Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My Story and how I regained my own health!

My Story and how I regained my own health!

Before & After:


I am 44 years old, a father of five wonderful children and I have been married for almost 28 years.  Like many others, my story is about a guy who went from a somewhat healthy 25 year old to being a 75 lb overweight old guy at 43, unable to keep up with my kids and finding it very difficult to keep up with life.

About 2 ½ years ago I decided that I needed to change.  Nothing magical happened; I just decided I was tired of being tired.  I started with small incremental changes - eating healthier, natural foods and jogging/walking.  Right away I started to see positive results.  I did not follow any diets or take any magic pills!  As I made small changes and saw positive results, it motivated me to do more!  I also started reading books, listening to audio books, and following endurance athletes.  After a year I was down 65 lbs.

Fast forward another year, I ran my first marathon (Dec 2012) and it felt great!  I was so overwhelmed by my results that I decided to step up my game because it really was not that hard.  Looking back, I know a lot changed, but because it was small changes over time it never seemed like a big deal!

Now I have run three marathons, I have lost additional weight, and I am leaner that I have ever been.  I have not had any injuries and my energy is through the roof!  I have two more marathons to complete and my first ultra this season. 

The key is to decide to make changes!  The other challenge is many people fall into the trap of quick fixes.  There are no quick fixes - it takes work, it takes time, and you have to be committed!  Most people fail because the motivation to do something wears off shortly after a decision is made to change.  You have to view this as a lifestyle change.  If you make changes to reach some weight goal and then go back to the same old habits then you have gained - or in this case lost - nothing long term.

Now what are the specifics of my changes?  First, just because I run does not mean it made me skinny!  The fact is the dietary changes allowed me to run faster and farther while remaining injury-free.  You must change dietary behaviors! 

I am plant powered, which means I eat very little animal products and I do not consume any meat.  I gave up alcohol.  I found this to be critical for me because alcohol was preventing some of my weight loss and it caused me to not stick to my plan while I was drinking.  I focus on eating real whole foods, I limit my sugar and grains, and I eat a ton of fruits and veggies! 

I do not believe you need to eat meat to be healthy; however, if you do eat meat or dairy, you can be healthy, but you must be aware of the dangers.  It is very difficult to find clean natural sources of animal products, just be aware.

As a result of my experience, I now work to help others with their fitness journey.  I am not a certified “anything” nor do I have any credentials outside of my own experience.  In fact, many people have been misled by the industry giants, whether it is with food, health or fitness.  Be sure to use your own judgment when making changes or pursuing future goals.  There is a lot of bad information out there and it can be overwhelming.  I have set up a few resources if you want to follow me or see more details.

Good luck and I would love to hear from you!

Originally posted at:


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

10 Steps To Mastering A Plant Based Diet - Ben Greenfield guest post!

10 Steps To Mastering A Plant Based Diet

It’s a common question. Can we get by eating plants as a sole source of fuel?

As we swim and thrash through ocean chop, hammer bike cranks for hours on end, repeatedly pound on pavement, and hoist weights at the gym, do we actually need the animal-based foods to maintain and restore our precious nutrients – or can we get all our performance and recovery needs from plants alone?

In a blog article on my site entitled “How To Be Extremely Active And Eat A Plant-Based Diet Without Destroying Your Body”, I dig into the omnivore vs. herbivore debate, lay out the argument of both sides and reveal the diet regimen of a variety of plant-based athletes from ultraman Rich Roll to aging endurance athlete Dr. Bill Misner.

But the purpose of this article is not to argue for or against a plant-based diet, but to instead to give you 10 ways to master a plant-based diet in a way that ensures you ensure that you avoid body and brain damage, especially if you want to combine a plant-based diet with high amounts of physical activity.

After all – it can be incredibly simple to eat a plant-based diet in a manner that leaves gaping nutritional holes, such as not eating a wide variety of colors in whole plant food, not eating enough calories, and not supplementing with vitamins, fatty acids, amino acids, minerals or micronutrients that are notoriously missing from a plant-based diet.

Technically, on a plant-based diet, you can also gorge on soy ice cream, licorice, Twinkies, Taco Bell salads, and Domino’s Pizza all day long and call yourself a vegetarian.  You can stuff your face with chemical-laden, processed meals like fast food french fries, potato chips, and “fake meat” products like veggie sausages, bacon & burgers all day long, and still technically call yourself a vegan.

So here are my top 10 strategies you need to include if you decide to go plant-based:

  1. Eat real food. Avoid plant-based Frankenfoods such as fake meats, textured vegetable proteins and processed soy products. Soy is a biggie. Soy contains digestive irritants and digestive enzyme inhibitors such as lectins, phytates and protease inhibitors. Granted, most of these compounds can be rendered relatively harmless through fermenting soy and consuming it in forms such as miso, natto and tempeh – but you should avoid popular unfermented, processed foods such as soy milk and tofu. Soy also contains high levels of goitrogens, which are compounds that inhibit the thyroid’s ability to utilize iodine correctly. This could lead to hypothyroid problems if you have a high soy consumption. Finally, soy contains plant estrogens in the form of isoflavones which can raise your estrogen levels and lower your testosterone levels. So women with estrogen dominance or men and women with testosterone deficiencies shouldn’t be including soy in their diet.
  2. Avoid high intake of inflammatory omega-6 vegetable oils such as soybean oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, or margarine. Instead, use coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil or macadamia nut oil. At the same time, increase omega-3 fatty acid intake from readily absorbable algae-based DHA supplements such as spirulina and chlorella and get some omega-3 based ALA from things like ground chia seeds, hemp seeds, or flax seeds.
  3. Supplement with vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 is critical for a healthy heart and skeletal system and is notoriously deficient in a plant-based diet. I highly recommend a vitamin K2 supplement, consumed at about 100mcg per day, along with generous amounts of natto (which incidentally goes well with avocado, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil for a nice breakfast). Natto is very easy to make once you get a starter batch from your local Asian grocery store.
  4. Supplement with Vitamin D3. If you want to keep your bones and teeth strong, and give yourself adequate hormone and steroid precursors, I recommend about 35IU of Vitamin D3 per pound of body weight. This could be tough if you’re a strict vegan, because most supplemental vitamin D3 is derived from wool, and most vegan versions contain vitamin D2which is a far less potent form. Garden of Life Vitamin D3 is one of the few vegan D3 brands out there. If you’re eating this much Vitamin D3 you must avoid toxicity by ensuring you balance the Vitamin D with intake of both Vitamin K and Vitamin A. Otherwise, it can do more damage than good.
  5. Get Vitamin A. Vitamin A is crucial for healthy bone tissue, vision and hormones, but plants only contain beta-carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A, but at a very inefficient rate. You need to focus on enhancing this absorption as much as possible by eating beta-carotene rich foods with fatty meals (i.e. have your beta-carotene rich foods with olive oil or avocado), and getting adequate iron and zinc, which help you convert beta-carotene into Vitamin A. Cooking beta-carotene rich foods also helps to increase absorption. Beta-carotene can be found in concentrated amounts in a variety of foods including sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach, turnip greens, winter squash, collard greens, cilantro, fresh thyme, cantaloupe, romaine lettuce and broccoli.
  6. Properly prepare grains, legumes, or nuts. As you learned in point #1, fermentation can render soy more digestible. Similarly, you can neutralize many of the anti-nutrients and mineral binding compounds in grains, legumes and nuts by learning how to properly soak and (if desired) sprout and ferment them. Here is a useful soak time chart for most grains, legumes and nuts. The bigger the legume, nut or grain, the longer soak time it typically needs.
  7. Maximize iron absorption. Non-heme iron is the form found in plant foods, and it’s less bioavailable than the heme iron in meat. But you can increase iron absorption from plant-based foods when you consume them in the presence of Vitamin C (similar to consuming beta-carotene rich foods with oily foods). Combining foods such as swiss chard, spinach, beet greens, lentils, beans, and quinoa with  foods high in Vitamin C like tomatoes, bell peppers, lemon juice, strawberries, oranges, papaya, kiwis, pineapple, or grapefruit. You should also moderate tea or coffee consumption, since these both reduce iron absorption.
  8. Use iodine. Plant-based diets are notoriously iodine deficient. Sea vegetables such as nori, kelp and dulse are the best natural, plant-based sources of iodine. At the website Main Coast Sea Vegetables, you can find many iodine sources that you can easily read about or order. Also consider taking supplemental iodine in a form that is readily used by your thyroid, such as a daily dose of liquid nascent iodine, at about 6mg per day.
  9. Take vitamin B12. Nearly every study conducted on vegans show much higher rates of B12 deficiency than omnivores, with elevated homocysteine as a result (homocysteine increases blood clotting and raises your risk of heart disease). So I recommend that if you’re eating a plant-based diet, you consume a highly absorbable liposomal Vitamin B12, at about 10mcg per day.
  10. Supplement with taurine. Taurine is an amino acid found only in animal foods, and it is crucial for brain development, healthy blood pressure, blood glucose stability, fighting free radicals and protecting your vision. Your body can make it’s own taurine from a combination of other amino acids, but as you can read in this study, this can be very hard for vegan athletes to pull off in adequate volume. There are vegan taurine sources out there such as NOW Foods Vegan Taurine Powder (a much healthier alternative to Red Bull), and I recommend using 1 gram per day.
My personal diet includes many, many plants – topped with a high amount of natural fats such as avocadoes, olives, olive oil, nuts and seeds. While I also eat animal-based foods, I would instantly implement every step above were I to ever switch to a plant-based diet and want to ensure my body recovered as quickly as possible and was ideally optimized for workout. If you have questions, comments or feedback, I’ll be happy to reply!

Author Ben Greenfield is currently writing a book about how to be healthy on the outside and healthy on the inside. You can learn more at BeyondTrainingBook.com.

Who is Ben Greenfield?

Ben Greenfield is a coach, author, speaker, ex-bodybuilder and Ironman triathlete. His science-based approach to discovering a potent balance between health and performance has revolutionized the way thousands of athletes and exercise enthusiasts around the world live, train and eat. Ben now works with athletes, CEO’s and soccer moms from around the world to achieve amazing feats of physical endurance without destroying their body in the process.

In 2008, Ben was voted by the National Strength and Conditioning Association as the America’s top personal trainer. He holds a Master’s degree in exercise physiology and biomechanics from University of Idaho, and is also a certified sports nutritionist (C-ISSN) and strength and conditioning coach (CSCS). He has over a decade of experience training professional, collegiate and recreational athletes from all sports how to be healthy on the inside and healthy on the outside – and also coaches people of all ages and from all backgrounds for performance, fat loss, nutrition, lifestyle management and wellness.

In addition to being the head coach and nutritionist for Pacific Elite Fitness and the Rock Star Triathlete Academy, Ben is a consultant for WellnessFX, host of the Get-Fit Guy and BenGreenfieldFitness.com podcasts on iTunes, author of over a dozen programs and books for optimizing health and performance, and owner of EndurancePlanet.com, the world’s top endurance sports entertainment website. Ben also trains and mentors physicians, personal trainers and physical therapists from around the globe via his mastermind Superhuman Coach Network at SuperhumanCoach.com.

If you’d like to learn more about Ben visit this page. He consults virtually and in-person with people from all over the world via his office in Spokane, Washington, where he lives with his wife and twin boys, and now travels around the world competing in triathlons and teaching advanced human performance and nutrition concepts.

Read more:

Monday, December 16, 2013

How to run faster being plant-powered and reducing sugars and grains

Reposted from my guest article for Marathon Training Academy (MTA)

How to run faster being plant-powered and reducing sugars and grains
Plant-powered nutrition has had a very positive effect on my running - it has provided a foundation of health to support faster and longer distances, AND I have not experienced any injuries as an endurance athlete.  So what does plant-powered mean?  In the purest sense, it means not consuming any animal products (no meat, no dairy, no cheese, etc.).  Many people would call this vegan, but I don’t use that label because vegan is much more than not eating animal products.  So why plant-powered?  I have followed many athletes who are plant-powered and they have all inspired me to change to this lifestyle - athletes like Scott Jurek, Rich Roll, Matt Frazier, and many others.  For me personally, I have found that this lifestyle has allowed me to go from a 245 lb. coach potato to an ultra-runner in two years!

One of the challenges with a plant-based diet is reducing or eliminating sugar and grains.  This becomes difficult when you look at your fueling strategy for training and races.  The common consensus for most runners is to eat Power Bars, GUs, Shot Blocks, and drink sugary sports drinks.  These products all have one thing in common – SUGAR (and all its related cousins called by other names!) 
One of the most recent changes I made to my nutrition is eliminating most sugar and grain from my diet.  Why you ask?  Because sugar (not fruits) have a very negative impact on the body.  It raises insulin levels and creates an additive reaction in most people, and causes the body to crave more of it.  Ever try to eat just one chip or one cookie?  Grains today are mostly processed.  It is very difficult to find grains in their natural form.  The way grains are processed today causes a negative reaction in the body and the result is excess inflammation, which can lead to chronic illnesses.  For plant-powered people rice, beans and legumes are fine if eaten in reasonable quantities.

By eliminating grains and sugars from the diet, I have had a much easier time increasing my distances and improving my overall speed - whether in training or racing.  The other benefits include an increase in lean body mass and faster recovery after long hours of training.  As I write this, I just finished a marathon on Sunday, ran twice this week and ran a 10 mile training run with very little soreness at the end of the week.  In the past, this would not have been possible for me to do.  I know many runners may be able to do this type of recovery, but as your eat better - your muscles tend to recover much faster and there is certainly less fatigue.
There are two things to consider when fueling with a Plant-Powered No Sugar No Grains lifestyle (PPNSNG). 

1.     Training Runs: For training runs (anything longer than a few hours) consider fruit, nuts, Ucan

(plain), olives, or other sources that are plant-based or specifically formulated without sugar (or its cousins).  Transitioning to this method can take time.  You must train the body to reduce it dependency on sugar for fuel and teach it to run on the body’s own fat stores.  This is accomplished by building a solid base of Zone 2 style training and eliminating sugar from your fuel.

2.       Raceday: Racing takes a bit of time to figure out.  The challenge on race day is you typically run at a much higher intensity level for an extended period of time.  The body burn through glycogen stores within 1 - 1 ½ hours.  Because of this, you will need small amounts of fuel to keep your body going.  This can be accomplished with the fuels mentioned above.  The trick is to find what works for you.  Not everyone reacts the same way to his or her fuel. 

For me, bananas are a great source of natural energy and have a high glycemic load.  For others, they need something in a more pure form like Generation Ucan or Nuun.  I would still suggest not using Gatorade or other sports drinks.  The pure sugar in these products can have a negative effect on your body during your race - especially if it’s consumed early on in the race. 

Finally, some runners, who are fat adapted, do use some form of sugar in the final miles of their race.  This is acceptable because of the intensity of the race.  You will need additional fuel in your body, but a lot less is required because of all the proper training done before race day.
Background: I began running again 2 ½ years ago after taking a 14 year vacation from marathon running.  I just let life happen and gave in to the pressures of going full speed without proper nutrition.  Since starting back to living a healthy lifestyle – I have dropped 75 lbs.  I am leaner now than I have ever been in my life.  I have run 3 marathons so far this year and I have PR’ed all my records from the mid-90s when I was in my 20s.  I am focused and enjoy helping others as I travel along this journey.  I have been a guest on Vinnie Tortorich’s Angriest Trainer Podcast show several times, and I have a Facebook page and blog where I post information about this type of lifestyle.  You can follow me at:

Personal Blog:

Facebook Page:


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Obesity, Who is at fault?

Obesity is plaguing this country at an alarming rate.  It seems everyone is concerned but there does not seem to be any real change to help prevent or reduce this trend.  I thought I would provide some commentary based on what I have learned in my journey to good health.

The individual?  Of course, it is easy to blame the individual for gluttony and sloth; we are a county that believes in taking care of ourself and being responsible for our own behavior.  I firmly believe we have the power to change.  Our challenge is there is so much misinformation out there that people do not really understand why they are overweight, and in some cases, being fat is less of a burden than changing.  When I talk to people and share my story, it is really sad that individuals do not truly make a connection between the kinds of food they eat and their own health and weight.  There needs to be a way of properly educating the consumer.  We can do this in school, public announcements, health care professionals and through government food programs.  I do believe that individuals are ultimately responsible but they must have the knowledge to make good choices.

Food companies?  Where do I begin here, food companies for years have been driven by profits and growth and they will do almost anything to get our attention and money!  They market really bad foods to kids to such a level that kids will drive parents crazy until they get what they want.  Several of the food giants are owned by big tobacco, does it concern anyone that a company that made billions selling us an extremely addictive products could also do the same with food!  When food companies try to do better, they realize there is not as much money in truly healthy food.  They hire specialist and spend million developing products that provide foods that we crave and this creates a viscous cycle that is hard to break.  Their goal is to make the cheapest product that sells the most.  Do you think this is conducive to high quality nutrition?  They make food that is so devoid of nutrition that they have to fortify the foods so that they have some nutrients.  Over 80% of the foods sold today are highly processed and refined, this means it has been transformed from a natural substance in to a product that that is dead and will sit on the grocery shelf for months or even years!  If your food will last for more than a few weeks, then is it really good for you!  Food has been so chemically modified that food labels today contain over 20 ingredients!  Why do they need all these ingredients?  In addition, do we even know what some of these ingredients are?
The Government?  Our government is huge source of the problem because while they are saying we need to become healthier and take better care of our kids, they subsidized food to the point that junk food is cheaper and more available than real food.  They take excess food that has been subsidized and give it to the largest institutions such as schools, medical facilities and the poor.  If the government would get out of the food business and quit supporting the industries that are contributing to the issue then it might help level the playing field.  When the beef and dairy industry have more say in Washington than fruit and vegetable growers, who do you think is going to win in congress!  We cannot even get huge companies like Monsanto to properly label their GMO products (genetically modified organism).

Farmers?  Our farmers today are almost completely monopolized and controlled by big food and government subsidies.  Because the market is so manipulated by how subsidies are controlled, the farmer is left to grow as much product they can sell to make money.  They have industrialized to the point that the food we get is lacking in quality due to the demand for more.  Also, as big food dictates what the farmers can do and grow (or raise in the form of animals) it is very hard for the farmer to be the independent business person they used to be.

Doctors and Health care?  Our health care system is being crushed literally by the weight of Americans.  Obesity and the diseases caused by it are rising at such as rate that the Doctors are doing what they can to prescribe a drug and move on to the next patient.  What is also very alarming is the typical health care professional has very little training in diet and nutrition.  Our health care system is awesome at fixing patients, creating the latest technology to diagnose and treat ailments; however there is very little attention given to prevention.  If Doctors truly came out and said we will not treat this patient until they make lifestyle changes to improve their health, then they would be sued!  Do you think the obese person will visit a Doctor if he is scolded for his eating habits and bad health?  The health care profession must make a profit  and rarely would they turn away patients.

There are no easier answers and there are a lot of opinions about how we change this alarming trend.  As consumers we must make our choices heard at the cash register.  If we keep doing what we have done for the last 20 years then the current trend will continue and more and more people will be comes sicker and sicker!  I encourage any one that reads this to learn more about how to take care of yourself.  That does not mean read the latest diet book, but it does mean eating a more whole natural foods that have note been altered and transformed into something that will ultimately kill you!

4:30 AM Alarm

I am asked all the time “how can you get up so early every day?”  The answer is very simple, motivation to be my best!  For the past year, I have set the alarm for 4:30 AM or earlier in some cases so I can go to the gym Monday through Friday.  For me, it is now part of my daily routine.  If you want to get your workout in before the day begins then this is the best way to do it. 
If you just try to fit in a workout during the day things will come up, kids will have places to go or you will feel the grind of the day and decide you are not up to it.  When you start your day with a workout, then it is done and you will feel better about yourself.

Yes, I do go to bed early these days, usually around 10 PM.  On Saturday when I have a long run, I may get up as early as 3:30 to beat the heat of the day.  It really comes down to what is your goal and setting a schedule to attain that goal.  Yes, we are all very busy, but so am I!  When it is important then you make it a priority!
When you set goals, do not think about the effort as much as you should focus on the rewards.  I never set out to do some of the crazy things I have accomplished, many of these things happened because of making small incremental changes.  We must be flexible and take what comes at us.  Sometimes they are good things and sometimes they are setbacks or a course corrections.

Either way – commit to being a better you, stay focused and let the good time roll!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Mile Marker 26.2 - II

As a follow up to my Mile Marker 26.2 post a year ago, I wanted to update you on my journey since then.

Last December I ran my first Marathon after a 14 year break.  Since then I have continued training and raised the stakes even higher!  I have logged over 1350 miles since January 1st, 2013.  I have PR’ed ever race I have run this year (5K, 10K, 15K, ½ Marathon and Full Marathon).  In July I ran the San Antonio “I Ran Marathon” and took 30 minutes of my marathon time from December 2012.

As a part of my journey I decided this year I wanted to run an Ultra Marathon (any distance beyond a “regular” Marathon…J), so I signed up for the Cowtown 50K in February 2014.  To prepare for that race, I picked 2 marathons to run, first was the San Antonio Rock and Roll Marathon and then the Dallas Marathon (formerly called White Rock).  Since I was running 2 marathons, I decided to add a 3rd marathon so that I could qualify for the Marathon Maniac Club (I must confirm the insanity by joining a club).  One of the qualifications for this “maniac status” is to run 3 marathons in 90 days, I figured I could do that since I would need to keep my long distance running going between the Dallas and Cowtown races.

Why run like Forrest Gump?  I have no idea really, I just love to run, I love to train, and I love breaking through barriers that most 45 year old people would never attempt.  What has been interesting to experience is when I was running in my 20’s I was a slower, seem to always have knee pain and did not really push my limits very far.  Since changing my diet to plant based and training smarter, I feel better than ever.  I am leaner, faster and fitter than I have ever been!  Is this a bragging statement?  Not really….it is a guy who wants to convince others there are very few limits that cannot be overcome with the proper training and nutrition.  I hate to hear people say “I can’t.”  Well I just do not accept that!

This year I continued to make changes in my training and diet.  I am almost 100% plant powered (no animal products in the diet), I have cut out most of the processed foods and most of the sugar. 

Since I love a good challenge, I started the 100 Days of Exercise challenge in August with some of my FB friends.  As of this writing I am on day 130 of the challenge.  Another challenge I created was 30 days of No Sugar.  This meant I could not eat anything that contained sugar (fruit is not a sugar for this challenge)– this is more difficult than it may seem.  Almost 80% of all foods sold today contain sugar, whether it is salad dressing, bread, condiments, etc.  The reason I did the challenge was I need a break from the sugar addiction.  I would still eat chocolate, ice cream and use agave in my coffee!  I successfully completed that challenge and I am on day 45!

The results of the challenges are evident, my body has gotten leaner and I feel even better than I did before.  Waking up every day knowing I do not need sugar, and wanting to include 20 minutes of some physical activity is great.

After achieving the success I have had, I felt compelled to reach out and help  others on their journey.  I have met and friended some really cool people.  I have been very active in the local running groups sharing my knowledge and experiences. 

If you want to change your life and be healthy then I encourage you to do so.  Life is much more fun off the couch and out on the road!  When I began this journey 2 1/2 years ago I had no idea where it could take me, and now I see no limits to the possibilities.  Whether you’re a walker, occasional gym rat or just enjoy being outdoors on the trails, be the best that you can be and never stop!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Before and After!

This is what losing 70lbs looks like.  All natural, no drugs, no fitness in a bottle - it was all about changing my lifestyle to a whole foods plant based diet! 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My second podcast appearance with Vinnie Tortorich, America’s Angriest Trainer

Last week I was a guest on the America’s Angriest Trainer podcast hosted by Vinnie Tortorich and Anna Vochino.  Podcast episode 185 was dedicated as the vegan special.  Vinnie wanted to have a few guests on to talk about their NSNG (No Sugar No Grains) journey without eating any animal products.

Vinnie Tortorich calls himself the “go to guy” in Hollywood for health and fitness and he has been hosting a podcast for over a year now.  I found Vinnie after listening to another one of my favorite podcasts hosted by Rich Roll.  At first, I was a little leery of Vinnie because he is not plant powered, but I soon realized that his approach to health and fitness applied to me as well.  I prefer the plant powered label over vegan because plant powered is a lifestyle that resonates with me and more aligns to my goals…eat mostly plant!
I listen to a lot of podcast these days, I rarely ever turn on the radio or listen to music.  I have found that I can gain valuable information while driving in the car vs. having some bubble gum for the ears.

Vinnie is a Hollywood Fitness Trainer and he recently released his new book, Fitness Confidential, co-authored with Dean Lorey.  It is also available as an audio book.  It is a great read and the story flows nicely as he talks about his own life growing up in Louisiana, his experience helping others as a fitness trainer and discusses his own fight with cancer.  The best part about Vinnie is he cares about helping others.  He is very accessible and I feel lucky to call him a friend now.  He has personally helped me in my fitness and running journey through phone calls and emails.  This is why I believe his popularity has exploded; he is just a regular person with a very big heart.  He engages with his fans and he answers calls, emails and engages with the facebook groups.
How many popular podcast hosts have regular people on their show to share their stories, answer their questions or try to help improve some aspect of their fitness journey?  This was my second appearance on the show.  My first one came back in podcast episode 123 when Vinnie and I discussed my plan to help make changes in my local school district.  There will be more to report on this next month. 

Vinnie’s primary message is eat what you want but avoid sugar and grains; hence his message is #NSNG, No Sugar, No Grains.
Because of listening to Vinnie and joining the Facebook group NSNG, I began to realize that we needed to have a Plant Powered approach to his message.  It became obvious that there was a demand for #PPNSNG, Plant Powered No Sugar No Grains.  Several of us got together (Ciry and Elisa) and launched the PPNSNG group a few months ago.  It has been a huge success with over 350 members now.

My own experience with NSNG has been great, I have lost an additional 10 lbs., I am leaner than I have ever been in my whole life and my running has improved dramatically.  I plan to run three Marathons this season and complete in my first 50K Ultra.  This may sound crazy coming from a person who lived on the couch 2 years ago and had not worked out in over 10 years!  With proper nutrition, you can accomplish anything!
Here is the moral of the story, if you want an easy approach to weight loss, improved health and a way to become more active, then NSNG is right for you.  It is a simple approach, easy to follow and it is a guideline, not a strict diet that is hard to follow.  You will never have to count another calorie, log a meal or use point system to try to lose weight!

We need more people to share this message and that is why I am happy to be a part of getting the message out.
“Put life in to living and do it with enthusiasm!”  Vinnie Tortorich

12/20/2013 Update
As a follow up, I was also a guest on podcast episode 208 where we talk about my 30 day No Sugar challenge and school nutrition updates.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How to train for a Marathon

So you think you want to Run a Marathon?  Or maybe you want to run a marathon without a lot of pain, injury or bonking?  Well here is a summary of what I have learned over the years and maybe this will help you!
Much of what I have learned comes from my experience with the Jeff Galloway Training Programs.  Jeff is a great inspiration and his programs have helped thousands of people run their first long distance race and runners use his program year after year.  I have added some of my own experience to help the first timer.

First, you do not have to run a lot of crazy miles or distances to train your body to run long distances races.  It really just takes a slow and steady approach to adding weekly mileage as you ramp up to your race.  I am of the belief that you should run the full 26 miles as a training run before your race.  How else are you going to train your body to go the distance if you have never experienced it first-hand.  Secondly you do not have to run fast, in fact my recommendations is to run slower than you think on your long runs so that your body can adapt to the distances. This is called Zone 2 training and I have already covered this topic in previous blogs along with fat adapted training.
The key to staying injury free is managing your distances and pace.  You should never add more than 10-15% to your weekly runs as you ramp up on your overall weekly mileage.  This slow steady approach is critical to your overall success.

The overall program takes 5-6 months so keep this in mind as you plan your next race.   There are formal guidelines that the Galloway provides so this is just an overview.

Weekday runs should consist of 30-60 minutes of running twice a week.
Weekday workouts should also include 2-3 days of aerobic cross training, 30-60 minutes a day

Long runs usually occur on weekends
1-2 Rest Days, no activity

So how do you calculate your long run distances: 
Long runs are broken down in to two groups.  “Short” long runs are usually half the distance of your long runs.  For me, after I get to 12-14 mile long runs, the short long runs average 10-12 miles.

Your long runs are runs that start at 5-6 miles and ramp up 2 miles every other week until you hit mile 20, then they spread out to 3-week intervals until you reach 26 miles.  After this, you should have 3 weeks to taper before the actual race.  For weekend runs that are not the long run, use the short long run distances.

One other thing Galloway advocates and I personally use is the run/walk method.  This means to take a walk break after 1 mile or 4-5 minutes of running (you can experiment here with what works best for you).  This may seem counter intuitive but it really works.  My overall pace has improved because you can run faster as you get stronger and the walk breaks average out your overall pace.  You do not have to use the Run/Walk method except for training runs, but I have had such positive success that I even run/walk during a race.  For me, I take a 1-minute walk break for every mile that I run.  This also helps the body recover a bit in-between miles.
Jeff also has a lot of information about “magic mile” and race pace.  These articles can be found in his books and training programs if you want to learn more.

I hope this helps and best of luck as you take on new challenges this season.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Fat Adapted Training

 I am often asked my by running/cycling friends “What is fat adapted training?” Several of them have seen my success using this approach and want to learn more.

There are several concepts you need to know in order to make this change I your own training strategy. Keep in mind, I am not a training expert, I am just trying to summarize what I have learned and used in my own journey.

The first change you have to make is in your daily diet, if you do not have a clean diet then this style of training may not work very well for you. The overall premise is based on reducing or eliminating grains and sugar from your diet (think NSNG – No Sugar, No Grains). This is certainly not the conventional wisdom of many athletes, especially age groupers like me. Just think of the pre-race meals we all hear about – load up on the carbs!!! Can you imagine….. I also know it is rarely talked about in training magazines such as Runners’ World, so you may be thinking then how do you know it works. Well there are many endurance and ultra-athletes using this training method now and it has worked very well for me. I have been studying up on this subject for over 6 months and it is hard to consolidate everything in to one page, but I will give you the high-level overview and encourage you to explore this for yourself.

Eliminate or reduce most grains and sugar from your diet. I talk about this in my other post so I will not spend much time on it here. Sugar is one of the worst foods to put in our bodies and most of the training products you buy today have sugar in them, they may not be called sugar, but rather one of its close friends, think of the “ose” family – dextrose, sucrose, fructose, HFC etc. Grains are also a problem for our bodies, especially since the grains we eat today are modified and altered through excessive processing. Just realize that if it is in a package, then it is most likely not good to put in your body. A healthy lifestyle is built on whole natural foods as close to their original state as possible.  

Z2 Training: For fat adaptive training to work well, you must build a solid Zone 2 training base to support your event. Zone 2 refers to training at your targeted Z2 heart rate. The standard method for calculating this is 180 minus “your age.” If you are an athlete, then add 5, if you have been sick or overweight, then subtract 5. So for me it is: 180-45, then + 5 = 140. Therefore, for long runs I will not exceed 140 beats per minute (BPM). Your base can take 8-12 weeks to build up. Once you start training in Z2, you will notice your pace increasing while keeping your BPM in Z2, that is where you will see your improvement. Keep in mind that heat, hydration, health and fitness level will have an impact on your pace, adjust accordingly. Your short runs can exceed this HR, but for the long ones it is critical to allow your body to adapt and learn to use fat for fuel not sugar.

The challenge with running faster than Z2 for long runs is your body will burn through its glycogen stores within an hour or so, and then you are wanting/needing to add more sugar to replace it to prevent bonking or extreme fatigue. Using sugar for fuel does not allow the body to use its own fat stores efficiently. Once you have the Z2 base, then you will have a great foundation to build from as you add more miles to your workouts.

Fueling: Your fuel needs to consist of non-sugary products. First, never ever use Gatorade, PowerAde or any other sport drink because they are typically loaded with sugar or fake sugar. Use water for hydration, which is all your body needs! For electrolyte replacement you can use “Salt Sticks” (that is the brand of caplet) or S-Caps. There are several others options on the market that you can also use. Watch for flavored products, flavoring usually means hidden sugar.

If you are fat adapted, you should generally not need fuel for runs/rides lasting 2 hours or less. Here are some fuel options to consider, keep in mind this is a journey and you need to find what works for you. For me personally, I use fruit like bananas or apples. I ran my last marathon on 2 bananas, 6 Salts Stick caplets and lots of water. I had the best race I have ever had and felt great afterwards.

Fuel Options:
UCAN is a great product to use on extended rides/runs (3+ hours)

Protein Powders (be sure it does not have added sugars, this typical comes with flavoring)

Fruit – any will do, find what works for you, bananas have a higher Glycemic Index (GI)

Nuts (roasted are easier to digest)

Fats – Nut butters, avocado, olives

Roasted sweet potatoes

Here are some reference materials you can check out to get more background on this topic.
 Marathon Training Academy Podcast – Vinnie Tortorich Interview

 The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance

 Joe Friel - Paleo Diet for Athletes, the Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing

Endurance Planet Podcast

Vinnie Tortorich Podcast, Episode 177 – Joe Friel, Episode 176 – Dr. Phil Maffetone

Fit, Fat, Fast Podcast

Reference sites:


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The allure of an endurance sport

I am often asked why I run so much or get comments about me being a crazy runner.  To be very honest, I do not have a clear answer as to why.  I love being able to do what most people can’t do, I enjoy running and it helps keep me in tune with my body, more level headed and relaxed.

When I decided to run my first marathon in 14 years, it was because I wanted to see if I could do it again.  After running my last marathon in 98, I dropped out of the sport and kinda just let life happen.  I went to work for IBM, I started traveling, the kids were getting older and I started coaching.  Could I have kept running, sure I could, but I chose not too and got lazy when it came to taking care of me.
Once I decided to run the Dallas Marathon in 2012, things started to change.  I was even more focused on my health (I had already lost 50lbs) and I got very excited when I completed distance landmarks during my training.

Since that race in December, (I ran faster than my very first Marathon in 95) I decided that I wanted to see if I could run a 50K Race (31 miles).  Since I wanted to keep travel cost low, I decided I am going to run the Fort Worth Cowtown 50K in February.  But wait, I just ran a summer Marathon (I PR’ed that race), and I have the San Antonio Rock and Roll and the Dallas Marathon to run beforehand!  Is this crazy?  Maybe, but why not.  What I am finding is with proper training and good nutrition; your body can do almost anything!
I see others around me doing Triathlons and Cycling but that is just not for me.  I do not have that burning desire to do anything but run.  While I do enjoy lifting weights and adding in the extra cardio at the gym, running is my thing for sure!

I like to follow athletes like Rich Roll, Scott Jurek, Dean Karnazes, Vinnie Tortorich and Jeff Galloway.  These athletes have accomplished some amazing adventures and truly inspire me.
I often hear endurance athletes talk about how running long distances makes them feel alive!  In this convenient world we live in there are very few things that truly challenge us physically.  I think it is the call to do something outdoors that takes great endurance and mental toughness to see it though that makes us feel like we have accomplished something.

While I love driving fast cars and jumping off 118 story buildings, those things are short lived.  In 30 seconds or 10 minutes they are done.  Running however takes time, it is a lifelong journey, a commitment to a goal that can only be achieved through hard work and dedication.
Why I am not encouraging everyone to join the ranks of a Marathon runner, I do encourage you to find your passion, find that one thing that makes you get up and head out the door with the energy of an energizer battery.  This is what makes us strong and better human beings!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Reference to help get you started!

I am often asked about the books I read and the sources of my information.  Here is an overview of the resources that have helped me in my journey to Health and Fitness.  I will admit that some of the sources have conflicting information, but the overall guidelines support each other.  It also helps to read several viewpoints so that you can make your own decision about what is best for you.  Whether you are vegan, paleo, vegetarian or Atkins - many of the same principles apply.

As a runner, I also like to follow athletes who have overcome challenges in their life to achieve great success.  I have included those as well.  Enjoy!

Reference Material:

Vegan Lifestyle:
Dr. John McDougal, http://www.drmcdougall.com/, Podcast

John Robbins, The Food Revolution
Dr. T. Collin Campbell, The China Study

Other Dietary References:
Vinnie Tortorich, Fitness Confidential

Joel Furman, Eat to Live
Michael Pollan, The Omnivores Dilemma, In Defense of Food

Fat Chance, Robert Lusting
Gary Taubes, Why We Get Fat

Michael Moss, Salt Sugar Fat
Dr. Michael Greger, www.nutritionfacts.org (great reference site)

Personal Blog:

Facebook Page

Athletes I follow:
Rich Roll, Finding Ultra

Scott Jurak, Eat and Run
Christopher McDougal, Born to Run

Dean Karnazes, 50 Marathons in 50 Days and Ultra Marathon Man
Chris McCormack, I Am Here to Win,

Chrissie Wellington, A Life Without Limits

Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit

Short Films
Forks Over Knives

Killer at Large
Sick, Fat and Nearly Dead

Super Size Me
Food, Inc.


Vinnie Tortorich, Angriest Trainer (explicit)
The Rich Roll Podcast
Endurance Planet

Plant, Run, Family
Zen and the Art of Triathlon

Ben Greenfield
The Fit, Fat, Fast Podcast

Marathon Training Academy


Thursday, June 20, 2013

America’s Drug Problem

Americans today have a huge drug problem, and it is not what you think.  I am not referring to the trash on the streets selling crack or marijuana, I am referring to the long line of people standing at the drug stores getting their fix of statins, viagra, and insulin!

Even though I have only recently returned to a healthily lifestyle, I have always known there is a strong connection between diet and most illnesses.  Now I know many of you will say not ALL illness is tied to diet and in some cases I agree, so this post is referring to the 90-95% of the cases that are!

I see a lot of people around me taking medications, complaining about being sick and then going to McDonalds’ to get a burger, or to sonic to get their soda fix.  Our society has lost its connection to food and we now “live to eat” vs. “eat to live.”  You can tell a person that is a diabetic that there is a better way and they will refuse to listen to you because of what their Doc says.  The chalk it up to “it is in my genes!”  I saw screw that!  You eat like your parents and you are sick like them!  How about you change what you eat and start a new trend in your family!  Quit being a whinny little kid and go out and change, don’t you owe it to yourself to at least try something new!  Do you not believe the stories and articles about those who have improved their health and reduced or eliminated their need for medications? 

All the drugs in the world will not cure heart disease, diabetes or many other chronic illnesses.  It can only be fixed by changing your lifestyle.  Now that Obamacare is the new law it will be interesting to see what happens.  At the current rate of disease in America there is no way the system can keep up!  We are already seeing overworked healthcare professionals trying to get everyone in the Dr.’s office, yet hardly anyone is addressing the true nature of the problem.  They prescribe the medicine, wish you luck and move on.

I am here to challenge you, if you have been diagnosed with a chronic illness, then take that as a sign you better change.  The drugs will only mask the symptoms but will NOT cure you.  You will still be sick, other health problems are also on the way and things will only get worse for you.  I have no sympathy for the person who does not take personally responsibility for their condition if they refuse to do anything but take the drugs.

I would be happy to help anyone who needs it and I won’t charge  dime.  It is time to start fighting back America.  Quit making excuses, quit blaming your genes and go out and live life!  It is truly up to you.  What is the downside?  There is none!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Americans let everyone else make them sick and overweight….

We have a huge obesity crisis In America today.  And it is not just obesity, it is a long list of chronic illnesses that are making us sick and ultimately killing us (diabetes, heart diseases, arthritis, high blood pressure etc.)  As I learn more about living a healthy lifestyle and sharing my story to help others, it is not hard to realize that the odds are against us creating change in America.  We have been so conditioned by society on what is "right" that even facts and logic are thrown out the window when you introduce what seems to be new ideas!  How did we get here?   Well this blog is not big enough to answer that, but I wanted to mention a few things that seem to come up all the time when I speak to others and see the trends on TV and internet.

Our government is heavily influenced by lobbyist, and who are the biggest food and health lobbyist?  Big food giants and pharmaceuticals companies. Do you think these organizations want us to get healthy when they make money selling their stuff?  Their influence runs deep and no matter what facts are uncovered, their influence will remain strong in government.  The foods that are the healthiest get little attention in Washington becasue they do not have huge lobby groups supporting them.  The apple farmer, or broccoli grower has little influence even though they have the best message to share.  It is all about following the money.

What about mass media!  How easy do you think it would be for ABC to run a documentary on how cereal giants make us sick and fat at the same time taking money from them to run their commercials!  Can you imagine Nickelodeon telling kids to not eat sugary snacks while they are running ding dong or fruit roll up commercials!

Remember big tobacco?  They are the best at hooking people on a known dangerous products.  Back in the day, Doctors even said smoking was ok or even good for you in some cases.  Did you know that several of the big tobacco companies now own big food companies?  What does this mean for the consumer?  It means that no matter what the food item is or what the nutritional values is, they can figure out a way to make you buy and eat it!  They will also spend billions of dollars fighting negative ads against their own products so they can keep selling them to us.

Our school provide some of the worst food for our kids and yet as parents, we are scrutinized for sending our kids with lunches packed from home.  Want to question your local school?  Go for it!  They will tell you they have to serve what they do because the government mandates it, no matter how much you are against it or provide evidence to how bad the food really is for our kids!

What about our Doctors and Nurses, are we any safer in hospitals?  Doctors traditionally cannot go against traditional medicine when more viable options are available.  They would rather give you a pill to fix a symptom than treat the cause.  Even the Doctors who go against the grain receive  a lot  of scrutiny by their peers, even though their programs work.  It is not always their fault, it goes back to the government and the training.  Where does the money come from to sell products to our doctors or to educate them in medical school, you got it – the pharmaceuticals companies.  Do you think they want the patients to know there is a healthier way to reduce high blood pressure by changing your diet vs. selling statins!  Our healthcare providers received very little nutritional training in medical school.  Their objective is to fix the patient and move on to the next.  I know this may seem harsh and an over generalization, but the core problem is we have too many sick people in America, and people do not want to know that we are eating improperly because that is judging them, they just want a pill so they can go back to work or not have to worry about the problem for a few more years.

When you tell a person there is a better way to live, or to reduce or eliminate the need for medication, 9 times out of 10 they do not care!  They want to take the pills and be done.

I am lucky, I did not get unhealthy enough to be chronically ill when I decide to make  a change, but what I have realized is I have reduce my chances of needing any future healthcare by a lot!  I was on the road to chronic illness but changing my lifestyle has reduce that risk significantly.

I wanted to write this post to make you stop and think!  You have a lot of forces working against you and I know it is not easy, BUT you do have control if you choose to take it!  If decide not to take advantage of the information that is your choice, but don’t say you do not have a choice, do not say you have to live with problem.  Step outside the box and take a chance on life!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Top 10 Ways to Get Healthy!

1. Sodas/Juices/Energy Drinks - Our bodies are not designed to drink our calories. Sodas, juices, sports drinks etc. are all filled with sugar or even worse, fake sweeteners. When you drink these products, you are still thirsty and you have not given your body any real food to sustain itself. The best and easiest way to lose weight? Drink water, we do not need to drown ourselves in it, but if choose to only drink water then you cannot go wrong.

 2. Fast Food - If you eat fast food then you will most likely struggle with your weight! Fast Food today is essentially a product devoid of most of its nutritional value, it is a chemically processed food and for the most part, it does nothing but add empty calories to your diet. Think about it this way, how can McDonald’s serve a “Big Mac” for the same price it did 20 years ago? They only way they can do this is by using a food that is completely altered and is no longer a real food. Fast food is designed to stay “fresh” for a long time by altering its composition.

3. Sugar - Sugar is one of the largest contributing factors to obesity today. Sugar and its 40 or so associated friends are hidden in everything these days. It is estimated that almost 80% of the foods today contain some form of sugar. Sugar is used to make food taste better, substituted for missing ingredients such as fat and used as a preservative. Sugar creates problems for the body because it raises insulin levels which drive increased fat stores. This is also true for sugar substitutes that can actually be worse for you because of the chemical composition and very little is known about the long-term health effects to our bodies.

4. Fat - Dietary fat does not equate to body fat! Fat in your diet is not a bad thing; our bodies actually need fat to stay healthy. How long have we been told to eat low fat foods only to see a huge increase in obesity in America! Eating fat should take place in its natural form; nuts, seeds, avocados, olive and coconut oils, butter, cream etc. When you see products labeled "low fat" or "fat free" then buyer beware, there is usually sugar and many other chemical hidden in the food to make up for the taste.

5. Nutritional Information & Whole Foods - Food labels have become a long list of unrecognizable chemicals and food derivatives. If you read food labels, do not focus on calories or fat, but focus on ingredients. Any product with more than six or seven ingredients should be avoided. Any food label with ingredients that you have never heard of is a problem! Focus on eating whole natural foods. Go back to eating the way we are supposed to, from the garden. Stay away from the middle isles in the grocery stores and you will make better choices. Making meals is easy if we keep the ingredients simple.

6. Diets - Diets do not work, lifestyle changes do! If you continuously chase the latest fad, diet, new food report about supper foods etc. then you will continue to get frustrated. Diets are temporary and usually create stress on the body because your body thinks that it is starving. When you starve your body, your body will do everything it can to retain the fat stores for survival. We cannot change the basic instinct to survive. The only way to lose weight and not starve your body is to change what you eat.

7. Exercise - Exercise is very important today because of our lifestyle and conveniences. Our bodies where designed to move. Because we sit at desk, drive cars, go through drive thru’ s and use elevators our bodies are not moving like they used to. To make up for this, just get out the door and exercise. Whether it is running, walking, hiking, cycling or going to the gym, get out and move every single day! If you do take up an exercise program, take it slow and easy. The biggest mistake newbies make is going out to hard and getting injured or hurt.

8. Calorie In / Calorie Out - We are taught that a calorie is a calorie. This is not true, if it were, then we could eat 2000 calories of sugar and be done for the day right? If you use calories restriction to lose weight then you will quickly find that it is not sustainable. Your challenge is to eat high quality foods and the calories will take care of themselves. The problem is when we eat foods devoid of nutrition, i.e. processed, then the body is still hungry and we need to eat more. When you eat whole natural, high quality foods, you will actually eat less food but be healthier in the process.

9. Drug Problem - We have a huge drug problem in America. We get sick, we take a pill, we have a chronic illness, we take a pill, we cannot sleep, take a pill. How about this approach: if you are sick then look at what is causing it. Chronic illness such as diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, arthritis, impotence, sleep disorder, headaches etc. can almost all be alleviated or at least reduced to manageable levels by changing our diet. Not only can we cure these diseases we can also have a huge impact on long-term illness such as cancer and obesity.

10. How to get started – Starting today, do something to get you going. You know what you need to do, you just need to start doing it! I did not make all of these changes in a day, as I stated before it is a journey. Take one idea above and embrace it. Make it your own and try it for a month. What I found through my journey is this, when I made a change and felt better; I then wanted to do more. Then I changed another thing, and so on. It does not have to be difficult or painful. I enjoy life more today because I am living to my fullest potential. I sleep better, feel better, have more energy and I have not been sick or injured in 2 years! How is that for living proof!