My good friend Gerry requested a dose of my dietary acumen so I sent him the following meal plan, which I abide by and advise others to do the same.
1. 12 ounces of water on awakening first thing in morning
2. 2 cups of melon (watermelon, honey dew, etc.); 1 cup hot water with 2 scoops cocoa powder with dash of stevia (optional substitution for caffeine)
3. morning workout (combination of cardio and resistance)
4. post-workout smoothie
- 1 cup water
- 2 frozen bananas
- 1 cup frozen berries
- 1/4 cup chia seeds
- 1 serving protein powder (on weight-training days)
5. midmorning snack (as much fresh fruit as you like)
6. lunch: 12 ounces water; 3 eggs (hardboiled) and/or 6-8 ounces of fish (sardines, salmon, halibut, sea bass are all low in mercury.); sliced raw vegetable fruits (bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes) or leafy green vegetable (lettuce, spinach) dressed with lemon and salt/pepper; 1 large avocado
7. midday snack: 1/4 cup raw nuts or 2 tbsp nut butter; 1 banana
8. dinner: 12 ounces water; 6-8 ounces of fish or 1.5 cups of beans (garbanzo, pinto, black, kidney) with 2 cups water-cooked green vegetables (broccoli, green beans, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, chard, asparagus); 1 cup steamed potato/sweet potato or 1/2 cup quinoa
9. dessert (if desired): banana or other fruit
Eliminate: dairy, grains, other processed/packaged foods, refined sugars, alcohol, caffeine, all oils, fowl/pork/beef
Aim for: 64 ounces water per day.
This is the perfect diet, or at least perfect for right now. Let me explain. After 7 years as a vegan I found that my strength gains and endurance performance had plateaued and quite frankly I was tired of so much bland food and spending my life eating like a fatty on a permanent budget.
So when I substituted out some fruits and vegetables and legumes and added a little animal protein in the form of fish and eggs, coupled with a serving of vegan protein added to my morning shake (rice and pea protein, by Orgain) I found I was able to inject a little flavor and variety into my culinary regimen and enhanced fitness followed.
Practically overnight I gained 10-15 pounds of muscle, going from 147 to around 160 lbs. And those 50 lb dumbbells I could only squat and press for 4 reps? I now can do three sets of 10 repetitions with relative ease. I supplemented the weight set that had not seen a new addition for 8 years with pairs of 65 and 80 lb dumbbells. Hello heavy dumbbell presses, rows and deadlifts. Body weight pull-ups morphed into sets with 50 lbs clenched between my thighs, effectively increasing the poundage by 30%. And despite the added musculature I still run 35 to 40 miles each week, in addition to daily mile-long swims and twice or thrice weekly bike rides, so my energy is as high if not higher than it was on a vegan diet. And I'm off the coffee, which only made me irritable and anxious and my back super tight.
Of course there are drawbacks to eating animal protein. The oceans are polluted, even the cleanest waters tainted with environmental run-off and heavy metals, which is why I stay away from white tuna and other high mercury fish. And yes, there is a lot of cholesterol in 3 whole eggs, but my cholesterol was above normal as a vegan, so maybe including some in food will send the message to my liver to curtail production of this important nutrient. Because studies have shown that eating this many eggs does not generally increase levels of LDL in the blood. It consoles me that the fruit I am not eating should certainly lower my blood sugar, which as a vegan was also slightly high. And with their ability to nourish the developing chick, egg yolks are the seed of the animal kingdom. Choline and B12 and other nutrients are hard to come by elsewhere in the diet. Besides eggs taste sooooo good! For a comfort food look no further. And yes, as a plant eater my, lets say, bathroom habits were without smell. Now I smell like the rest of humanity. Probably less, since I sweat so much. Oh well. Thank goodness for Febreze.
I plan to run a half marathon in the next few months to see how competing in a longish-distance race feels with the added mass. I can tell you I am more explosive than ever. Today I ran 11 miles in relative warmth and finished with 3 sets of 3 minutes in the very steep hill leading to my house. I used to think that a big upper body in a runner would translate into sluggish times, until at the OC marathon back in 2013 I glimpsed Ryan Neely speeding ahead of me. He ran a 2:29 marathon to my 2:51. Damn that's fast. Sure at 23 he was practically half my age (I was 40 at the time). But then there is the marathon junkie Chuck Engle. This guy routinely runs a marathon a week, most of them under 3 hours. He has been doing this for over a decade, in which time he has compiled hundreds upon hundreds of marathon finishes. Chuck, who is older than me by two years, has slabs of mass. And when I saw what he eats, one description came to mind: "protein feast." I gazed slack-jawed at huge amounts of white food stacked high atop his plate as he gorged his spent muscles post-race. So out went the dates I used to consume after exercise. Instead I enjoy sardines. It's an acquired taste. I still do eat about 6 bananas a day.
Does including a judicious portion of animal protein shorten one's life by exposing the eater to added residues and inflammatory mediators? Perhaps. But this life is so much fun! The better question is, which do you prefer, a protracted existence experienced in a perpetual state of irritation and self-deprivation with a heady dose of languor, or a shorter brighter time jumping (and running) for joy in the full bloom of vim and vigor.
The choice is up to you. I choose stinky farts - and the fast times and strength gains that come with. For now. Try doing the same and see how you feel.