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!



Juice Feast, Take 2

Before we start, let’s get one thing out of the way.  Whoever euphemistically called this a feast should be shot.  While it’s not a fast, it’s no Fat Tuesday either.

Sweet potato, orange, and pineapple juice. Yum, for realz.

I didn’t beat myself up over failing at my ill-fated first attempt at a juice cleanse.  It ended, one and a half days after it started, in my chasing my wife around the kitchen for a loaf of bread, followed immediately by a glass of wine, followed immediately by a beer.

I like to think that failing in my attempts to qualify for Boston for so long taught me to handle failure pretty well.  To use it as motivation to do better, rather than as a reason to quit trying.

So this time, I did it better.  Last night I completed four days of taking in nothing but liquids in my first successful attempt at a juice cleanse.

Why I Did It

In short, I got all pumped up after going to Tony Robbins’ Unleash the Power Within seminar earlier this month.  (If you click the link, you can see me over Tony’s right shoulder for about a quarter of a second at 6:06!)

When my wife and I got back from that, we committed to a 30-Day Challenge, an extended version of the 10-Day Challenge that convinced me to go vegetarian.  More on that once it’s finished in about another week.

Part of that challenge though, is a cleanse in some form or another.

Did I need a cleanse?  Maybe, maybe not.  But it was a challenge and a chance to experiment, and I’m not one to turn those down.

The ‘Clean’ Details

With talk of cleanses comes talk of shitting.  I’ve kept that to a minimum, and relegated it to the “Dirty” Details section so as not to contaminate the food.  Here’s the happy puppy-dogs and lollipops stuff.

I based my cleanse on the guidelines Tony gives in his cleanse pack, which are somewhat flexible.  Here’s what I decided on for the daily rules:

  • At least 32 ounces of fresh, raw fruit juice per day
  • Lots of fresh, raw vegetable juice
  • 64 ounces of water per day, with greens powder
  • Cold-pressed oils
  • Lots of sea salt
  • Supplements, including Senna Tea, fiber, probiotics, and antioxidants
  • Seasonings okay, including a tablespoon of miso soup mix

(Big thanks to my experienced juicing friend, Shane, for helping me figure out what to eat.)

As you can see, the diet is almost entirely fluids and completely raw, except for the seasonings, which I used sparingly.  The point here is to give your digestive system a vacation by letting the juicer do most of the work.

But what made this cleanse SO much easier from the last one I tried is the inclusion of fruit juice.  Fruit juice tastes good.  To drink it for breakfast and throughout the day is Christmas compared to drinking pure vegetable juice, especially the green variety.

Dinner was the hardest part.  Come 5 or 6 pm, Daddy wants his dinner and he wants it salty.  Not fruity.

Problem is, every soup recipe I could find was either (a) not raw or (b) pureed, not juiced.  So I had to improvise, and I couldn’t believe how great the results were.  At the end of this post, I’ve included two soup recipes, one that I made up and one that I adapted to juice-only from here.

At the end, I’ve also listed every single thing I ate during these four days, for those who are thinking about giving it a try.

The ‘Dirty’ Details

So here’s how it went.  I bought Tony’s cleanse pack, which consists of Senna tea, some antioxidant pills, some fiber pills, some immune system pills, and probiotics.  (As it turned out, I think I could have saved myself 150 bucks and assembled it myself at Vitamin Shoppe for around 30 dollars.  Oh well.  Tony has done a lot for me.)

I’ve seen Senna tea sold as “Smooth Move tea,” in case you were wondering what it does.  The fiber pills do the same thing, the antioxidant and immune pills keep you from getting sick, and the probiotics repopulate your intestines with good bacteria, since you pretty much shit out whatever is in there.

Really, this part wasn’t that bad.  Let’s just say the cleanse wasn’t quite as “gentle on my body” as advertised, but it wasn’t that horrible.  And if nothing had happened, well, I’d have wondered why I was drinking all this juice.

How it went

Day 1: Love it.  Fun.  Exciting.  Amazed at how you can mix any three fruits together and get something delicious.

Day 2: Hate it.  Craving chocolate chip cookies, kettle corn, and anything that smells like anything.  Taco Bell Grilled Stuft Burrito on TV looks fantastic, as does raw piece of steak I see in woman’s cart in grocery store.  Grocery store trip derailed by emergency bathroom run.

Day 3: Easy.   Cravings have subsided.  Completely sick of miso soup and vow to never eat it again.

Day 4: Body has calmed down and seems same as yesterday.  Realize I’ve slept six and a half hours or less the previous three nights and not felt tired during the day. Thinking about food less, as cravings disappear once I put some juice in my stomach.  Noticing that I feel good, but nothing extraordinary.

So why did I stop after four days?

I’m not quite sure.  I kind of just got tired of drinking juice.  If my body had still been expelling random things from it, I might have been tempted to stay longer, and with the right motivation, I have no doubt I could have.

A lot of people say that with a cleanse, Day 3 or 4 is the worst, and then you feel great afterward.  I hated Day 2 the most, and then Days 3 and 4 were very similar and pretty good, so I figured maybe I was just a day or two ahead of schedule.

Next time, in six months or so when I do one of these again, I’ll try to stay on it a little longer.  For now, and  in comparison to the last one I tried, this was a victory.

I figured out at Unleash the Power Within that I need to celebrate my victories more by rewarding myself.  So that’s what I’m going to do now.  Maybe a cup of coffee. 🙂

The Blow-by-Blow

Raw carrot-ginger juice soup

This is me harking back to my food blogger roots and listing everything I ate for several days. Enjoy!*

Day 1

  • Senna Tea
  • Apple/Orange Juice
  • Water with Greens Powder
  • Miso Soup w/ Bragg’s Amino Acids
  • Apple/Orange Juice
  • Rooibos Tea
  • Water with Lemon
  • Tomato/Celery/Cumcumber/Basil Soup
  • Pineapple/Mango/Coconut Water Juice
  • Carrot/Ginger/Lemon Juice with Flaxseed Oil
  • Yogi Bedtime Tea

Day 2

  • Senna Tea
  • Apple/Orange/Grapefruit Juice
  • Water with Lemon and Greens Powder
  • Miso Soup w/ Bragg’s
  • Apple/Lime/Carrot/Celery/Kale Juice
  • Water
  • Apple/Carrot/Grapefruit Juice
  • Carrot Soup with Ginger (recipe follows)
  • Coconut Water
  • Grapefruit Juice
  • Grapefruit Juice Again

Day 3

  • Senna Tea
  • Grapefruit/Orange/Mango/Apple Juice
  • Water with Greens Powder
  • Apple/Lime/Carrot/Celery/Kale Juice
  • Carrot-Ginger Soup
  • Water with Lemon Juice
  • Sweet Potato/Orange/Pineapple Juice
  • Butternut Squash/Apple Soup (recipe follows)
  • Honeybush Tea
  • Orange Juice

Day 4

  • Senna Tea
  • Carrot/Celery/Apple Juice
  • Grapefruit/Celery/Carrot/Apple Juice
  • Water with Greens Powder
  • Carrot-Ginger Soup
  • Peppermint Tea
  • Carrot/Celery/Apple Juice
  • Miso Soup with Braggs
  • Water with Lime Juice
  • Grapefruit/Celery/Carrot/Apple Juice

*Bowel movement schedule available upon request.  (That’s a joke and if you actually request it, you are banned from this site.)

Carrot-Ginger Juice Soup

Ingredients (for 2 servings):

  • 5 large carrots
  • 1 celery heart
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • thumb-size piece of ginger
  • 1/4 small shallot
  • 1/4 cup coconut water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice


  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • sprinkle of cayenne pepper
  • cold-pressed olive oil to drizzle

Juice all ingredients except lemon juice and coconut water. Warm soup in a saucepan until just barely warmer than room temperature.  Add seasonings to taste and finish with lemon juice, coconut water, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Butternut Squash and Apple Juice Soup

Ingredients (for 2 servings):

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled
  • 1 apple
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/4 small shallot
  • 1/2 cup coconut water


  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-grated nutmeg
  • cold-pressed olive oil to drizzle

Juice all ingredients.  Warm in a saucepan until just barely warmer than room temperature.  Add seasonings and adjust to taste, then finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

What do you think?  Ridiculous?  Ready to try it?  Leave a comment and let me know.



Wishing You and Yours a Precious Black Friday

Happy Black Friday!  If you’re reading this post, you’re part of a rather intimate audience today, so thanks for showing up.  Perhaps you were part of the 4 AM doorbuster crowd and your day of shopping is over?

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and along with the great food and time with family, took some time to actually be thankful.  The sole fact that you’re on the internet reading this (or any other) site right now means you have a TREMENDOUS level of abundance relative to most of the world, as easy as that might be to forget.

So if you didn’t do it yesterday, stop reading for a second and really take a minute or five to recognize just how fortunate you are.

Done? Great.  Now let’s get back to rampant consumerism and talk about shiny new websites and Black Friday sales!

The New Look of NMA

If you read by actually visiting the site, then you’ve no doubt noticed the new design.  If you normally read via email or RSS, come visit the actual site to check it out.

The design was done by Charlie of Charfish Design, who was amazing to work with and very reasonably priced, for all you other bloggers who are about ready for an upgrade.  And I’ve got to thank my friend Karol Gajda for telling me about Charlie, among about a million other pieces of good internet business advice in his free Freedom Fighters ecourse.

I’m still making a few tweaks to the design, but the goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to find things and enjoy the site.  If you have any comments or suggestions about that, I’d love to hear them.

Black Friday Specials

Two awesome deals on health products for Black Friday only:

Save 20% off everything on Black Friday! Shop Now!1) All Vega products are 20% off today! Go here and use the code CJ-BLACKFRIDAY2010 to get the 20% discount.  The Vega products that I use and can highly recommend are Vega Sport Performance Optimizer (amazing natural sports drink), Vega Sport Performance Protein (high-quality vegan protein powder), Whole Food Optimizer (meal replacement shake), and Shake ‘n Go (convenient smoothies that blend without a blender).  I’m a Vega affiliate, so I earn commissions when you get their stuff.

2) My friend Robert Cheeke’s book on vegan bodybuilding is half-price today! Robert is one of the most passionate people I’ve ever met, and for me his book was worth as much for the inspiration as it was for the vegan fitness advice.  You can get the deal at his website, Vegan Bodybuilding.  No affiliate arrangement here, just a good book by an awesome guy.  Check out my interview with him while you’re at it.

What I’ve Been Up To

I haven’t written much recently about what I’ve been doing.  Since we’re a small group today, now seems like a good time to do that, since in theory, the readers who read on slow traffic days are the ones who care the most!

I haven’t run much since the Marine Corps Marathon, when I ran a little more than I probably should have on a weak knee.  But it’s getting better, and I’m hoping to be back to full strength in another week or two.

I signed up for a 20K trail race on January 2nd, where I ran my first ultramarathon last year, and I’m hoping that Erin and my friend Pete will be running part of that race as well.  After that I’ve got the HAT 50K in March, where I hope to break five hours this year.  That’d be like 40 minutes faster than last year, but I’m kind of looking for a reason to train really hard again.  And finally, the Boston Marathon in April, which I CANNOT wait to run, since I had to miss it last year when my son was born.  (Not that he’s such a bad consolation prize.)

And Another Month as a Vegan!

As for diet, Erin and I have been doing really well.  Since the Tony Robbins seminar, we’ve been doing his 30-Day Challenge, a longer version of the 10-Day Challenge that inspired me to go vegetarian for good, and to start this website.  What that means is that we’re essentially vegan for another month, which is going really well this time.  My diet is finally to a point where I knew I could get it, and I’m excited about that.  I’ll write plenty more about the 30-Day Challenge in an entire post once we’re finished.

Alrighty, that’s it.  Time to go spend some quality Black Friday time with loved ones, on this most special of American holidays. 🙂



27 Things Your Training Partner Won’t Tell You

This is a guest post from Susan Lacke, who has recently overcome a debilitating phobia of Twitter. You can now follow her to learn everything you never knew you needed to know about cupcakes, beer, and triathlons.

Even between friends, some things are best left unsaid.

But at No Meat Athlete, we’re happy to do the dirty work, and we think it’s about time you and your training partner got it all out in the open.  It’s time you heard a few of the things they’re dying to tell you, but never will.

What Your Training Partner Won’t Tell You

1. You will not lose momentum if you stop moving during a run. So quit jogging in place at the stoplight. You look like an idiot.

2. There are at least two embarrassing songs on everyone’s iPod playlist. There is no need to pretend you don’t know how they got there. Just own up to your love for N’Sync.

3. Everyone pees in the pool at some point. Everyone. Anyone who says they haven’t is lying. The same goes for the mass start of an open-water swim. There’s a reason that water feels so warm.

4. Please limit yourself to no more than two electronic devices when we work out together. Anything more and you have more wires coming out of you than an ICU patient.

5. Newton shoes are the Ed Hardy shirt of running.

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Protein—A Primer for Vegetarians

This is a guest post from Matthew Ruscigno, MPH, RD, whose personal blog, True Love Health, is about veganism, adventure, and being stoked.

“But where do you get your protein?”

As a vegan, a nutrition professional and an athlete, I get this question more than any other.

At a recent talk I gave on vegetarian nutrition to 200 dietitians at the American Dietetic conference, my message about protein was that it should be a non-issue: High quality protein is abundant in plant foods.

Yes, even for athletes.  So what happened at the end of my presentation?

A dietitian approached me and said, “I understand what you are saying, but where do you get your protein?”

If you’re confused about protein or have a feeling in the back of your mind that you aren’t getting enough, relax—you are not alone. The good news is that vegetarians (even vegans!) can and do get enough protein. Easily.

This is the message I have to share with the world.  I’d like to start with this article for No Meat Athlete, one of my favorite blogs.

What exactly is protein?

Protein, most simply, is a combination of amino acids. These amino acids have specific roles in our bodies, from metabolism to muscle development. Nine of them are absolutely essential to our basic functions, because they can’t be created by our bodies.

When we talk about dietary protein and getting enough, our concern is with these indispensable amino acids.

So how much protein do you need?

In the U.S., the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.  To calculate your weight in kilograms, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2.  (For those whose eyes have already glazed over because you’ve now seen two numbers with decimal points in them, the USDA provides a handy DRI calculator.)

This equates to roughly 10-15 percent of your total calories—remember that every gram of protein has four calories. Vegetarians and vegans easily get this amount of protein.

Why the advice that “athletes need more protein” is misleading

Sure, athletes need more protein than non-athletes.  But we also need more carbohydrates and fat—our overall caloric needs are much higher since we burn so much energy in our training.

So because we’re eating more calories, we’re automatically consuming more protein if we stay at 10-15 percent of the total.

For example: I’m about 80 kilograms and I need 2500 calories most days. If I want ten percent of those calories to be from protein, then I need about 63 grams of protein.

When I’m Ironman training or have an otherwise heavy load, my caloric needs double. Therefore, so does my protein, to 126 grams.

I tell the vegan athletes I consult to shoot for 1.0 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram body weight.  You can see from my numbers above that even when protein is only ten percent of calories, I’m getting 1.5 grams per kilogram body weight.

Contrary to what most people believe, more isn’t necessarily better when it comes to protein.  The body can only process so much per day, and any additional protein is inefficiently converted to energy or even stored as body fat.

Don’t stress over combining incomplete proteins at meals

If I am going to rid the world of ignorance about plant proteins, I’m going to start by eliminating the phrase “incomplete protein.” It is misleading and biased and vegetarians should stop using it.

The problem with the idea of complete and incomplete proteins is this: It assumes we only eat one type of food!

It’s an example of a common mistake in the nutrition field: focusing on the specific nutrients of one food without seeing it in the context of an entire diet. Saying a protein is incomplete ignores the big picture and is often used by pseudo-nutritionists as a critique of vegetarianism.

While it’s tempting to want to combine these “incomplete” proteins to form a whole, the truth is there’s no need to combine protein sources within a given meal.

Really.  I know you have heard this one over and over—even the college textbook I teach from says it’s a must!—but trust me, it is not necessary to form complete proteins within single meals. Our bodies pool the amino acids we need as we eat them, and we use them when needed.

Some combinations happen naturally—think pinto beans with rice, chickpeas with couscous, or granola with soymilk.  But this is not a requirement in order for us to get all of the indispensable amino acids. Combining proteins was popularized in the 1970’s, and even though it has been deemed unnecessary for decades, the idea lives on.

What it means when people say animal protein is “higher quality” than vegetable protein

When you hear about one protein source being better than another, it’s in reference to the amino acid makeup.

It’s true: Animal foods contain all of the amino acids in the amounts we need.  So if you ate only beef and nothing else for months and months, you would not get an amino acid deficiency (but probably a host of other ones).  Do the same with only lentils, however, and you may not get enough of the amino acid methionine.

Fortunately, no one eats like this. We eat a variety of foods, most of which have some protein, and at the end of the day, we get all of the amino acids we need.

Okay, okay, enough with science and numbers, what do I eat?

If you’re eating enough for your activity level and consuming a variety of whole foods, you will get all the protein you need. Guaranteed. No need for supplements!

For example, lentils and soymilk are over 30 percent protein. Fifteen percent of the calories in whole wheat pasta are from protein, and even brown rice has protein, at about eight percent of calories.

See? It’s that easy to reach 10-15 percent of calories.  If you want more help in creating a nutrition plan with adequate protein, see a fantastic list of vegetarian protein foods and meal plans compiled by my colleague Reed Mangels.

Now go fight for vegetarians!

The choice to be vegetarian, like the choice to do anything beyond what’s considered “normal,” constantly puts us on the defensive. But with the knowledge I’ve now given you, you can speak confidently the next time you get the protein question.  Oh yeah, and you can tell Uncle Jerkface at Thanksgiving that you aren’t about to die of protein deficiency.

Also check out:

Matthew Ruscigno, MPH, RD is a 15-year vegan and Chair-Elect of the Vegetarian Nutrition Practice Group of the American Dietetic Association. He has completed numerous marathons, iron-distance triathlons and ultra-cycling events including the Furnace Creek 508, a non-stop 508-mile bicycle race through Death Valley. Matt worked with Isa Moskowitz on her upcoming book Appetite For Reduction. You can read more from him at his personal blog, True Love Health, or follow him on Twitter.



6 Little Known Factors that Could Affect Your Energy Levels

Let’s face it: Kicking ass in life takes energy.

You can have all good intentions of running your first marathon, completing an Ironman, starting a business, or being an awesome mom or dad to your kids.  But if the energy isn’t there, you’ll be fighting a losing battle once the initial surge of excitement wears off.

Doing life-changing stuff isn’t as hard as most people make it out to be.  But it absolutely requires showing up.  That might mean getting up when it’s still dark out to get your run in.  Or burning the midnight oil while your family sleeps.  (As Gary Vee says, “7 PM to 2 AM is gametime.”)

So how do you get yourself to show up?  If your goal is compelling enough—and by “compelling,” I mean it’s an obsession—then what it comes down to is energy.

The more you use, the more you have

It’s a strange thing, this energy.  Anyone who has ever stuck with a fitness plan knows that once you’re a few weeks in, you have way more energy throughout the day than you did before you started exercising.  Counterintuitive, considering exercise expends energy.

Similar for food: From a caloric standpoint, a McSupersized extra value meal should provide you with plenty of fuel to use.  But how do you feel after you eat one of those?  Unless you’re starving, less is more when it comes to food.

Same for sleeping: Logging in 12-hour sessions seems like it should ready you for the day, but usually it leaves you dragging.  Unless you’re sleep deprived, it’s worth seeing what happens when you sleep just a little less.

So the big three rules most of us already know: Eat less, exercise more, and don’t go nuts with the sleep.

But there are other factors that could affect your energy.

They’re science-based.  Yet they’re controversial.

Why?  I suspect it’s because of people who overstate their importance.  In my experience, none of these factors have the impact that the big three do.  So when someone takes one and builds (and sells) an entire health plan around them, the result is a bunch of hype, a diet that doesn’t deliver, and our writing it off as a fad.

But this stuff shouldn’t be totally ignored.  If energy is your goal, every one of these aspects is worth considering.  Pick a few, try them for a few days or weeks, and judge for yourself.  I doubt any of them will kill you, and you might just find you have some extra energy for ass-kicking after work or early in the morning.

6 Factors that Could Affect Your Energy

1. When you drink water (or any liquid).

Healthy people drink a lot of water, as well they should.  But consider when you’re drinking that water: If you’re drinking it with your meal, you could be impairing your digestion.

Not only does water dilute the gastric juices required to digest food, it also exits the stomach after just a few minutes, taking those juices with it and making digestion difficult.  And since digestion accounts for 5 to 15 percent of your energy expenditure, that’s something you should care about.

A half hour fluid-free buffer on either side of your meals is a good place to start.  It’s strange at first, but you get used to it.

2. How you combine your foods.

There are diets based entirely on this principle, and I think that’s overkill, especially when the scientific tests of its efficacy are mixed.  But the biggest tenet, which says that carbohydrate-rich foods should not be mixed with protein-rich foods, makes sense to me.  The enzymes required to digest each nutrient tend to neutralize each other, again making digestion harder and slower than it should be.

So what does a meal look like, if it’s not a “square” meal of protein and carbs?  Try a big pile of non-starchy vegetables (salad, perhaps), and either a protein- or carbohydrate-rich food, but not both.

(Side note: The Wikipedia entry on food combining has an interesting paragraph about how some cultural rituals around eating may have evolved to maximize energy.)

3. Breathing.

We multitask, we achieve, we stress, we worry.  And so often during all of this, we forget to breathe.

Nobody breathes anymore.  At least, not the way we’re designed to, from very deep within our bodies.  The result is more stress, less breathing, and more stress.  (As an athlete, however, you’re at a huge advantage.  Your daily training encourages deeper breathing.)

Give your cells some oxygen.  Take a few minutes every day and just breathe.  If you need something to occupy your mind, try breathing exercises.

4. How acidic your body is.

The idea behind the alkaline diet is that our modern lifestyle produces an acidic environment in the body.  In this acidic environment, disease thrives, the body stores fat and leeches minerals from bones in an attempt to become alkaline, and relative hell breaks loose.

Is the acid/alkaline balance worth building an entire diet around?  In my opinion and limited experience with it, no.  But I find most of the arguments compelling.  And it’s not only quacks who are promoting it: In Thrive, Brendan Brazier advocates paying attention to acidity and alkalinity to what I consider a healthy extent—not obsessing over it, but not denying that it’s a factor in our health and energy levels.  (For more of Brendan’s thoughts on energy, check out the second interview I did with him.)

5. Not just what you eat, but how you eat.

Eat at the table.  Turn off the television and talk while you eat.  Eat slowly.  Chew your food.

We hear it so much, it’s starting to become nagging.  But really, do you do this stuff?  I don’t (enough).  Eating slowly and relaxed happens to go beautifully with not chugging water to wash down every bite before it’s chewed, and with breathing as well.

6. Whether you burn fat or sugar for fuel.

This is one that I can totally get behind.  I’ve noticed a major improvement in my endurance since I phased out most sugar on the mornings of my long runs, up until the very end when you need a boost to get to the finish.

I first learned this from Greg McMillan (see his approach to training your body to burn fat).  Then I heard Stu Mittleman talk about it.  These guys are talking about endurance running, but the same goes for the rest of your life.  Your body stores far more energy in the form of fat than it can sugar.  (Not an insult; this is true whether you have a cottage-cheese ass or washboard abs.)

So if you can train your body to burn fat at low intensities for a long time before it switches to sugar, you can go on with ass-kicking for hours before you shut down.  If instead, you rely on sugar, as most people do, even at pretty low intensities, the fuel burns out quickly.  If you’re running, you’ll bonk when your body shuts down to save some to keep your brain operating.  To a lesser extent, the same goes for the rest of what you do during the day.

Brilliant? Hogwash?

The way I see it, very few of us have the physiology background to really say whether this all is legit.  We’re left with three options: You can buy in completely and blindly, you can call it all bullshit, or you can do what I like to do.  Which is to try it.  As long as it won’t kill me, I’m pretty much game if there’s the chance it’ll take my energy to the next level.  What about you?