Paleo Pitfalls

I’ve been doing crossfit for just over two years now. It’s a fantastic workout, but the crossfit industry consistently pushes a Paleo (also known as caveman) diet. As a vegan of over 15 years who performs very well in both strength and endurance, I’ve been suspicious of the hype around the idea that I need to eat muscle to become muscular. After all, I’ve gained about 20 lbs in muscle since starting crossfit without eating any animal protein.

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A new 2014 study from the International Journal of Exercise Science should cause some alarm for the heart health of those following a Paleo diet:

“Our results demonstrate that an ad libitum unrestricted Paleo diet intervention is associated with deleterious changes to blood lipids in healthy subjects, despite concurrent improvements in body composition and cardiorespiratory fitness.” 

Similar to Atkins (but with better marketing) the Paleo diet definitely appeals to a machismo that we associate with the caricature of a caveman, but even the American Dietetic Association considers it a fad diet, and as more studies documenting the long-term health consequences of diets like these are published in scientific journals, we have the option of rationalizing the aesthetic appeal of a diet like this, or the option of making changes in response to concrete findings.

This is what the Plantbuilt team of 100% vegan athletes looks like, photographed in Austin, Texas this year. Derek Tresize (right of center, back row) just went pro after taking 1st place in Men’s Physique at the Naturally Fit Super Show this past July 2014. Ed Bauer (front right) is a crossfit athlete and coach as well.

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Chad Byers
, Austin Barbisch, Korin Sutton, Christian Garcia, Ifpa Pro William Tucker, Billy Prusinowski, Derek Tresize Wnbf Pro, Allison Dunham, Robert Cheeke, Giacomo Marchese and Tha Vegan Dread “.

 

BRUNO CARVALHO: Vegan Warrior Royalty

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Bruno Carvalho is 32 year-old welterweight MMA champ who is a Brazillian transplant living in Sweden, training with Team Carvalho at Allstar Training Center. His warrior lineage is no surprise, with a grandfather who was a seventh Dan in Judo and founded the Itapagipano de Judô Club in Brazil in 1966,  a great-uncle who was a Vale Tudo legend, and an five black belt uncles, one of whom gave Bruno his black belt in Jiu-Jitsu in 2003. Bruno went on to win more than fifty trophies in Judo, Jiu-Jitsu and Submission Wrestling, among them four BJJ State Championships and a Silver Medal at the European Championships in Jiu-Jitsu in 2007.

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Bruno had an eight-fight unbeaten run from 2009 to 2011 which culminated in capturing the Middleweight Championship of World Freefight Challenge, the biggest and most professional Mixed Martial Arts organization in Southern Europe – but Bruno’s last fight in October of 2013 ended with Carvalo knocked out. For the last several months, Bruno has been training hard, preparing for his next fight against Norwegian Moshen Bahari on March 22, 2014. Part of Carvalho’s edge is that he has been vegan for over two years, and credits his veganism for the seemingly limitless endurance that he displays while training seven-day weeks.

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Bruno took a break from training to have a quick chat with me:

Joshua Katcher:  Bruno, when was your last fight and how did it go? When is your next, and what are you doing to prepare?
Bruno Carvalho: My last fight was in October of last year [2013], it didn’t go so well. I’ve been dealing with lots of injures and personal stuff. I’m fighting Moshen Bahari on March 22, 2014 in Denmark, and I’m preparing very well, all the shit has passed, and now it’s full focus!

JK: You grew up surrounded by martial arts. Your family is a sort of ‘martial arts royals’. What was that like, and did you ever consider doing anything else?
BC: That was and is the best thing I can think of and wouldn’t ask God for something else! Never considered doing another thing, that’s how my family lives and that’s what I love to do!

JK: Outside of fighting and training, what are you up to?373796_10150394156766336_322591490_n
BC: I read a looooot about everything, love to read on nutrition, health… All vegan related book and athletes, also successful people’s biographies. From them we can always learn!

JK: You moved from Brazil to Sweden. Was that a bit of culture shock? Did it have anything to do with your veganism? How long have you been vegan and why have you chosen to be vegan?
BC: It was a big shock in all areas! I came here to teach and train, I wasn’t vegan at the time (unfortunately).  I started as a vegetarian and feeling the progress in my life and training, the vegan tradition came along and now it’s been 2 years.

JK: MMA is a hyper-masculine world. Caring about animals and being vegan isn’t necessarily seen as “masculine” by the mainstream. How do your family, friends, teammates and competitors respond to your veganism? Have you experienced any misunderstanding, bullying or ridicule because of it?
BC: Well, there’s always lots of jokes and questions, but the results and my performance show them the reality! I really don’t care when they joke, I just love to prove them wrong.

 

JK: You captured the Middleweight Championship of World Freefight Challenge. What does your training regimen look like as far as food and exercise in order to be a champion?
BC: I love to train very hard, and as much as I possibly can every single day. That’s one reason I became vegan, because it gives me the advantage to recover faster and train harder! I train every day of the week, even on Sundays I do a complementary sesh! Diet wise, I eat lots of fruits, salads, veggies, shakes…. You love to eat too!

JK: I do love to eat too, but I don’t work out as much as you do! What issues do you care about the most, and how do you address them?
BC: I care the most about health and performance… But of course I’m an animal lover and having watched many vegan videos and movies, I just can’t be contributing to violence against animals. We must respect all kinds of life!

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JK: Do you know any other vegan athletes? Do you guys ever talk and trade advice?
BC: Yes! My good friend Akira Corassanii in NY is a vegan fighter, and I always talk to other vegan and vegetarian athletes and check their FB pages for news.

JK: What is your signature move?
BC: I have good throws because of my judo background, and on the floor I always get omoplatas and triangles!

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JK: You’ve traveled a lot for work. What are you favorite places you’ve been, and where is the best vegan food int he world?
BC: I loved Thailand, and Middle Eastern countries are very attractive too! Best vegan food? Hmmm, always at home!

Game of Arms Trailer Released, features Vegan Rob Bigwood

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Vegan arm wrestler, Rob Bigwood  during training.

I was majorly pumped back in November to report that AMC’s new series, Game of Arms, will feature vegan giant and pro arm wrestler Rob Bigwood. The official series trailer was released today and features Mr. Bigwood, who is apparently about to go embarrass someone in front of his son. Ouch. Can’t wait to catch the premiere of Game of Arms on Tuesday February 25th at 10/9c!

What I Learned from the ‘No Meat Athlete’ Book Tour

by Matt Ruscigno, MPH, RD

Hey Discerning Brute readers! It has been a long time and boy have I been busy. Last month the No Meat Athlete book, by Matt Frazier from NoMeatAthlete.com came out and I’m very happy to be the co-author.  Matt created his site to write about his journey to qualifying for the prestigious Boston Marathon as a new vegetarian. He had no idea his ethical dietary choice would improve his running, and not only get him to Boston, but turn him vegan and into a 100-mile race finisher. That’s 100 miles. Running.
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The book is not about him though. It is more of a guidebook for anyone who wants to eat healthy, learn the facts about plant-based nutrition and be motivated to run or exercise more. It’s fun and informative with practical, science-based nutrition that I was fortunate to contribute. With so much inaccurate info out there about vegan diets and exercise, it feels great to hand people this book! Because when it comes down to it everyone could eat better and exercise more (Except for Ed Bauer. I think that dude has maxed out his exercise and fitness.)

Matt did an epic 6 week 40+ event book tour and I hoped on in for the Southern California, Arizona and Austin events. Each one was different- sometimes at a running store and sometimes at a restaurant- even a non-vegetarian one (“we just love what you are doing!”). The response though, stayed the same- “I am so excited to eat more plant-based foods.” We heard this multiple times at every stop. Sure, seasoned runners and seasoned vegans showed up but the majority was people who are new-ish to either plant-based eating or running and fitness- or both.

One question stands out that represents where we are going. A young woman asked during the Q&A, “We now have your book, and Scott Jurek’s and others, but what did you do before that?”

Now I’ve been vegan since the mid-90’s and athletic for the better part of that time so at first this question caught me off guard. Then later that night I realized what her question means. We’re reaching entirely new people. Duh. My NYC Discerning Brute vegan athlete talk in the Spring packed the Jivamukti Yoga School, but it was mostly vegans, athletic folks or vegan athletic folks. Great people, whom I love, but on this recent tour we did something even bigger: reached entirely new audiences.

It’s going beyond vegans and, finally, showing everyday fitness folks the benefits of eating more plant foods. And running is on the forefront of plant-based athletes. We have Scott Jurek, of course. And my friend Catra Corbett has been vegan almost two decades and is about to run her 100th 100-mile run. All I know is that 100 squared equals hella miles. Not to mention Mike Arnstein and Donovan Jenkins, two ultra-runners I featured on my Day in the Life of Vegan Athletes video series. And of course there’s the legendary British marathoner Fiona Oakes who just this week set a new women’s record for the Antarctic Ice Marathon and now holds the world record for total aggregate time of marathons on each continent plus the North Pole. I didn’t even know that was a thing and lo and behold a vegan has the record. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that your everyday runner is now interested in plant-based eating!

Originally vegan fitness was about doing athletic events to say, look we can do it too!  Now it’s: I want to be vegan for the performance advantages. And for many people the ethical and environmental reasons soon follow suit. What a beautiful thing that is happening and I am incredibly stoked to be a part of it. If you are already eating this way and being physically active you are ahead of the curve. If you’re not yet doing these things, the resources and momentum are there for you to begin right now.

 

Matt Ruscigno, Rip Esselstyn, and Matt Frazier at Whole Foods HQ after giving a presentation about the No Meat Athlete book and vegan sports nutrition.

Matt Ruscigno, Rip Esselstyn, and Matt Frazier at Whole Foods HQ after giving a presentation about the No Meat Athlete book and vegan sports nutrition.

 

Vehement: Vegan Boxing Gloves

Destroy Your Enemies, Not Your Planet. That is the slogan for Vehement boxing gloves, the world´s first vegan boxing gloves registered by The Vegan Society. The Wolfheart X1 is free of leather and any other animal products. The gloves sold-out immediately but will be restocked this summer. Vehement also plans to release pads, MMA gloves, and a pro boxing glove soon.

Like most of the recent developments in future-leathers and sustainable vegan textiles, these gloves outperform animal-leather by a long shot both in the ring and in the realm of sustainability. According to founder Jan:

“…leather is not a good material for martial arts equipment anyway. It is expensive, rough and unhygienic. It becomes brittle after a while and is not washable. It smells because it absorbs all your sweat. It is an old-fashioned material not suitable for full contact sports. You would have to replace your equipment every now and then anyway as the cushioning effect of the padding decreases over time, making the long-lasting effects of leather useless. Modern materials like PU are much more eco-friendly and reasonable. We don´t live in the stone-age anymore.”

 

Check out their cool brand video: