Protein and Performance

Everyone knows that meat is the manliest food. It’s full of protein, which we he-men need for our big muscles. On Father’s Day, we love to make fires and cook that meat like the cavemen did. And we get it – or used to, anyway – by hunting, which is of course the manliest activity there is.

Except for one small problem: it turns out that excessive consumption of animal products – including meat, dairy, and eggs – actually undermines our manliness in several ways.

I’ll spare you the sermon on heart disease, cancer, stroke, type II diabetes, and MS. I’ll leave the lecture on erectile dysfunction being the leading indicator of heart disease for another day. Let’s look on the bright side, and talk about high performance.

The Protein Myth

If you’ve bought into the myth that you need lots of protein to have a strong, fit body, and that animal protein is somehow “higher quality” than plant protein, then we need to talk.

First of all, think about our closest animal relatives, gorillas and chimps. Strong? Check. Muscular? Check. Meat-eaters? Not so much.

Second, there’s tons of scientific research on the ill effects of an animal foods-based diet. That paleo stuff you’ve been seeing all over? Pretty much “Bro Science” fantasy.

Third, let’s look at some counter-examples to the “plant eaters are scrawny and wimpy” stereotype.

Jack LaLanne ate an almost entirely plant-based diet in his later years, and was still working out two hours a day up to the week before he died at the age of 96.

Scott Jurek, one of the world’s dominant ultra-marathon runners, hasn’t consumed animal products since 1999. He credits his clean diet for his performance, and for the remarkably short recovery periods he requires between races.

Gary Player, the South African golf champion, went plant-based 23 years ago, and at the age of 80, is a poster child for fitness at any age. His daily workout begins – begins! – with 1000 sit-ups and push-ups.

I could go on and on. But I’d like to end with the story of a regular guy who went plant-based, with remarkable results.

Rich Roll’s Amazing Plant-based Journey

Rich RollRich Roll was a “desperately unhealthy” 39-year-old lawyer who was 50 pounds overweight in 2006. His gift to himself on his 40th birthday was a new diet – 100% plant-based – so that he might “lose a little weight around the middle” and perhaps interact a little more energetically with his children.

Aside from that, Roll didn’t anticipate that the change to a plant-based diet would do anything other than make him feel “hungry all the time.”

Turns out, the dietary shift changed everything. Roll recalls, “My vitality returned and the weight came off. With energy levels suddenly through the roof, I found myself electrified, returning to fitness with vigor – something I hadn't done in decades.”

How much vigor? Just two years later, Roll found himself performing at a high level in ultra-endurance events, “something that previously seemed unimaginable.”

In fact, in 2009, the 42-year-old Roll was named one of Men’s Fitness magazine’s “25 Fittest Men in the World.” He was only the second “Regular Joe” – i.e. non-professional athlete – ever to make the list.

“Without a doubt, I attribute all of what I have accomplished — not just as an athlete but as a husband, father and human being – to adopting a whole food plant-based diet, proving that our bodies are is far more resilient than you can imagine.”

Read about Rich's transformation in his bestselling book Finding Ultra.

Isn’t that the best news you’ve heard in a long time? No matter how you may have treated your body in the past, shifting to a plant-based diet – which means eating mostly plants in as close to their natural state as possible – can slow the aging process and actually bring us back to the vigor, stamina, and performance levels we thought we’d said goodbye to forever.

And if you get started now, we may never have to have those talks about heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and erectile dysfunction. Just sayin…

The Best Father’s Day Gift Ever

What’s the perfect Father’s Day gift? New golf clubs? A shiny red sports car? A monogrammed barbecue apron?

What a silly question, right? All men are different. Different interests, different tastes. And gift givers have different budgets. There’s no way to identify the PERFECT gift for every dad.

Actually, I think there is. You see, there’s one thing that every dad needs in order to enjoy the golf clubs, the car, the apron, and anything else you might give him.

He needs his health.

And the good news is, health doesn’t come in a bottle of pills, or at the end of a surgeon’s knife, or in the molecular manipulation of his genes.

Nope, health comes mostly from the food he puts in his body day in and day out.

And the way of eating shown in study after study to be the healthiest? Hands down, the whole food, plant-based diet (WFPB). As in, eat mostly plants, in as close to their natural state as possible.

How healthy is the WFPB? Let’s imagine that all its effects could be achieved through a drug called Eunutria. The drug company unveiling Eunutria could tout the following scientifically proven facts. Eunutria:

  • Prevents 95 percent of all cancers, including those “caused” by environmental toxins
  • Prevents nearly all heart attacks and strokes
  • Reverses even severe heart disease
  • Prevents and reverses Type 2 diabetes so quickly and profoundly that, after three days on this drug, it’s dangerous for users to continue to use insulin

What about side effects? All drugs have side effects, right? Yeah, you got me there. Eunutria does come with side effects. Here’s the fine print. Eunutria:

  • Gets you to your ideal weight in a healthy and sustainable fashion
  • Eliminates most migraines, acne, colds and flu, chronic pain, and intestinal distress
  • Improves vision and hearing
  • Cures erectile dysfunction

OK, maybe you’re shaking your head in disbelief.

  • As in, “Why the F haven’t I heard this before?”
  • As in, “Why hasn’t my doctor told me about this?”
  • As in, “Why is the US government subsidizing meat and diary and promoting their consumption as part of a healthy diet?”

The answers to these excellent questions are beyond the scope of this article. But you can read all about the system that allows the few to profit at the expense of our health in WHOLE: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, the book I wrote with T. Colin Campbell, PhD, coauthor of The China Study.

Dr Campbell and I hear stories all the time from people who adopted WFPB and lost weight, regained their energy, got off their meds, and reversed heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and erectile dysfunction, among many other conditions caused by the Standard American Diet.

Bottom line is, if you want dad to live long and strong enough enjoy all the other gifts in his life (and yes, that includes you!), give him the gift of the Truth. Nothing says “I Love You” like telling dad that you want him in your life for years and years to come.

Stop Worrying about Nutrients

This post is adapted from WHOLE: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, by T. Colin Campbell (and me).

Want some good news? If you eat a varied plant-based diet, you don’t have to worry about individual nutrients. In fact, there’s absolutely no way to know how much of any particular nutrient we’re actually getting. Here are three reasons why:

  1. Body wisdom

Are you sitting down? Because we need to explain something that almost no one acknowledges about nutrition: there is almost no direct relationship between the amount of a nutrient consumed at a meal and the amount that actually reaches its main site of action in the body—what is called its bioavailability.

If, for example, you consume 100 milligrams of vitamin C at one meal, and 500 milligrams at a second meal, this does not mean that the second meal leads to five times as much vitamin C reaching the tissue where it works.

  1. Food variability

The nutrient content of the foods we eat themselves varies far more than most of us realize. For example, beta-carotene content in different samples of the same food is known to vary three- to 19-fold, although it may be up to 40-fold or more, as was reported for peaches.

That’s right—you could hold a peach in each hand, and the one in your right hand could easily contain 40 times more beta-carotene than the one in your left, depending on things like season, soil, storage, processing, and even the original location of the fruit on the tree.

And beta-carotene is far from the only example. The “relatively stable” calcium content of four kinds of cooked mature beans (black, kidney, navy, pinto) ranges 2.7-fold—from 46 to 126 mg—per cup.

And we could go on and on…

  1. Nutrient interactions

But wait—there’s more uncertainty! You may be surprised to learn that the three nutrients mentioned above can modify one another’s activities. Calcium decreases iron bioavailability by as much as 400 percent, while carotenoids (like beta-carotene) increase iron absorption by as much as 300 percent.

Theoretically, in comparing a high-calcium, low-carotenoid diet with a low-calcium, high-carotenoid diet, we might see an 800–1,200 percent difference in iron absorption. But even if this theoretical variation were only 100–200 percent, this is still huge; for some nutrients, tissue concentrations varying by more than 10–20 percent can mean serious bad news.

Which brings us back to body wisdom. Our bodies have evolved to eat whole foods, and can therefore deal with the combinations and interactions of nutrients contained in those foods.

The bottom line? Eat lots of plant foods, stop worrying, and let your body take care of the details.

Do You Need Willpower to Change Your Diet?

Choosing between apple and doughnutWhen people who have grown accustomed to the Standard American Diet (SAD) first hear about the whole foods, plant-based (WFPB) diet, their first reaction is often something like, “Well, it sounds healthy, but I could never eat that way.”

Once they get the “wakeup call,” whether in the form of a frightening lab test, a premonitory symptom, a diagnosis, or a full-blown event such as a heart attack or stroke, they may be motivated to change, but still fear that they lack the willpower to sustain such an austere and tasteless regimen.

So let’s talk about willpower. What it is. What it can and can’t do. And how to use it wisely.  Continue reading

Is Your Doctor’s Medical Degree Better Than Your Google Search?


I saw this funny mug on my Facebook feed this morning, and it got me thinking:

Is this sage and sober advice, or an attempt by a paternalistic institution to intimidate its customers into compliance?

Answer: both.

Obviously, you can find some pretty crazy stuff on Google. But then, you can also hear some pretty crazy stuff come out of the mouths of doctors.

So maybe the question shouldn’t be an either-or, but rather an exploration of how you decide what to believe.  Continue reading