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Sunday
Nov132011

Fitness Spotlight: Lyndsay Braswell

I've spent time writing about a variety of nutrition philosophies (Paleo, Intermittent Fasting, Vegan, etc).  This next section is a more in-depth look at one of the more interesting people I've come across in the fitness world.

Lyndsay Braswell  (@FitRawChic) is a fellow fitness enthusiast, but her diet is completely vegan.  She is a walking example that disproves two long-standing stigmas: 

(1) Vegans can't be athletic or have muscle tone

(2) A vegan diet has to be boring and bland

She also serves as another example that if you want to badly enough, people with regular jobs can still find time to fit their workouts into the schedule.

Lyndsay's personal site, LilGreenDress.com is diverse in fitness guidance, as well as recipes, video How-To's and other culinary ideas.  We took a break from commiserating about our respective NFL teams' (Redskins & Panthers) terrible 2011 seasons to dive into a few questions about her background, current projects, and future plans:

How did you become a vegan?

 Several times in my life people have tried to convince me to go vegan, but I like many other people thought that meant a diet of twigs and berries. It also meant giving up the bodybuilder staples, chicken and eggs.  

Wanting to take my nutrition to the next level because I still had issues with certain aspects of my health, I took a food intolerance test and come to find out I am highly intolerant to eggs!  Dairy was also found to be an enemy as well as certain kinds of seafood. 
I began reading up on the vegan diet, and one thing led to another. I've been meat-free for almost 2 yrs now and I feel and look better than I ever have! Hands down, one of the best decisions I've ever made!



What is your athletic background?

 

My introduction to lifting weights was in 8th grade when I was chosen to be in the Bigger, Faster, Stronger program.  This was a club that prepared middle schoolers for high school sports by lifting weights before school.  Not missing one workout I had my first real taste of what it felt like to throw some real weight around.  Not to mention the feeling of accomplishment as I improved in all areas of performance.
In High School I played Varsity Field Hockey and Lacrosse and in order to be better my dad felt I needed to pump some iron. I was given my first gym membership at 15 and I haven’t stopped since!



What are you up to now? (contests, competitions, recent or upcoming events, etc)

Due to my workload I decided to take the rest of the year off from competing. I plan to compete next Spring in Fitness America and/or the WBFF. I did just complete a half marathon on a whim, and want to set doing a marathon as one of my goals for 2012 if time permits.

What's a typical day's schedule for you (ex: from wake up including workouts/cardio, normal job, etc to bed)

My work dictates my workouts and my customers dictate my work! I try to workout before work and a normal day for me in the office is 8am-4:30pm.  If I’m traveling my workday could be longer and whereas it’s easier for me to hit the gym after an office day, when I’m traveling it is harder.  In a perfect world I’d be working out at 9:30am after a good nights sleep.  A 6am workout after a restless sleep is not exactly my ideal workout time, but you gotta do what you gotta do!

What is your diet like in a typical day? (normal circumstances vs contest prep)

Again my diet changes, it’s actually changed more so as a vegan than when I was a non vegan. Before my diet was standard and typical. I did the egg whites and oatmeal for breakfast, fish or chicken, sweet potato or brown rice, veggies for lunch and dinner,protein shakes in between. Thank goodness those days are over!

Now I might start my day off with a green smoothie or a quinoa dish (quinoa is a complete protein source), lunch I still might have a sweet potato and/or a salad with beans, and for dinner I might have a big salad and lentil or bean dish, with a glass or two of wine.  I snack on nuts, fruits, dark chocolate, and in a pinch, vegan protein shakes.
I’ve learned to eat light during the day because I spend sometimes almost 8 hours behind the desk.  I find if I eat heavier it makes me sleepy and my creative juices come to a halt! 

All in all, I try to eat a lot of antioxidant rich fruits and veggies, and my staples are black beans, chickpeas, quinoa, and spirulina. During contest prep I eat the same foods, just less and I don't like to cheat except for maybe a glass of wine here or there. :)

How do you manage to watch your carb intake being a vegan (versus a typical "all meat & veggies" fitness diet)?

 

I eat more carbs than the carnivore dieters.  It’s hard to get all the protein I want without added carbs.  I’ve tried to swig down just vegan shakes all day, but it was hard on my stomach and I didn’t feel good.  Tofu is another low carb source of protein and not that I’m against soy, just not for every meal. I am still working on finding the vegan competitor diet that suits me best. It’s always a work in progress.

Are you a fan of "empty stomach morning cardio" or not?

 I do believe in empty stomach cardio, especially since I have to workout so early. There is NO way I’m waking up extra early just to eat!  It’s also not like I’m running a marathon at dark thirty in the morning.  I mean we are talking no more than 45 min.  I’ve been fine with averaging up to an hour sometimes and did not feel as if it ate up my muscle.

What's the one "cheat" food you can't live without?

Cheat food: dark chocolate and Grey Goose. I love sweets!

What's your favorite exercise/activity? What's your least favorite?

Favorite exercise, squats! They are a great all around exercise! Least favorite, squats! They are problematic. People tend to do too much weight with poor form, which will as you know, kill their joints and give them serious knee and back problems.


If you could send one message to women out there (about taking control of their fitness/health...being afraid of lifting weights...anything) what would it be?

 

Women tend to want to take care of others in sacrifice of their health. I want them to know lifting weights is not a vain activity and even if they only have 30min (although 1 hour is ideal) to workout do so, because eventually 30min will turn to 1 hr anyway!  The better they take care of themselves, the better they’ll take care of others. Plus they will feel amazing, and confidence breeds success!



If you could send one message to people in-general about the typical American diet, what would it be?

Vegan is not a boring diet by any means, and you can still build muscle not eating animals. However, I understand unless you are passionate about one of the 3: health, animals, environment, it could be difficult to give up the animal kingdom. Although I believe the healthiest way to eat is a whole foods, plant based diet, I don't judge or force my lifestyle on anyone. Instead I encourage everyone to eat less meat and incorporate more fruits and veggies. Fruits and veggies are full of nutrients and our body needs them to prevent disease and to stay looking good! 

 

Whether you're a vegan, or still fit animal products into your diet - Lyndsay is still a great example from whom we can all learn.  We agree on many of the same fitness principals, particularly that women should never be afraid of the weights, and that both men and women should prioritize how you take care of your body (and what kinds of fuel goes into it) every day.

Wednesday
May182011

Former NFL Player Discovers Vegan Diet

              Friends and co-workers pick at me often because I’m constantly making tweaks and subtle changes to my diet.  This is in large part due to the fact I am always learning something new that can further optimize both my workouts and my overall physical health. 

                One of my oldest friends, Alvin Pearman has a similar mentality.  Alvin and I went to the same high school and spent countless summers as workout partners while I was in college and he was preparing for his final high school seasons.  I graduated three years prior to Alvin, then he went on to break nearly every touchdown and rushing record at our high school.  He finished his career as the all-time leader in rushing yardage for Mecklenburg County in North Carolina.  He earned a scholarship to the University of Virginia and finished a brilliant career as the school’s all-time leader in pass receptions by a running back, as well as posting 1,938 all-purpose yards in his senior season, the fourth highest total in ACC history.

                In 2005, Alvin was selected in 4th round of the NFL Draft, #127 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars.  He spent five seasons in the NFL with the Jaguars, Titans, and Seahawks (where he would meet his future wife during time off due to a knee injury).

                Beginning the latest chapter in his life, Alvin has become more serious in educating himself about his diet and nutrition.  While neither of us enjoys being categorized or labled, his latest pursuit has taken him down the path of a Vegan diet. 

                Since I have been down this path myself (and am headed there once again as of this writing), I asked him to share part of his story and some of the things he has learned so far:

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(1) Compared to now, what was your diet like as a high school and college player at Virginia?

In high school, my diet consisted primarily of meats and starches. In college, the cheapest food definitely outweighed the healthiest food- especially when I started living off campus. Chicken Parmesan was my staple meal of choice. 

 

(2) When did you decide to switch to a more vegan/vegetarian approach?  What was your motivation?

For the last few years, I have become increasingly aware of the environmental and physiological benefits of a whole grain, plant-based diet however I was reluctant to make the switch due to the physical demands of football. Specifically, I have always had a difficult time maintaining the weight that I felt I needed to keep. Once the season would start, I would find myself loosing the weight I packed on during the offseason. I was afraid that if I stopped eating meat, I wouldn’t be able to maintain the weight I needed to for football. I finally made the switch to a whole grain, plant based diet when I hung up my cleats and transitioned away from the game in September of 2010.

 

(3) Were there any books that were key resources in educating yourself?

Three books that drastically influenced my diet are "The China Study", by Thomas M. Campbell and T Colin Campbell; "The Food Revolution", by John Robbins; and "7 Pillars of Health", by Don Colbert.

 

 

(4) What sort of physical changes have you noticed since the change?

The first thing that I noticed was my core body temperature decreased. When I was single, I would keep my house at 67 degrees. Once I got married, my wife and I compromised at 70 degrees. Once I made the diet switch, I soon felt more comfortable around 75 degrees, which made my wife happy. This may sound weird but I actually feel more in tune with my body. I seem to be more sensitive to what my body needs. I have also dropped about 15 pounds to a weight I feel more natural with.

 

(5) What does your meal plan menu look like on a typical day?

Sample day:

Early morning: Whole grain oatmeal with strawberries, bananas, and soy milk.

Mid-morning: cashews, carrots

Early afternoon: spinach salad with apples, cranberries, pecans,

Late afternoon: whole grain toast with hummus, pear

Early evening: quinoa with sweet potatoes and avocados

*3-4 quarts of purified water daily.

 

 

 

 

(6) Are you still able to stay active and have productive workouts?

My workload has dropped drastically since transitioning away from football. Gone are the 5-day-a-week, 4-hour, grind-till-you-can't-think-straight workouts and in are the 3-day-a-week, 30-minute maintenance workouts. My goal is no longer to be as strong or as fast as a possibly can, rather it is to be as healthy as I can. My workouts are productive and I have high energy levels throughout the day.

 

(7) How has your wife reacted to the change?

She's been supportive. Meals are always interesting since she cooks most often and still eats meat. She will normally prepare a meal and make some meat for herself on the side. Yesterday I had vegetarian chili with brown rice and she cooked ground lamb meat to put in her chili. Besides the tree hugger jokes she throws at me, we have a pretty good balance.

 

(8) Is this something you might teach to your son (just a few months old as of this writing) as he gets older and learns about nutrition and eating habits?

I will encourage my son to make informed decisions with what he eats.

 

(9) In your opinion - why are more college and NFL players hesitant to go this route?

I believe most college and NFL players are hesitant to go the vegetarian/vegan path due to fear and misinformation.

 

(10) What has been the most difficult part of your transition so far?

I am reluctant to label myself as a hard pressed "Vegetarian". As a dinner guest, I won't allow food to get in the way of fellowship. In other words, if I am presented with a meal, I will not turn away food that has been prepared for me- even if it includes meat.

A difficult part of my transition was moving away from the idea that a good meal is prepared quickly. We have found that we need to be more intentional with our prep time and cook time in order to make a flavorful, nutritious meal. I have grown to appreciate this time and dinners have become more of an evening experience with my wife.

 

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While some may feel that a vegetarian or vegan diet is not optimal for them, it’s always important to learn as much as you can about the human digestive system and what foods work best for your body.  Alvin comes from an athletic family (his father was our Track & Field coach, and his wife was a Track & Field athlete in college) so to some degree he will always be an athlete. 

                I am admittedly biased as his friend, however I think Alvin is a positive example of someone who continues to pursue not just optimal athleticism, but optimal health overall.  He has certainly inspired me to be more diligent about my nutritional pursuits as I learn more about what constitutes vegan nutrition.

                You can also learn more about Alvin Pearman’s latest venture in the world of photography.

 

Sunday
Nov282010

Book Review: Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness by Robert Cheeke

As someone who has tried or experimented with almost every nutritional "philosophy" out there, I was instantly intrigued by Robert Cheeke and his story.

Robert Cheeke is possibly the most successful all-vegan bodybuilder in the industry.  I stumbled across him when researching for a previous article and found his approach to nutrition confusing (at first).

What was confusing, is that most bodybuilding teachings are based upon animal protein staples like steak, chicken, and eggs.  The standard stereotype for a vegan would be someone thin and weak in appearance, and hardly capable of the strenuous physical activity that bodybuilding requires.  I had read about quite a few vegan long distance runners and triathletes like Brendan Brazier,but had yet to learn of a vegan able to handle his business in the weight room. By one look at his photos, Robert Cheeke is a living contradiction of those stereotypes.

Thankfully, in-addition to his website and numerous interviews online, Robert authored a book outlining his life's path that has brought him to where he is today.  He takes the reader on a walk through his childhood growing up in a rural Corvallis, Oregon (home of the Oregon State Beavers) and his exposure to animals.  Robert does a nice job of explaining why he value animals as passionately as he does.

No bodybuilding book would be complete without the requisite chapters on structuring your workouts and a glimpse into how to train, and Robert's book certainly fills the requirement there.

To me, what is truly worth reading is the detail with which Robert outlines his nutrition and just how he fuels himself every day.  Robert does a great job of proactively answering the standard question posed to vegan athletes "Where do you get your protein???"  Robert provides several charts and outlines of protein content in his dietary staples like beans, tempeh, quinoa, tofu, seeds, and of course leafy green vegetables.

What is important about this book, is that it is not a "vegan book", full of propaganda and preachy chapters.  It is a bodybuilding/workout book written by an author who happens to be vegan.  If you are a hardcore vegan, or even if you are the sort of person who cannot live without a juicy steak or chicken breast everyday (I'm somewhere in the middle of the continuum) - I would definitely recommend Robert's book.

I believe that regardless of your eating habits or nutritional beliefs, it's important to continue to educate yourself on alternative philosophies, if for no other reason than to strengthen what you already know.  I would highly recommend Robert Cheeke's book, which is well-written and thorough, yet even-handed at the same time.  You can find the book for purchase through Amazon.com as well as here.

 Robert also maintains a heavy social media presence and is active on Twitter, and seems more than happy to help share what he has learned with those eager to learn.

Thursday
Jan142010

Fitness Spotlight: "Raw Model" Anthony Anderson

Anthony Anderson is a model who is very out-spoken about his love for natural foods and "green" living.  He was one of the first sources I began to learn from about the benefits of getting a couple pounds of fresh green leafy vegetables into my system every day if possible.

When I experimented with a vegetarian plant-based diet last year, Anthony Anderson was one of my main sources for information on alternate sources of protein.  Here is his take on non-meat, plant-based protein sources:

"Where do you get your protein???" The question is on cue almost every time. Its like they are trained to say it, and in reality, they are. 

So where do I get it? Brazil Nuts, Hempseeds, Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas), Almonds, Bee Pollen, Spirulina and Blue-Green Algae, Maca Root, and of course, the leafy greens. (Kale, Spinach, Chard, Collard Greens, Wheatgrass and Sunflower Sprouts.) About 45% of calories in spinach come from protein. Thats huge. Especially if you are eating over a pound of leafy greens a day, which really is a good idea anyways. Most of my protein and fat is consumed in my daily smoothie, which I like to have for lunch. This makes is easily absorbed into the body, and allows me more time to do the more important things in life instead of preparing a salad for 30 min."

He also impliments some of the benefits of the famous "Lemon Cleanse" (fresh lemon juice, cayenne pepper) each day without going overboard and pushing to the borders of metabolism slowdown.

You can follow his blog at www.rawmodel.com