The manliest men on the planet

Ben texted me that surfer Laird Hamilton is 48 and looks 26, eats a lot of raw and organic, and is one of the “manliest men on the planet,” and I should blog about him. Then I said, “Then how come I haven’t seen him on vegetarian athlete lists?”

He said, “Because he’s not pure vegetarian. Which is why he’s still a manly man.”

Eye roll. I texted him back and said, “Two words for you. BILL PEARL.”

(He was a vegetarian Mr. Universe. Arnold Schwarzenegger once said, “Bill Pearl didn’t convince me to be a vegetarian. He did convince me that a vegetarian could become Mr. Universe.”) Gotta love the brilliant things that The Governator says sometimes.

I looked Laird Hamilton up, and found this quote from him: “You eat potato chips, you’re going to perform like a potato chip.”

I don’t date much anymore, but I recently went out with a guy named Brent who, like lots before him (when I used to date), was rather terrified of what I do for a living. (A bane of my existence is that men feel I will judge them when I see what they eat. Often this is a deal-breaker for them, even though I am realistic and non-judgmental. I’m not likely to meet a guy who has my philosophies about food! However, I do really like guys who at least are interested in eating better. As long as they are that AND tall-dark-and-handsome! Hehe.)

So Brent is 38, attractive, and looks fit. But he wanted me to know he eats a whole box of Cap’n Crunch, or 8 cookies and a glass of milk, before bed. And sometimes a plate of nachos. And wakes up with a flat stomach. He doesn’t work out routinely—only in fits and starts.

In other words, he’s a genetic anomaly and gets away with murder. I don’t know why some people are born capable of full-on nutritional abuse without obvious or mid-term consequences. If I did what he does, I’d have no energy and would weigh 300 lbs. almost overnight. It’s not fair!

That said, I believe in karma, and the fact that at some point, everybody has to pay the piper.

On facebook, GSG reader Joel W. pointed me to Scott Jurek, one of the world’s best ultrarunning phenomenons featured for running with the legendary Tarahumara Indians as profiled in Born to Run. (I’m reading this book, and most serious runners have done so. It fueled the “barefoot running” craze.)

Scott Jurek can run 6.5 marathons – nearly 166 miles – in a 24 hour period. And he’s a long-time vegan, after being raised in a meat-and-potatoes family. His book Eat & Run tells all about it, helps you commit to the understanding that food is FUEL. His book contains his favorite plant-based recipes.

Perhaps the most spectacularly credentialed, famous ultrarunner in the U.S., though, is Dean Karnazes, who is 46 years old and looks 20. My friend Ben is preoccupied with Karnazes, an ultrarunner with superhuman genetic gifts. But unlike my date, Brent, Karnazes is increasingly laser-precise about his diet as he gets older.

Wikipedia has his list of Karnazes’ staggering accomplishments, one of which is running 50 marathons in 50 consecutive days. (He ate 5,000 to 7,000 calories each day during that period.) He also ran 350 miles in 81 hours without stopping, even though he took a break from running from age 15 to 30.

He eats vegetables, fruits, lean meat, and things you could “pick and eat.” The Neanderthal diet, he calls it. He says, could cave people have eaten whole grain? (They couldn’t have milled it, etc.)

In an interview I read of Karnazes, he was asked if he misses pies and stuff he used to eat, and he says,

“I really don’t! It was kind of an indulgence…I really don’t long for those things anymore. I think cravings for sugar and sweets just stop when you stop eating them for a while.”

Another Karnazy quote: “…if you’re going to be a foodie, you’re going to suffer the consequences! Some people live to eat, and I eat to live…”

I don’t know that it’s a good thing to run 42 miles a day for 100 days, as Karnazy recently did. I’m in awe, while at the same time I have no interest in pushing my body that hard. But I do like that he has found things that are not FOOD to give him joie de vivre.

People for whom food is their passion are, as he says, in trouble.

And I think it’s interesting how, even though meat is hard to not eat, if you eliminate grains as Karnazy does, the best athletes, who are able to continue for decades, as Jurek and Karnazy have, eat a LOT of greens, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.

cardiovascular health: nature vs. nurture

I went to give blood today, hoping that my always-borderline hematocrit was high enough.   It was.   Though one point lower and I’d have been rejected–again.   Like most other things the RDA does, those hematocrit averages aren’t based on the ideal, but rather the average.   The averages are, of course, of a heavily meat-eating population with (IMO) a too-high iron concentration in the blood.   By USRDA standards, though, a 120-lb. woman needs 44 grams of protein daily, and a 150-lb. man needs 55 grams.   The average American gets 100 grams daily!   A higher hematocrit is just one result of the tragic false education of the American public that has led to a lethal diet.

As usual, the Red Cross worker took my resting heart rate, and then took it again.   Do you exercise a LOT, she asked?   Well, six days a week, I answered.   Then she called the supervisor over to do an override, since the computer does not believe them when they input my resting heart rate of 45.   The supervised asked: are you a runner?    I answered in the affirmative.

 Sure, good heredity plays a part.   It’s nice to have blood that moves languidly through clean blood vessels, not straining inflamed heart muscle.

But according to the literature, environmental influences play a much bigger role in heart disease than genetic ones do, and fortunately, you can control that with five things.   Don’t drink or smoke, and bring your weight into the healthy range.   Get the blood pumping and muscles and heart toned with exercise: ideally, three things:

 (1)         cardio (walking, running, Stairmaster, aerobics)

(2)          weight-bearing (Nautilus and free weights)

(3)         lengthening and toning (yoga or Pilates).

And of course, eat more unrefined plant foods and fewer animal and refined foods.

Thing is, I didn’t have good cardiovascular measurements at ALL when I was 26 years old.   I got pregnant after 5 years of trying, lost one of my twin babies in the first trimester, and was afraid to so much as sneeze thereafter.   I didn’t exercise, the whole pregnancy.   I indulged all my demonic cravings–for stuff I’d never eaten in my life.   Burgers/fries and 7-11 nachos were my two favorites.   (Haven’t eaten either one before or since–go figure!)   Sometimes at night I’d eat half a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.      

You guessed it: I gained 65 lbs. during the pregnancy, had horrible edema (swelling) and drastically increased blood pressure.   I basically sat around like Jabba the Hut, watching TV and bossing the poor guy who got me pregnant (I figured he owed me), and my sister (who was entirely innocent), to get me stuff.   People don’t believe me, so I haul out the photos of the day that sweet little 9-lb. baby was born.   They shriek with horror.  

That’s right.   I was my very own version of Supersize Me, my blood sugar was out of control, and my blood pressure was higher than the national average (120/80), even though I’m usually 95/55).   All that in a few short months.

And DH?   At the time of our wedding, he was 22 years old, a 6’4″ tall, 257-lb. college offensive lineman.   He had high blood pressure and a family history of heart disease (aunt, father, grandparents).   Eating what I fed him (whole plant foods for all but the aforementioned one year), he’s had low cholesterol and very healthy blood pressure for 20 years.

My point? Obviously heredity is not the most predictive factor for heart disease.  

Who you gonna call? Part III: nutrition advice from personal trainers

My friend Cheryl told me at the gym the other day that she got online with a “Virtual Personal Trainer.”   This guy has quite a following here locally and helped a friend of Cheryl’s.  

She  said to the trainer, “I’m trying to be vegan.   Can you help me increase my muscle mass and get more toned?”   (Don’t know why–Cheryl is turning 50 and is a size 3–she’s incredibly fit and looks about 34.)

 He said, “Sure, you can do that, if you’re willing to eat a lot of soy or whey protein powders.”   Cheryl’s pretty educated and knows why BOTH of those are a rotten idea.   If you don’t, see my Nutrition Manifesto Myth #1 on the home page (and my “Soy Is A Health Food” myth is coming soon in  a free e-letter).  

Cheryl told him she didn’t want to eat that stuff.   The trainer told it would be impossible for her to get more toned, then–she simply HAS to eat chicken or fish or protein powders.   One of my personal-trainer friends is eating a 60 PERCENT animal-protein diet right now in preparation for a powerlifting competition!   I spend a lot of time at the gym, and every single trainer I know is pounding the protein bars and powders and slabs of dead animal carcasses (that’s what my vegetarian daughter calls them, lol).

Again, like most medical doctors and dieticians, like the Diet Doctors and Celebrities, personal trainers just aren’t a good source for nutrition information.   The vast majority of them accept the mainstream position wholesale, and the only thing they know about nutrition is to MAXIMIZE PROTEIN.  Thank goodness for that rare M.D. or dietician who does extracurricular homework.   And props to bodybuilders like Jason Ferruggia, Stephen Arlin, and athletes I blogged about last month.  They show you CAN be fit–even huge and ripped, if that’s the goal–eating a plant-based diet.   I’ll run a blog in a couple of days with good stuff from Jason Ferruggia.

 Ask a personal trainer how to lift weights.   Just please don’t ask him what to eat.