Monday, November 09, 2009

Why a Raw Vegan Diet?

I’ve received many email and comments relating to eating a raw diet. Why? What do you eat? How do you prepare? How much money does it cost? and unfortunately, what about the protein? That’s the most unfortunate comment of all; it shows that so many buy into the great protein myth. After reading and researching so very much, it turns out we really only need approximately 20-25 grams of protein each day. I hit at least that many grams each day eating only fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. I am usually in the 40-45 gram range.

For the past few years I had been eating a diet high in animal protein. I believed that I needed in excess of 100 grams of protein each day to create a lean muscular build. I hadn’t researched plant based diets at this point.

During April and May of this past year I received mailed letters from Costco stating that the beef I had purchased during these two months had been contaminated with ecoli.

In June I received a phone call from the processor of the grass fed steer I had purchased stating that my beef had been processed in a facility where ecoli had been detected.

In July I watched the movie FOOD, INC. The movie struck a chord deep within me. I began to read all that I could about a plant based diet. The books by Michael Pollan: In Defense of Food, Omnivores Dilemma and The Botany of Desire fueled my curiosity. I researched the topic thoroughly.

One day in June, I recall it vividly, I decided that for this day I wasn’t going to eat any animal products. No chicken, no beef and no eggs. No eggs! I was eating egg whites every single morning. Even though I really didn’t like them, I felt that I ‘should’ eat them. I felt that I needed to begin my day with protein so that is what I was doing.

For this one day I began the day with oatmeal and a banana. For lunch I had a large salad with a variety of field greens, kale, onion, carrot, mushrooms and topped it off with garbanzo beans. I was well satisfied and it was a great tasting lunch. For dinner I was at a loss. No beef. No chicken breast? What would I eat? I had found that if I ate more than one processed carb meal during the day I could usually count on a weight gain. I was very leery of having the corn tortilla, bean and veggie wrap that I was preparing. I ate the burrito and it was very good. I snacked on fruits during the day. I was satisfied and I didn’t miss the animal products at all. I didn’t even miss the skim milk in my coffee!

I was eating a vegan diet and was really surprised at how good it felt. I wondered if my muscle would shrink away. I wondered if I would be able to lift weights as heavy as I had been. I wondered if I would gain weight from the carbohydrates.

No, I didn’t lose any muscle, I could lift just as heavy and the carbohydrates didn’t make me fat. Cutting back on the meat, thereby cutting back on the total calories and fat in my diet, created a weight loss, not a weight gain.

I happily went along eating a vegan diet for the next few weeks when I began to realize I felt best when eating mostly raw vegetables and fruits. I would realize at the end of the day, when I was full of energy, that I had consumed only raw items. A smoothie of spinach and banana for breakfast, a huge fruit plate for lunch and a big green salad of kale, onion, tomato and carrot for dinner with fruit for snacks in between was when I felt best. I began to eat this way more often and began to notice a few things.

I had a bit of a detox period. The initial detox period seemed to last about two weeks. My symptoms included bad breath, chills, headaches, some daytime drowsiness, and dry skin. My teeth felt like they were growing carpet upon them. I began to carry my toothbrush with me to work. I seemed to be shedding my skin. Even dry brushes didn’t help during this two week detox period. At about day 10 I began feeling consistently good on this diet.

After the first 10 days I began to notice other changes.

Mental clarity. When eating raw foods I found that it felt as though a cloud had lifted. I didn’t realize the full feeling of clarity I felt mentally until I went back to cooked foods, then I noticed it immediately. As soon as I went back to eating non cooked items, the clarity returned.

Digestion. By eating raw foods my digestion process was very quick. I didn’t have any stomach upset, or problems running with a stomach that wouldn’t empty.

Energy. I couldn’t believe the energy I felt. I wasn’t tired. I needed less sleep. I began to wake at 430 on weekends because I wanted to and my body was ready to wake up for the day. Amazing.

I find that sometimes the fruit is too sweet to me. I have to ‘tone’ it down with a cleansing stalk of celery or cucumber. A shake of bananas, romaine and celery is wonderful. For some reason blended or juiced pineapple with garlic is good. The garlic cuts the sweetness of the pineapple.

I have run 2 100 mile races while eating a high raw diet.At Leanhorse 100, in August, I consumed a few vegan items pre race. Microwaved sweet potato and oatmeal pre race and Hammergel during the race. The race was fabulous. Recovery was quick and swift.

By the time Javelina Jundred 100, last week, came around I had been eating a raw diet for 7 weeks. I consumed raw pre, during and post race. Again, the race went terrific and recovery was even better. I had no swelling, no aches or pains at all. I was, I am, amazed.

My endurance level hasn’t dropped at all while changing my eating habits, nor has my weight lifting. As a matter of fact I seem to expend less energy now while running. I can run faster without raising my heart rate as high as before. I can’t explain it.

I have been researching raw diets and raw diets for athletes , in particular. I’ve found a wealth of information and other ultramarathoners who are eating a raw diet. Who knew?

High fat or low Fat? I found that when I consumed raw sunflower seeds, cashews and whole avocados as well as olive oils, I felt like I had a barrel of oil in my stomach. Many of the raw recipes that I found were full of plant fats; over 60% of the recipe’s calories came from fat!

I found that there are two camps of raw foodists: high fat and low fat. There are some who believe you can eat all the nuts/seeds/oils/fat fruit and veggies necessary to raise your calories to the necessary level and there are those that believe one should consume a low fat raw vegan diet of approximately 80/10/10. I have to agree with the 80/10/10 camp. High fat is just not a healthy way to eat. Even high plant fat. Some raw diets consist of 70% of calories coming from fat as the veggies don’t provide many calories. If you don’t consume higher calories from fruits (bananas, mangoes) to reach your daily calorie requirement you will do so with fats instead. While researching low fat raw vegan diets by Dr. Douglas Graham, Roger Haeske and Frederick Patenaude I was happy to see that I could trust the way that I felt and the way that the higher fats were making me feel.

At this point I continue to eat a raw diet, however I can’t say that I won’t eat steamed yams or roasted brussel sprouts again. I love the flavor of those two items and when Ifeel the need, I will consume them. I don’t believe I’ll eat animal products again, ever. I just feel so good without them, I wouldn’t want to feel the way they make me feel again.

Cost. The average cost for my food is $53 a week. Yeah! I can't believe what a bargain it is. I shop at either Costco or Cub Foods. Most of the time I can find organic for every item I want to purchase. Costco has a great selection of items and I can buy bananas by the case.

There are a few questions that I’ve answered. I’m certainly not an experienced raw foodist. I am just eating as to what feels good, or great, to me.

I’m finding that juicing is something else that I enjoy very much. I may try a 7-10 day juice feasting trial soon after a bit more research...just out of curiosity.


Steve said...

Julie, while I disagree with the idea that a diet higher in fat calories is not healthy (provided they are good natural saturated fats), I'm glad to hear the raw vegan diet is working wonders for you. I know John Taylor has switched to this diet as well with great success. Whilst I don't feel this kind of diet is for me, I certainly don't knock it for it promotes eating highly nutritious REAL foods, unlike some of the other diets that feel processed grains and starches (pasta, bread, e.g.) are part of a balanced diet. The key to any diet is to eat what works for you and makes you feel the best. I wish you continued success with your diet and running. I'm so glad you've returned to ultramarathoning full force!

Anonymous said...

This hi-fat vs. low-fat raw thing intrigues me...

I'm 2 wks into
my raw journey
& am eating tons of fats (avo,oils,nut butters)but still experiencing drastic weight loss
(7 lbs my 1st week).

I wonder if the low fat thing feels right after you've transitioned to raw & lost weight, etc.?

Any thoughts?


Raw Aussie Athlete said...

Awesome report Julie.
In recent years I've been running ultras on a low fat raw vegan diet and have experienced all of the benefits you mentioned.
I love it! :)

In fitness and in health,

Danni said...

I think it's awesome that this is working so well for you. I think it's a great way to live if you can make it work.

Anonymous said...

You go, Julie.

I've been raw going on 6 years now. When I first embarked on my raw journey, everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, thought I'd shrivel up and die or at the very least, get sick and end up hospitalized.

Ha! Now, they aren't laughing anymore. They see the results of the live food vs. cooked food.

Every year I get a physical and every year my physician is amazed. I'm not. I know it's the LIVE food that is helping my body maintain its vitality. Recent routine bloodwork showed everything in the normal range. I take NO medications and even though I am not running anymore I still stay active (cardio, weights, and LOTS and LOTS of Bikram yoga)and can keep up with those half my age.

I feel the best I have (I'm 55 years old) and haven't had a cold, flu, allergies or sore throat in 6 years.

You are going to have the same tale to tell. You'll be the person at work not using up any sick days! Ever!

I hear you on the energy, the clarity, and all the other benefits. When the body doesn't have to digest dead flesh (sorry for the blunt comment, but it's true) that energy normally used to digest rotting flesh in the colon can be used for other vital functions. Like the brain, heart, lungs and other organs.

When people say to me, "I could NEVER eat just raw food" my response is, "What's the matter? Too easy for you?" :-)

I mean, think of the banana. The original '100 Calorie' pack! Pretty easy, right?

Re: juicing. I juice every morning and use lots and lots of kale. Have you tried it? Kale is my #1 source of calcium. I also put 4 T of E3Live (blue-green algae, EFA) in my juice. Julie, if you think you have energy NOW, just wait until you take E3Live for a week or so! You might already be taking it, as it's very popular in the raw food community.

Excellent work and the best of health to you!

Gayle, in Chicagoland

Anonymous said...

Steve Pavlina has several raw, juice and other nutrition experiments on his website. Please keep telling us what you eat, spend, etc. Also, how do you get around the social side of this? Really interested and not brave enough yet to do this myself.

General Tom said...

I love to be Vegan. Thank for informs

Marsha said...

Ooh, how was the Javelina Jundred? I'm especially interested because they do a shorter event at the same location.

AMK said...

Don't let constipation harm your colon health, toxic build up will cause damage to our body. To regulate bowel movement, taking herbal colon cleansing treatment will eliminate the discomfort.

Green Fuel Coach said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Green Fuel Coach said...


Great work out there! Keep it up. I'm going to race ultras this year on my low fat, 75% raw whole foods, plant-based diet.

The Green Fuel Coach

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Green Fuel Coach said...

Go Julie! That's awesome! I eat 80% raw and 100% organic, whole, plant-based foods (mostly fruit) and yes, low fat. I feel great. I have been running ultras for ten years and am only now racing them because I can run faster and recover faster/have more energy. I beat my time from nine years ago at the Hagg Lake 25k by over 21 minutes!

What resources can you recommend for connecting with people doing this-people, blogs, books, etc. Thanks!

Rock on!

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