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.

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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:

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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!