In an interview with PETA, Bryan explains why he made the switch to veganism:
“With WWE, just being on the road all the time, your immune system just gets worn down. In 2009, I ended up getting three different staph infections and two different other skin infections. I went to the doctor … He gave me a couple options of what we could do but one of things he said that helps out his patients a lot is trying to go vegan. I said I’m open for anything at this point … So, anyway I started going vegan then, and this whole year my energy levels have been great, I haven’t gotten any skin infections. Right now I’m 198 lbs which is the heaviest I’ve weighed since 2003 … I’m stronger right now than I’ve ever been … I’m dead-lifting more than I ever have before.”
Watch Bryan promote a vegan diet in this PETA ad:
[If you get these posts via email, you’ll need to click over to the Powered By Produce site to watch the video.]
If you asked me who I thought would be least likely to be vegan, the guys from Jackass (Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, and Bam) definitely could have topped my list. So I was very (pleasantly) surprised when I saw Vanity Fair’s interview (from October) with the guys about their latest movie, Jackass 3D, and found out that Steve-O is a vegan!
From the Vanity Fair interview:
Steve-O: I was a professional before Jackass ever started. I graduated from Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Clown College.
They must be very proud.
Steve-O: Not at all. (Laughs.) I’m a proud vegan, whistle-blower, and animal rights activist. I know that makes me sound like a hypocrite, because in Jackass 3D I get into a pen with a ram that charges into my nuts. I was really conflicted about that.
About which part? The nuts charging or…?
Steve-O: I remember when the movie started, I said, “I don’t want to work with animals. That’s not what I’m about.” But then I did the ram scene anyway, and I justified it in my head, like, “O.K., this is for work. I’ve got to put my own personal beliefs aside.” So I got into the pen and my instincts took over. The ram charged towards my nuts, and I put my hand down to block it. That happened a bunch of times, and as a result the tendons in my right hand are totally messed up. This was back in February, and we’re now in October and it’s still not healed. I feel like it’s a permanent reminder that I compromised my beliefs.
I wouldn’t feel bad. The ram has PETA on its side. There isn’t an advocacy group for your nuts.
Steve-O: Yeah, right, exactly. PETA is not pulling for my balls at all.
I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Bam: Is that true? I had no idea.
It’s true. Is it just a coincidence that you released your movie this month?
Steve-O: Let me tell you how I feel about these pink ribbons. I was watching the N.F.L. last week, and all the players were wearing pink. I don’t think they did anything to educate people about cancer prevention. I don’t think a pink ribbon does anything. What people need to know is that it’s the atrocious diet of Americans that’s responsible for all your cancer, all your heart disease, all your diabetes.
What about the cancer risks of putting fireworks in your rectum?
Steve-O: (Laughs.) Oh my god! I don’t even want to think about it. I’ll tell you, man, my personal lifestyle for the longest time—it’s like I was striving to get cancer. I really was, man. I quit smoking cigarettes over two years ago, but I smoked for 18 years before that. I once laid down on the conveyor belt of the X-ray machine at the airport security checkpoint, which is really bad. That was like some Chernobyl shit.
This weekend on January 9th (which also happens to be my birthday) I’m running the Walt Disney World Marathon in Orlando (the 26.2 mile course goes through all four Disney parks: Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios). This will be my fourth marathon, second as a vegetarian.
People are often surprised to learn that a vegetarian can also be a marathoner (“Where do you get your protein?!“). But it is preposterous to think that you must eat meat to be an athlete! In fact, many of the very best runners are vegetarian or vegan.
For reference: Marathon = 26.2 miles Ultramarathon = anything above 26.2 miles, usually 50-100 miles Ironman = 112 mile bike ride, 2.4 mile swim, 26.2 mile run – considered one of the most strenuous physical feats in the world
Six Amazing Meatless Runners
One of the greatest ultramarathoners of all time, Scott Jurek fuels his body on a vegan diet while competing in 8-10 ultramarathons a year, in addition to his rigorous training schedule. Not only does Jurek hold the American record of running 165 miles in 24 hours, but he also has seven consecutive wins of the Western States 100 mile race, three consecutive wins of the Spartathalon 152 mile race, he’s won the Badwater 146 mile run twice, won the Miwok 100K (~62 miles) three times (and placed second three times), won the Leona Divide 50 mile race four times, won the Diez Vista 50K (~31 miles) twice, and has two consecutive wins of the Montrail Ultra Cup series (a series of 12 ultramarathons).
In other words, he’s a badass.
But Jurek is not just famous for his medals… After winning a hundred-mile race, no doubt desperate for a shower and bed, Jurek will stand vigil by the finish line, cheering hoarsely, until that last, persistent runner is done.
(By the way, Jurek is featured in the extremely interesting and inspiring book, Born to Run. Every runner must read this book and I have no doubt that non-runners will find this story fascinating and inspiring as well! Also read this article about Jurek’s vegan running from espn.com.)
Dave Scott holds the record for most Iron Man World Championship victories ever (along with his rival Mark Allen, who has an an equal number of wins). Scott won six of them, all while vegetarian. He even came out of retirement at 40 to compete again, and took second place. Today, at age 55, he still participates. Scott is known in the triathlon community simply as “The Man.”
Ruth Heidrich, Ph.D. is a a six-time Ironman triathlon finisher, holder of more than 900 first-place medals from every distance from 100 meter dashes to 5K road races to ultra marathons and triathlons. She has completed more than 60 marathons all over the world and has held 3 world fitness records in her age group. She was named one of the “Top Ten Fittest Women in North America” in 1999. And at over 70 years old, Heidrich is still running races.
This running goddess beat breast cancer by embracing a vegan diet 28 years ago and she has been spreading the “vegan gospel” ever since.
Running legend Bart Yasso is probably most famous for inventing the “Yasso 800s“, a marathon-training technique used by thousands around the world. He is one of the few people to have completed races on all seven continents from the Antarctica marathon to the Mt. Kilimanjaro marathon. In 1987, Yasso won the U.S. National Biathlon Long Course Championship (10K run, 60K bike ride, 10K run) and in 1998, he won the Smoky Mountain Marathon. He has completed the Ironman five times and the Badwater 146 through Death Valley. He has also cycled, unsupported and by himself, across the country twice. And all on a vegetarian diet.
Brendan Brazier is a professional Ironman triathlete and vegan. He’s a two-time Canadian 50K Ultra Marathon Champion, placed 2nd and 3rd (consecutive years) in the Royal Victoria Marathon, and placed 3rd at the National Long Course Triathlon Championships. Brazier wrote the book Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life and even created a vegan line of sports nutrition, called VEGA.
Not a distance runner, but a world famous track star, Carl Lewis wasn’t always a vegetarian. But he eventually went even further: he adopted a vegan diet to prepare for the World Championships in 1991, where he says he ran the best meet of his life. And he wasn’t the only one who held that opinion – after seeing the results of his race, Track & Field magazine remarked, “It had become hard to argue that he is not the greatest athlete ever to set foot on track or field.” He won ABC’s Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year in 1991 as a result. Carl Lewis earned a total of 10 Olympic medals over his career, nine of them gold.
Breakfast: Smootie with banana, pear, chocolate protein powder, and almond milk
In the blender (pre-blending)
Lunch: Back eyed peas (from New Year’s) with chopped tomato, over rice
After all the buzz about Clinton’s vegan diet, Wolf Blitzer invited two of the doctors Clinton mentioned to describe this “miracle diet” in more detail.
(They’re totally stealing my thunder on my upcoming post about heart disease, but I have a feeling you’ll trust them more than you’ll trust me, so I’m cool with that.)
Watch the clip below – [The first 2 minutes is a recap of the original Clinton interview, so you may want to fast forward to 2:00.]
Transcript for those who can’t view the video [The first 2 minutes are a recap of the original Clinton interview, so starting at 2:00]:
*I bolded a few things and even put Dr. Ornish’s last thoughts in red because I thought they were so spot-on!
Blitzer: With the doctors behind the diet that helped Mr. Clinton change his life, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn is the author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, and Dr.Dean Ornish is the author of The Spectrum. Let me go to Dr. Esselstyn first. He mentioned both of you for inspiring him to begin this diet. Walk us through this diet, Dr. Esselstyn. Why is this diet so good, especially for those individuals who have a history of heart disease.
Esselstyn: Well thank you, Wolf, for having me on this evening with my good friend Dean Ornish. There’s no question that if the truth were known that coronary artery disease is a toothless paper tiger that need never exist. And if it does exist, it need never, ever progress.
What we’ve heard from President Clinton is the remarkable change that he’s been willing to make, to remove completely from his nutrition, those foods that which we know will devastate and injure the inner lining of your arteries.
And the remarkable thing is the capacity the body has to heal itself. And when you do what President Clinton has done, when you completely try to remove any foods that are going to injure your vessel, the body has this remarkable capacity to begin to heal itself.
And I’m afraid that as a medical profession, we perhaps have fallen down and really emphasized too much the drugs and the procedures and the operations, which really treat the symptoms – they do not treat the causation of this illness. This is one of the few times since [epocrates(?)] that we have not told patients about the causation of their illness.
Blitzer: Dr. Ornish, are you on the exact same page as Dr. Esselstyn is?
Ornish: Yes I am. And I wanted to say that I love and respect President Clinton and so I was thrilled to hear that he’s making these changes because I want him to live a long time, like so many people do. And whatever your politics, he can inspire many people to make these changes.
And what we’ve shown – you know, we tend to think it has to be a new drug or a new laser, or something really high-tech and expensive to be powerful – and what we’ve done in more than 33 years of research is show that the simple change that we make in our life, like what we eat, how we respond to stress, how much exercise we get, and how much love and support we have, can actually begin to reverse – not just prevent but actually reverse – chronic illnesses like heart disease and so on.
And so we found that almost more than 82% of the people who made these changes, as President Clinton indicated, were actually able to reverse the disease. So rather than getting a quick fix like a bypass or a stint does, which doesn’t treat the underlying cause. It’s a little like mopping up the floor around a spill, without turning off the faucet, it keeps coming back unless you change what caused it.
Blitzer: Is this diet, Dr. Esselstyn – no dairy, no meat, no chicken, basically no fish – is this diet for everyone or only for those who have heart disease or a history of heart disease?
Esselstyn: One other thing I would add, and no oils. No processed oils.
Blitzer: What, like olive oil? Even olive oil, which is supposedly pretty healthy.
Esselstyn: I’m afraid I’m gonna have a divergence of opinion there. Yes, I would include absolutely olive oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil, they’re out.
Now, you know, since we know that these foods are injuring people, why would we ever want to have them on the menu of our schoolchildren? Why wait until people do have heart disease?
We know, for instance, that if we didn’t do autopsies on our GIs that died in Korea and Vietnam, that roughly 80% of these young GIs will already have gross evidence of coronary disease, you can already see without a microscope.
If we are ever going to make a breakthrough in this epidemic of cardiac disease, we really have to start when it’s young.
Blitzer: So you’re saying that young kids should not drink milk? Is that what you’re saying, Dr. Ornish?
Ornish: No, I’m not. I’m saying that there’s a spectrum of choices. And what President Clinton is doing is what you might call the Pound of Cure. If you’re trying to reverse a chronic disease, like heart disease – we also show that these same changes can stop, reverse the progression of early prostate cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol– then you need to make bigger changes. But if you’re just trying to lose a few pounds or get your cholesterol down, you can start by making moderate changes, and if that’s enough, great, and if not, you can do more. What matters most is your overall way of eating and living, so if you indulge yourself one day, eat healthier the next.
Blitzer: Dr. Esselstyn, is this the diet that you personally live on?
Esselstyn: The one that I described earlier, yes I most certainly do. My dad had his first heart attack at age 43 and I’ve been eating this way for over 26 years.
Blitzer: And Dr. Ornish, is that they way you live? No chicken, no meat, no dairy, no uh uh, I guess some of the fun things in life – is that what I’m hearing you say? [chuckles]
Ornish: You know, the old joke is, am I gonna live longer or is it just gonna seem longer if I eat this way. It’s not all or nothing. What you include in your diet is just as important as what you exclude. There are hundreds of thousands of protective substances. I also recommend people take 3 or 4 grams a day of fish oil because the omega-3 fatty acids can be so protective.
Blitzer: We heard Dr. Essestyn say ‘no oil.’
Onrish: Well, we slightly different opinion on that particular one. Studies have shown that just 3 or 4 grams a day of fish oil can reduce your incidence of sudden cardiac death by up to 80%. It can reduce your risk of prostate and breast cancer. If you’re a pregnant woman or are breastfeeding, it can raise your child’s IQ. And so I think the evidence there is pretty compelling.
Blitzer: I take fish oil, Dr. Esselstyn. Is that a bad idea?
Esselstyn: Well I’m not gonna really wrestle with Dean over fish oil. We have so much that is in common and we’re striving together to really make the basic point here. By eating these whole foods, and getting away from processed foods, getting away from really the dairy, anything with a mother, anything with a face, meat, fish, and chicken.
It’s really, it’s so incredible how powerful the body can be. And if we’re going to have a seismic revolution of health in this country, which is really right at our fingertips, the major behavior that has to change is, interestingly enough, our food. That is the absolutely key card. It trumps everything.
Ornish: I agree. And let me just say this, when you make these changes, because these mechanisms are so dynamic, your brain gets more blood, you think more clearly, you have more energy, your skin gets more blood so you don’t age as quickly, even your sexual organs get more blood in the same way that Viagra works.
So ya, you’ll probably live longer, but you’ll also feel better. And what’s sustainable is joy and pleasure and freedom. And when you make these changes, most people find that they feel so much better so quickly, it re-frames the reason for change from fear of dying to joy of living and that’s what’s sustainable.
Blitzer: Dr. Dean Ornish and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, you got a good shout out from President Clinton, now he’s on your diet, he’s doing the best he can, he’s very happy. I saw him in action eating some of those beans and vegetables, away from some of the other ‘fun foods,’ as we like to say. Let’s hope he lives a long and healthy life. Guys thanks very much for coming in.
This morning on CNN, I saw a clip of Wolf Blitzer asking Bill Clinton how he lost 24 pounds. His answer was fantastic.
Watch the clip below:
Here’s a transcript for those who can’t watch the video for whatever reason:
Blitzer: How did you lose so much weight? What kind of diet are you on?
Clinton: The short answer is, I went on essentially a plant-based diet. I live on beans, legumes, vegetables, fruit. I drink a protein supplement every morning. No dairy. I drink almond milk mixed in with fruit and protein powder, so I get the protein for the day when I start the day out.
And it changed my whole metabolism and I lost 24 pounds. And I got back to basically what I weighed in high school.
But I did it for a different reason. I mean I wanted to lose a little weight, but I never dreamed this would happen. I did it because, after I had this stint put in, I realized that, even though it happens quite often, that after you have bypasses, you lose the veins because they’re thinner and weaker than arteries. The truth is that it clogged up. Which means that the cholesterol was still causing build-up in my vein that was part of my bypass. And thank God I could take the stints. I don’t want it to happen again.
So I did all this research and I saw that 82% of the people since 1986 who have gone on a plant-based, no dairy, no meat of any kind, no chicken, turkey… I eat very little fish, once in a while I’ll have a little fish, not often. If you can do it, 82% of the people who have done that, have begun to heal themselves. Their arterial blockage cleans up, the calcium deposit around their heart breaks up.
But we now have 25 years of evidence. And so I thought, well since I need to lose a little weight for Chelsea’s wedding, I’ll become part of this experiment. I’ll see if I can become one of those that can have a self-clearing mechanism. We’ll see.
Blitzer: I hope you’re healthy for many years and get to see grandchildren for many years to come.
Clinton: Me too. That’s really the big deal. You know I, Hillary and I, we’re happy, we love our son in law and we admire him, and we’d like to be around if there’s grandkids, we want to be there to do our part.
Blitzer: Mr. President, good luck.
Looks like I’ll be adding Bill Clinton to my list of famous vegetarians!
Breakfast: Amy’s non-dairy burrito
Lunch: Bowl of stir-fried veggies and tofu at a Mongolian BBQ restaurant (“create your own stir fry”)
Dinner: Pasta with spinach and tomato sauce
Here’s a transcript for those that are at work without headphones (or whatever reason you can’t play the video):
Katie Couric: I know that you’re a vegan now and so you eat no meat, right? No eggs, no dairy products. You had a vegan wedding when you and Portia got married. Why did you decide to become a vegan and when did you decide? I know you care deeply about animal rights, and what changed in you?
Ellen: Animal rights sounds like they’re about to get the right to vote (laughs).
Katie Couric: How should I say it? Animal welfare?
Ellen: Yes, animal welfare. The welfare of animals. I always hear ‘animal rights’ and I just think it’s a crazy thing ’cause it’s really just the right to be left alone.
Years ago, I read Diet for a New Americawhich is a book about, uh, his last name is Robbins, his father owned Baskin Robbins. He wrote this book about factory farming and I read it and was horrified and was a vegetarian, I still ate cheese and stuff, but I was a vegetarian for about 8 months or so. And then I just went back to eating meat. I used to love cheeseburgers and steak and I just did what most people do, I just had a disconnect. I just decided it’s more important for me to taste a cheeseburger and have a steak or have a turkey sandwich, and it’s easier and I just put it out of my mind.
And recently I read, not recently, it’s been about a year and 8 months or so that we’ve been vegan, but I read Skinny Bitch, first. And then, I forced myself to watch a documentary called Earthlingsand it’s inside footage of factory farms and dairy farms. You just see that and you go, ‘I can’t participate in that. I can’t be a part of something that is suffering.’
It’s 50 billion animals a year that are killed. And I think we all fool ourselves that there is some kind of happy cow and that it’s a quick death and they just hit ’em in the head and they’re out and they go through the whole… And it’s a very disturbing reality. And it happens every minute of the day and every commercial on the air has some kind of food product in it. Every mini-mall, every store. And you think about the consumption, and how fast they have to mass produce, and you can’t possibly put together in your head one healthy, happy animal. They’re all in pain. They’re all treated badly. They’re all diseased. And they’re all pumped with antibiotics.
I do it because I love animals and I saw the reality and I just couldn’t ignore it anymore. But a lot of people do it for other reasons and there’s many reasons to do it. I’m healthier for it, I’m happier for it. I really truly believe that we take in energy and our thoughts are important, and all that stuff. I believe in that kind of positive thinking and I can’t imagine that if you’re putting something in your body that’s filled with fear or anxiety or pain, that that isn’t going to somehow be inside of you. And I used to be a more anxious person and more edgy and everything was a little more jumpy and sad. And I think not putting that stuff in my body is…
And it’s hard to kinda live your life and know that that exists and watch people do it all around you and just go [shrug]. You gotta hope that one day that shift will happen.
Katie Couric: Did you see the documentary Food, Inc.? [Ellen nods.] So that probably just reinforced everything that you were feeling.
Ellen: Ya. Food, Inc. is a Disney movie compared to Earthlings. Food Inc. is nothing. I would like people to look at that, but it’s hard. It takes a lot. It takes a major shift in your life ’cause it’s easy to grab for something and it’s just there. But every time you think about what’s on your plate and what it was, you know, you just can’t do it.
The Growing Movement
It’s probably no surprise that Sir Paul McCartney, a longtime vegetarian, banned all meat from staff meals on his current world tour. But when Mario Batali starts to push people to eat their vegetables, you know something is happening.
The famously rotund and infamously gluttonous chef-restaurateur is to pig what the Beatles are to rock-and-roll. Batali, a rock-star chef if there ever was one, has changed the way Americans eat pork, introducing us to cured lonza, guanciale and lardo, which he once described to the New Yorker magazine as “the best song sung in the key of pig.”
And yet this month, Batali announced that he would join the Meatless Monday campaign, a movement backed by a broad array of public-health advocates, animal welfare activists and environmentalists that asks carnivores to give up meat one day a week. Each of Batali’s 14 restaurants, which include the meatily named Bar Jamon in New York and Carnevino in Las Vegas, offers two vegetarian entrees on Mondays, highlighted with an “MM” logo.
Batali is one of the movement’s latest and most high-profile supporters. But on the vegetable front, he is hardly a pioneer. Baltimore City Public Schools launched meatless Mondays for its 82,000 students in October. Thirty-two U.S. hospitals have signed on to the Balanced Menu Challenge, a commitment to reduce meat purchases by 20 percent. This spring, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors approved a resolution calling on schools, restaurants and stores to offer meatless options, and the state of Michigan held a one-day “Meatout” during which residents were encouraged not to eat meat. A host of cookbooks that feature meatless or nearly meatless meals are either in bookstores (“The Conscious Cook,” by Tal Ronnen) or headed for the shelves (“The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook,” by former Washington Post blogger Kim O’Donnel). The scheme has spread overseas. Last year, the city of Ghent in Belgium became the first European city to endorse a meat-free day.
The Meat Industry’s Reaction
It’s enough to make the meat industry nervous. Over the past year, lobbying groups including the American Meat Institute, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Pork Board and the Farm Bureau have launched a quiet campaign to try to reverse the momentum. They have fired off missives to institutions that embrace the call to reduce meat consumption, and they have posted talking points for meat producers on the Internet. They are also making a final push to ensure that the government recommendation of two servings of meat per day remains enshrined in the new dietary guidelines that the Department of Agriculture will release this fall.
Lobbying for the upcoming dietary guidelines is among the most urgent efforts. The guidelines are the basis for the USDA’s food pyramid, which recommends daily intakes for food groups including meat, grain and dairy products. In a letter to the committee, the American Meat Institute voiced concern that policymakers were overemphasizing plant-based food as the foundation of a “healthy” diet for Americans.
The Meat Industry’s History of Getting What It Wants
In case after case, policymakers have refrained from suggesting that Americans eat less meat. A 1977 Senate select committee led by Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.) was forced to beat a hasty retreat after it initially recommended that Americans could cut their intake of saturated fat by reducing their consumption of red meat and dairy products. Its revised guidelines suggested choosing “meat, poultry and fish that will reduce saturated-fat intake.” (McGovern, whose constituents included many cattle ranchers, lost his seat in 1980.)
In 1992, when the USDA planned to recommend reduced meat intake in its new Food Pyramid, the industry howled again. It created a public-relations nightmare for the agency. Under intense media scrutiny, the USDA could not change its recommendations. It did, however, redesign the chart so that the two to three servings of meat that it had suggested as a maximum serving looked like a recommended amount.
Hope For The Future
Consumers have continued to deliver what the meat industry wants: sales. Per-capita meat consumption in the United States has increased by 8 percent since 1970. Even health crises, such as the mad-cow scare, hardly affected U.S. consumption: In 1997, the year after the disease erupted in Britain, U.S. beef consumption fell about 2 percent. The next year, consumption returned to its previous level. Americans remain firmly resistant to giving up meat.
An AP-NBC Universal telephone poll of 1,006 adults last November reported that 23 percent said they would be likely to make a special effort to give up meat as a way to protect the environment — well below the numbers who said they might recycle bottles and cans or take their own shopping bags to stores. Some 46 percent of respondents said they were not likely to give up meat at all.
Still, proponents of Meatless Monday say they are hopeful that institutions can help lessen demand. Healthcare Without Harm, which wants hospitals to reduce meat purchasing by 20 percent over a 12-month period, reports an average drop of 28 percent in its four-hospital San Francisco pilot project. Baltimore City Public Schools estimates it will buy 120,000 fewer pounds of meat per school year by eliminating it from Monday menus.
And now there’s Batali, who recently lost 45 pounds, flying the flag for meatless Mondays. “Mario still loves meat,” said Elizabeth Meltz, the chef’s director of sustainability. “But even he believes everything should be eaten in moderation.”
Ultramarathon running is already tough enough. A typical race can cover 100 miles or more, often in scorching heat, blistering cold or at dizzying elevation. As one of the leading ultramarathon runners in the world, Scott Jurek has had to deal with all of those challenges and more, vaulting scorpions in the desert, even meeting an occasional bear on the trails.
Scott Jurek is proof that athletic endurance doesn’t have to be compromised by a vegan diet. But Jurek adds another degree of difficulty to the mix. As a strict vegan, he goes through his grueling training regimen on a diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts. This seems completely impossible when you consider Jurek’s typical calorie intake during peak training periods: 6,000 to 8,000 calories a day. Despite all that calorie loading, he packs just 165 pounds on his super lean, 6-foot-2 frame.
“For breakfast it’s a dense, caloric smoothie,” Jurek explained. “Then you’ve got lots of fruits and almonds. People assume it’s all carbs. But there’s also fat — avocados, rich monosaturated fats, almonds, olive oil.”
He’s just getting warmed up.
“For protein you’ve got beans, lentils, combining whole grains. Tofu and tempeh. Then for carbs: whole grains, breads, cereals, fruits and veggies, whole foods, unprocessed foods. There’s three main meals, then lots of smaller snack foods and mini-meals throughout the day.”
Jurek’s background didn’t seem to portend a vegan diet years later. Born and raised in Minnesota, Jurek lived on meat and potatoes, regularly going out for hunting and fishing expeditions. After competing at Nordic skiing in his younger days, he ran his first ultramarathon in 1994.
As his ultramarathon career progressed, Jurek began phasing out meat from his diet. In 1999, Jurek read “Mad Cowboy,” the investigative book about the beef industry that prompted Oprah Winfrey to famously declare she’d never eat another burger. He became a vegetarian that year. Then, just before taking on the 100-mile Western States Endurance Run, he went vegan.
“I had my doubts, sure,” Jurek recalled. “Am I going to be strong enough, have enough protein? There were all those common disclaimers, how it would affect my performance. When I went on to win the race, I realized it was all just this mental barrier. After performing well on [the vegan diet], I never really doubted it afterwards.”
Neither did Jurek’s rivals. Not after he went on one of the most dominant runs in the history of his sport, including seven straight Western States victories. Instead, he often gets feedback from other distance runners, with everyone from beginners to high-level competitors telling Jurek that he inspires them to train harder and to seek out alternative diets.
Still, Jurek says he never tries to impose his personal choices on anyone else. Nor does he see his vegan eating as a way to enhance performance. Like Danzig, Jurek says his diet does help him indirectly, in that it helps him recover from the pounding that his sport dishes out. A lot of people excel at ultramarathon running while living on unhealthy diets, he says.
“But where are they going to be in 20 years?” Jurek asked. “For me, it’s about optimizing health. It’s about lifestyle and longevity. Then you think about what vegetarian diets can do for the mass population, in terms of lower consumption of resources. When you look at the numbers, it’s pretty staggering.”
Traveling around the world, while competing everywhere from Death Valley to Greece, Jurek has learned how to maintain his vegan diet wherever he goes, without skimping on taste.
So, Scott, any tips to pass along to others thinking about going veggie, or even vegan?
“It’s really not that hard once you get things down,” he said. “You just have to be a little creative. Sometimes you may not find a great vegetarian protein source in a restaurant — no tofu, for instance. So you can do something like add chick peas to salad. Ethnic foods are good, too. Mexican beans, Asian tofu, Indian lentils. [To] some people it’s this weird diet. But most grocery stores have a plethora of foods. Just keep variety in your diet, and you’ll be good.”
Yep, you read that right! Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson announced in an interview earlier this month that he has converted to a vegan diet.
It’s always great to see celebrities spreading the word about veganism and animal abuse because they have the ability to reach so many more ears than, say, my humble little blog here. It’s an added bonus when a world class athlete goes vegan because it helps to break the “wimpy vegan” stereotype.
But, I think often times celebrities are viewed extremists and/or elitists, so even when they speak out about important issues, many people tend to view it as a rant from an ivory tower, or some sort of “alternative lifestyle.” Most people won’t be persuaded to go vegan by Mike Tyson (or Moby or Natalie Portman), but rather by their friends, family, or by simply being exposed to the facts. Either way, I’m glad to have Tyson on our “team”!
The Montreal Canadiens hockey team got a fighter when they traded for Georges Laraque in July 2008. That year, Sports Illustrated named Laraque the game’s best enforcer: his job is to protect his teammates while roughing up the opposition. Off the ice he fights for animal rights; the 6-foot-3 athlete became a vegan in 2009, after seeing the film Earthlings.
Q. What motivates you to be an activist?
A. Animals cannot defend themselves – people have to do it for them. That’s why I wanted to do protests [with PETA]. Animals are dying every single day. It’s my duty to educate people.
Q. How do you reconcile your image as a tough hockey player with your caring side?
A. I want people to know the real me, and while fighting on the ice is my job, it’s not who I am as a person. I try to help as many people as I can. I don’t only look our for the welfare of animals; I also do charity work on the behalf of kids, like Play It Smar [a community outreach program with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania]. The impact you have on kids when you’re an athlete is unreal.
Q. Has your switch to a vegan diet affected your athletic performance?
A. I’ve never felt better in my life. I’m less tired; my body has more energy. It’s unbelievable! When you become a vegan, you learn to put the right stuff in your body.