Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Letter From A Vegetarian To Vegetarians

We have really cool clients here at All Out Effort. Though it's personalized training, and not classes, it's still a tight community with like-minded people. They train separate but together. They see each other on their way in or out and they see their numbers and scores and goals on the wall. It's part of the reason why we're selective about who we train, so we can maintain this atmosphere.

One of the cool people who sticks out is Prax. I call him Prax The Robot Fighter. It's a joke because he works in robotics and artificial intelligence. I kid that he needs to get strong so that once the robots take over, he needs to be strong enough to fight them.

Here's another thing, Prax is a vegetarian. I know you long time readers must be thinking, a vegetarian at All Out Effort? I actually have several. I wrote a previous article about how we were designed to eat. I did however state that if its due to preference, moral, ethical, cultural, or religious reasons, I have no argument. It's only when people say it's how we were designed to eat is when I would suggest a different perspective.

Prax was born a vegetarian, it's part of his culture. Being from India it's quite common actually. He still eats within the macro guidelines I gave him. In his diet you'll see a lot of legumes. I have previously posted articles about legumes, but I told him as long as they've been cooked and not eaten raw or roasted, it's okay. And in the macro sense he needs protein more than he needs to avoid anti-nutrients.

Why you should listen to this vegetarian especially if you're also a vegetarian?

Prax's strength and endurance was ridiculously low. Skinny arms, big waist, poor posture. Stereotypical engineer. Within 5 months he's lost 14lbs of fat, and went from a 20% body fat to a 9% body fat and lost 3 inches off his waist. He would almost collapse from a short hike. Now he has no problem hiking all day. He almost dropped a 15lb kettlebell onto his head when he was holding it with two arms. Now he does a turkish get up with a 25lb kettlebell in one hand with ease. And he only weighs 140!

So his aunt and uncle wanted some tips after seeing his results. It's based around an Indian diet but I think there's a lot we can learn from the Indian diet with modifications. Here's the letter he wrote to them:
"I've compiled a list of things that I try to follow on a day-to-day basis, mostly based on instructions from my trainer. HOWEVER, I STRONGLY RECOMMEND you to either consult your doctor and/or a professional trainer before you try to make significant changes to your lifestyle. Remember that the following advice was given by my trainer as part of a plan TAILORED to my current situation and goals. There are some general rules that can apply to everyone, but certain things are probably specific. So, please please consult a doctor if you intend to make drastic changes in your diet and/or physical fitness. Anyways, things below are what I follow: 
DIET should consist of good portions of the following: 
1. high-protein content: lentils, peas, beans (garbanzo/chic-pea, dark red kidney beans, black eye peas, great northern beans, black beans, pinto beans, etc), egg-whites (choose eggs with the labels: organic, omega-3, cage-free or free-range), nuts
2. high-fiber content: lentils, beans, raw vegetables (for example, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, radish among others), etc.
3. healthy fats: avocados, coconuts (or coconut milk), almonds (or unsweetened-zero-sugar-almond-milk), nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, brazil nuts, etc), olive oil
4. complex carbohydrates: sweet potatoes (not the usual potatoes), yams
5. limited amounts of natural sugar (from fruits for example): kiwis, blueberries, raspberries, apples, etc. (as a rule of thumb, prefer organic for fruits with edible skins like apples for instance). fruits are also good source of carbohydrates.
6. raw vegetables (in addition to cooked vegetables): kale, broccoli, spinach, romaine lettuce, carrot, radish, cauliflower, peas, brussel sprouts, zucchini, cucumber, etc.
7. drinks with health benefits: japanese green tea (varieties include sencha, matcha, genmaicha, etc. NO sugar added), lemon water (NO sugar added), natural pomegranate juice.
8. Avoid grains (white rice, wheat, etc.). If they cannot be avoided, then try healthier alternatives: multi-grain (wheat with other grains) instead of just whole-wheat, brown rice or quinoa instead of white rice, multi-grain bread/pasta instead of white bread/pasta.
9. Try to include (turmeric, ginger, garlic, black pepper, onions) as much in your cooked food as possible. Especially, turmeric is best used when cooked in combination with black pepper, ginger and olive oil. Similarly, tomatoes are best assimilated by our bodies when cooked in olive oil. Garlic and onions have excellent health benefits as well.
AVOID the following:
1. Don't add sugar (in things like coffee, milk, sweets, ice cream, frozen yoghurt, etc)
2. NO processed food, packaged food, frozen food (side dishes), canned vegetables (e.g. garbanzo beans in a can. This contains lot of sodium. Instead, you get raw beans in packets.)
3. NO "processed" snacks anytime: this includes indian sweets, savories, chips, ice cream, chocolates, etc.
4. NO refined flour: white bread, white pasta, white rice
5. NO sugary drinks (i.e.) soda, drinks with artificial flavors/sugar added
6. NO potatoes: compared to sweet potatoes, they have little nutritional value.
7. NO corn-based products: corn is rich in omega-6 fatty acids. Eating more of corn-based products and less of other stuff creates omega-3 deficiency in the body which is not good as it leads to inflammation.
8. If possible, minimize conventional diary products as they contain more of omega-6 compared to omega-3 fatty acids. Instead, go for "organic" ones if needed. For milk, you can choose unsweetened almond or coconut milk instead. 
ROUTINES to follow: 
1. Start the day with a glass of lemon water. This helps cleanse the digestive system before your day begins. Also, if you're doing intense workouts, lemon water helps in reducing the recovery time after work outs.
2. Drink green tea 3-4 times a day. Again, NO added sugar. Try to replace your current drinks (indian-style coffee, tea, etc.) with green tea. It has tremendous health benefits.
3. Drink pomegranate juice once in a while, maybe 2-3 times a week.
4. eat at least 2-3 hours before going to sleep
5. brush immediately after dinner so that you will better tend to avoid snacking in the night
6. If at all you cannot avoid snacking, then try snacking on raw vegetables. One healthy way to do this is to buy hummus from the grocery store (read the label and pick the one that contains least added nonsense) and dip raw veggies in hummus and snack on that.
7. Walk as much as possible. If you have cardio equipment at home, do regular cardio exercises every day (even 30 minutes should be useful, compared to nothing).
8. If you're doing intense workouts, take cold showers to help reduce recovery time. If that's too hard, then take a James-Bond shower (i.e.) start with a warm shower and then gradually end with a cold shower. Drinking cold water also helps to some extent to improve recovery time. 
ROUTINES to avoid: 
1. Avoid drinking your meal. Here is the reason for that. Foods with high fiber content ensure that our digestion process takes enough time to break down the content to be usable by the body, thereby we get the sensation of "being full" for some time after the meal. If we juice high-fiber-content foods, then essentially we are removing or at least minimizing the role of fiber in digestion, leading to faster assimilation by the body, which in turn means that we get hungry sooner. Getting hungry sooner is never a good idea as it makes us want to eat even more which may not be a good thing, especially if we are physically inactive. Another reason for avoiding liquid meals is that lesser fiber-content-in-food leads to increased blood sugar activity, thereby leading to more inflammation. Never a good thing!
2. Avoid sitting still for more than 20-30 minutes. You HAVE to get up and move around. If you're at home and have a staircase near your room, I highly recommend going down and up the stairs a couple of times. This will simultaneously work on your lower body as well as pump up your heart.
3. Minimize buying stuff that has Trans Fats, excessive sodium (used for preservation purposes), cholesterol, high fructose corn syrup, white flour, artificial flavors, etc.
4. If possible, try to get at least 6 hours of sleep. 
Prax listens well, does his own research on top of stuff we tell him, and gives a compelling way to live your life. We all could learn something from this letter. Maybe if nothing else the mere act of acknowledging and being aware of what you do and what you eat.

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