel

It’s possible to change the way you run and eat so that your body learns to run on fat from the very start of your run, rather than waiting until sugar supplies are depleted, shifting to fat only as a last resort.  Pretty exciting stuff, huh?

Hold it right there.  Before you swear off sugar and start packing your old energy gels in your kids’ lunches, remember: This is a gradual process.  If you currently take in a lot of sugar before and during your runs and you suddenly stop supplying it to your body, you’ll bonk, and it’ll be dangerous.  Introduce these concepts slowly and gradually, and always carry a few gels with you for emergencies.

With that out of the way, let’s get into the nuts and bolts of what you can do to start burning fat.

First, note that we’re only talking about the long, slow run. Your body starts sugar-burning as your exercise intensity crosses the lactate threshold.  (A good indicator of when this happens is when it becomes difficult to carry on a conversation, or when your mouth drops open to start taking in air while you run.)  You can gradually increase the level of intensity at which you cross the threshold, so that you can eventually run faster while staying in a fat-burning state.  For speedwork and hill workouts, your body will still rely on sugar, and that’s fine, since they’re short, and sugar is great for hard, short runs.

Extend your warmup period. If you’re standing still and you suddenly bolt off running, your physiology changes.  Your body senses something is up (perhaps you’re being chased by bears and zombies?) and starts burning the sugar fires, since sugar is great for short bursts of energy.  But that’s exactly what you don’t want to happen on your long run.

So warm up extremely slowly.  Walk for the first few minutes.  Then start running so slow that you have to hide your face when you pass people you know.  Relax everything and enjoy it.  Over the course of 10 or 15 minutes, build up to your long-run speed.  Speaking of which…

Run slow! You want to stay below your lactate threshold for as long as possible, so your body can get used to burning fat for fuel.  So go really slow.  If you use a heart rate monitor, stay at 60 to 70 percent of your max.  Make sure you easily carry on a conversation while you run.  Your goal is to do this enough that your threshold increases, i.e., you can run faster yet still stay in this aerobic, fat-burning zone.

Practice running in a carbohydrate-depleted state. Running coach Greg McMillan has a great article about depriving your body of carbs so that it learns to burn fat.  This means restricting sugar intake both before and during your long runs.

Stu Mittleman personally told me that he would never even eat a banana while he was running, and instead carries raw almonds and vegetable purees with him.  He recommends fatty, alkalizing foods and a little protein.  So besides nuts, you might also try nut butters on vegetables, or perhaps avocados and even oils if you can stand taking them straight.

Since you’ll be drinking water instead of sugary sports drink, you’ll need to replace electrolytes.  For that, you can get salt pills or use something like Nuun in your water.

Again, be careful with this.  I’ve found that it’s a slow process to transition to completely carb-free runs.  I’m at the stage now where I’ve eliminated a lot of the sugar from my long-run routine, but I still eat some non-sugary carbohydrates.  This is why I’m a big fan of pinole, and also things like whole-wheat pitas with hummus, or a wheat bagel with almond butter or peanut butter, though I’ve tried to limit gluten recently.  Keep in mind that this is still very much a transition phase, as complex carbs are ultimately converted into sugar before they’re used for energy.

A Better Way to Run

You’ll probably find, as you start consuming less sugar, that running becomes more enjoyable.  The sugar-burning state is a stressful one, one in which other processes in your body slow down as part of the fight-or-flight response that sugar is so well suited for.

You’ll find that your mind calms.  You become more relaxed and more creative while you run, and the whole experience is more spiritual and more enjoyable.

What I didn’t tell you was where Stu ran his 1000 miles.  He did it on a track.  Yes, a track.

Even if you were physically able to run 75 miles a day 12 days, would your mind be able to handle that?  You can tell me you don’t care about running 1000 miles, and that even 50 sounds like the worst use of a Saturday known to man.  But don’t even try to tell me you couldn’t use the mental strength that Stu’s feat.  And that’s what kicking the sugar habit, even in your everyday life, can do for you.

This post is part of a series of posts designed to teach you how to run long and strong.  Go check out the rest!