PJ's Fitness Blog

A blog about a fitter you. Come find out what is on the cutting edge of fitness science and be a part of the ongoing conversation.

Your New Dilemma: Vegan or Omnivore?

veganI really enjoyed the lecture with Tim Van Orden a week ago. Thank you to all who attended. I hope you agree it was a fun, informative, and valuable event. (For those of you who couldn’t attend, you can purchase a DVD of the presentation shortly – watch your Facebook, Twitter and the newsletter for the announcement it’s available.) I especially enjoyed watching those of you who attended squirm with the dilemma Tim presented to you regarding protein and fruit (among other things). I let you stew about it for a week so you would fill your heads with questions and doubts. Everyone should always question what they hear and strive to seek out both sides of every story.

Well, now you’ve certainly heard both sides! Tim’s message and website (www.runningraw.com) is certainly different from my message and the X Gym’s philosophy on nutrition isn’t it? Did he rock your world and shake your state just a smidge? I certainly hope so. Many of you wondered why I agreed to do a joint lecture with him at all, since he flies in the face of so much of what I preach.

Be your own expert

The reason is, I don’t want you to blindly believe anyone. Not me, not Tim, not your mom, or even your doctor. What I want is for you to know that there is an amazing amount of information out there, and if you research it yourself to form your own opinions, you will be able to adapt quickly as new information comes out. You will be trying your own experiments and finding what is right for you because you know how, not just because someone told you what to do.

It has been established that within 5 years, you can become a national expert in any field by studying that field for just 30 minutes a day. Most people don’t have this kind of commitment however, so that explains why there aren’t that many national experts for each particular field. In the area of health and fitness, I have averaged over an hour a day of study since 1987, so my brain is a pretty good resource for you to use.

Many of you depend on me to get you the best information on exercise and nutrition, and that’s fine to get you started. I have the time to do the research and you probably don’t. My job is to be your resource and I take that very seriously, so keep depending on me. However, I encourage you to take a little time to do some of your own research as well, so that you aren’t dependent on me forever, and you can challenge me when you think I’m wrong.

Keep the questions coming

Almost half of the new things I investigate come from X Gym members and friends. People know I am into researching health and fitness, and that I am always experimenting with new ideas and methods. Because of this, I get a steady stream of links to studies, articles, news feeds, etc. Some of these I have already seen and can respond to right away, and some are new to me and require more research. Your questions and challenges are a great source of inspiration and learning for me, so keep ’em coming.

But what about vegan?

Tim’s message contains a lot of great information and useful tools. He is a close friend of mine and an amazingly intelligent man. Tim has researched his concepts more than anyone I know. He is in phenomenal shape and through his applied concepts, is one of the healthiest people I know as well. He is also far an away the healthiest vegan I have come across. For those who want to commit to a raw vegan lifestyle, Tim has the best way to do it and his concepts should be followed to the “T!” That way, you’ll understand how vegans get jacked for the gym too, whilst living the fit, healthy lifestyle you’ve always wanted too!

I am an omnivore however, and I love my meat. I have switched 95% of my other food to raw recently, and am loving that too! Is this the best way for you? Maybe, maybe not. Is it easy to implement? Yes. My time in the kitchen has sure dropped! Is it easy to sustain? For some. Any lifestyle change is tough at first, but with the right brain training, it can be very easy.

The point I wanted to make is that you shouldn’t believe everything you hear, no matter who it comes from. Remember your kid asking you “why” over and over until you hit a dead end? They are just trying to figure things out to the deepest level they can comprehend. You should do that too as an adult. Don’t be satisfied with the first answer, no matter how reputable you think the person is. Dig deeper and see if they really know what they are talking about. See how far you can push them and get all the information you can. This is how you learn and form your own opinions as to what works best for you.

Questions, comments and feedback

Here is my favorite comment: “I have X Gym members asking me about the major contradiction that was presented the other night! and I don’t know what to tell them until I talk to you… Unless you are changing your nutrition recommendations, I hope you NEVER do something like that again!”

This question means my devious plan obviously worked! Again, this is about seeing all sides and making your own decisions based on BOTH sides of the coin. I’m not changing my recommendations other than I do feel that everyone should eat as much raw food as possible. I was always a fan of raw, and appreciated the benefits, but now I’m implementing it even more thanks to Tim and his motivation.

Q. Is it better to eat fruit for breakfast or protein?
A. I still suggest protein for breakfast. When you wake up, you are in a burning mode. You are burning both fat and muscle. Fruit shuts down both burning phases, which is good on one hand, because you want to shut down the muscle burning process. Protein selectively shuts down the muscle burning only however, and leaves the fat burning mode intact. This is why eating protein in the morning extends your fat burning window further into the day.

Q: What is your take on Tim’s comment that we’ve been misled to believe that eating protein right after our workout is totally wrong and not what our body needs?
A: If you are an endurance athlete, he’s right. If you are looking to trade fat for muscle and tone up considerably, you need your protein in your stomach within 5-20 minutes after your workout. If you want to look and perform like an endurance athlete, raw vegan can work great for that. If you want to look like a toned strong athlete, more protein is a must. My recommendation for protein is more than what you actually need, but that is so there will be a constant supply available for your muscles all day long, so when they need it, it’s readily available in excess and easy to find. Excess protein also raises your metabolism, so it helps you burn fat off and build muscle at the same time.

Q: Are you adding fruit to ‘your menu’ now?
A: Yes indeed, but only certain fruits. I am eating strawberries or blueberries pretty much every day now. I don’t eat the higher glycemic fruits, and I would recommend to anyone who is trying to lose fat fast to limit their fruit until they get to their desired lean body goal and then consider increasing their intake gradually. I know a lot of people who have gained significant fat by eating too much fruit.

Comment: I really like liked the 1 car for the rest of your life analogy. It really made sense and people can understand that easily. The follow up analogy about the solution for all your car’s issues (brakes, oil, etc.) is more gas kinda makes sense on a high level. I understand what he’s trying to get at, that the car and the body are complex systems and there isn’t one solution for the problems you have to have separate ‘fixes’ for each issue.
A: I agree! I liked that analogy too.

Comment: I liked the 11 e’s for peak performance (do all of you guys have your favorite letter or number?)
A: I liked that too. My favorite number is 7, so most of my points come in 7’s. He likes the number 11 apparently.

Comment: I liked how he broke down food into the 6 different types (fuel, fabricators, facilitators, fortifiers, fighters and fillers). I feel most people only think of food as fuel and ignore the remaining 5 (4, if you also exclude filler).
A: I liked that too. Tim must also like the letter “F.”

Comment: The raw fruits and veggies stuff makes sense, I’m on board with that.
A: Me too! I’m mostly raw now except for my yummy goodness cooked meat, and I’m cooking my meat now at lower temperatures and I always avoid burning it.

Comment: One thing I felt Tim left out/didn’t mention is that the body can be turned to be a primarily fat burner (as opposed to a carb/sugar) burner. Now maybe in his research that doesn’t allow for peak performance. Either way I felt it should have been mentioned and then perhaps shown why he chose one over the other.
A: Good point. The body can be taught to burn fat, carbs or protein as a fuel. I have taught mine to run on protein. I get a little bump from fruit, but I get a huge burst from protein. I didn’t used to be that way. I used to be a carb guy. Some people are even born as protein burners. One of our youngest stair climbers at the Big Climb doesn’t really get much energy out of anything except meat. His sister on the other hand, runs on carbs. The Inuit Indians eat 98% animal protein and get fat and sluggish on carbs.

Comment: I think he scared a lot of people with the whole acrylamide thing. From my very preliminary internet research there doesn’t seem to be any consensus yet at what levels acrylamide becomes dangerous. I’m still skeptical. Humans have been cooking carbs for tens, if not hundreds of thousands of years and only now we find out that this compound that occurs while frying, baking or roasting foods above 250 °F. Further that study with rats, they were given high doses. The level of acrylamide those rats were exposed to were orders of magnitude higher than any amount humans consume. I would imagine there is a giant list of compounds that give humans cancer in high enough doses.
A. Good point. While it is well established (in my opinion) that acrylamide is toxic, the point at which it becomes dangerous is still under debate, as well as the cause (cooked vs. fried, etc.) The jury is still out in my opinion and there needs to be more research done. For another take on this, see Kailyn’s blog post here: http://fueltheory.blogspot.com/2010/03/acrylamides-back-story.html

Comment: I think it would have been nice if he offered a more detailed nutritional plan. Perhaps he could detail what he usually eats in a day. I felt he kinda said ‘hey being raw vegan is awesome but I won’t give you any clues how.’ Now it’s not extreme as that, but more practical advice would have been awesome.
A: He just didn’t have time to get into this. There is lots more info on his site www.runningraw.com. It’s also time for him to write a book! Hear that Tim?

Comment: How about the meat issue? Humans have evolved for millions of years eating meat. The human digestive system is designed to eat meat. Tim, himself, said mother nature is very, very smart character and should not be disregarded. I read recently, unfortunately I can’t remember which book, that human’s ability to consume relatively large amounts of meat effectively was one of the main factors to our superior brain and brain size development leading to our dominance as a species.
A: I believe we are now designed to eat meat. I’m a creationist so I don’t buy the evolution theory, but Biblical evidence seems to suggest that Adam and Eve were raw vegans. After the flood, God gave instructions to Noah about eating meat. I don’t know if things changed after that, but I think our teeth and digestive system are now both designed for an omnivorous diet.

Even in controversy, there’s good news

Both Tim’s nutritional philosophy and mine will make you lean and healthy if you are strict about it and consistent enough. His way takes more commitment, and is more difficult to implement for most people, especially those switching from the typical American diet. I believe my way fits better with most of the clients who train at the X Gym because they want to tone up and lose fat as fast as possible. I have catered my recommendations over the years toward this goal because it has produced the best results in the least amount of time for me and the X Gym clients.

More comments and Q&A soon, so send me yours too!