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Review: No Meat Athlete

no-meat-athlete-book-coverIt’s rare to have a complete book that aligns with everything you strive to be, and I’m not shocked that Matt Frazier was the one who wrote it. I have followed Matt’s blog/ website, No Meat Athlete, for quite a while now. This past year, at the Vermont Spartan Beast World Championship, I even saw a runner wearing a NMA shirt. It seemed that Matt was everywhere I was. Heck, I even follow his podcast, it’s great listening out on a run.

What I have liked about Matt’s approach is the simplicity. Whether it’s a recipe for an energy bar or a smoothie, the instructions are simple and open to interpretation. His love for animals is not over the top and militant vegan like, I appreciate someone who cares but isn’t beating me over the head with his “Mercy For Animals” membership card..

So, having had time to sit down and read the book it’s great to see a continuation of everything I’ve already known about him, and more. The stories of some of his triumphs and even the sincerity of his failures are refreshing. His writing style is down to earth and he’s not trying to overwhelm you with science. He eats for results, and his results have shown that what he eats, and how he treats his body, works for him.

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Review: Meat Is For Pu$$ies!

Meat-is-for-Pussies_hc-copyDisclaimer: I’m not here to argue whether the title of the book is appropriate, I didn’t write it nor would I have chosen it for a title if I had. That said, John Joseph did write it and he chose it. It is his view point, not mine. If you know, or have heard of John before, than you will understand the brash, blunt approach he has taken. To be honest, I appreciate folks who don’t mince words and are true to what they believe. I was extremely interested in the book so I read it, not for it’s title, but for it’s content.

Let’s paint a picture of the author here first, that way you can comprehend his gruff approach. John Joseph was vocalist for one of the most influential hardcore bands out of NYC, the Cro-Mags. The NYC hardcore scene is world renowned and the Cro-Mags continue to influence bands all over to this day.

cromags04A cross section of the hardcore scene calls themselves “straight-edge” and you can tell them apart as they always have X’s sharpie’d onto there hands. Without talking to much about that, John Joseph belonged to a growing number of vegans and vegetarians within that scene. John has never been known to pull punches, it’s part of the hardcore lifestyle, and he has been vocal about vegetarianism/ veganism.  That may seem to you odd as most hardcore folk were covered in tattoos, were bruised from the mosh pit and talked like sailors; it really wasn’t uncommon though.

Now that that’s out of the way, what about the book and it’s content?

In 2010 “Meat Is For Pussies” was published. The vegan world really hadn’t read something like it. Sure, there were plenty of books out there that talked about the science behind it, recipe books were abundant, but nothing had been written quite like this book.  John being who he is, didn’t shy away from dropping an f-bomb here and there. He tells it like it is, in his own words. I graciously appreciate that and it reminds me of another character, Noah Levine. Noah is a Buddhist teacher who came from the streets of CA, not unlike John and his NYC street stories. They’ve both grown up though, set a lot of the BS from there lives behind them and become bigger icons within the scenes they are involved with.

photo: Ray Lego

What is absolutely awesome about this book is how it shatters the misconception that a vegan has to be some underweight pip squeak who eats like a rabbit. Have you seen John? The guy is a monster! He’s in the gym frequently and, umm, he’s an Ironman Triathlete! Yeah, you read that right. He’s a bad-ass. Did I tell you he’s also 50+ years old?

Here’s John on diets and dieting:

“I don’t care what your sister or your girlfriend or your buddy at the gym sayd; you’ve gotta recognize diets for what they are; a way for a pussy to take a shortcut instead of doing real work. There are no shortcuts to health and sustainable weight loss.”

I appreciate his “shit list” of food additives. He shares a bunch of his favorite superfoods and tells us why, of course he does. Besides John’s opinions on food and veganism, there’s some workouts in here from John’s trainer and tons of “super badass”recipes.

If you are like me, sometimes you need a kick in the pants and this book, while not a work of academia or literature, is totally necessary. John is as real as they come, expect no less in the book.


Review: The Best Green Smoothies On The Planet ( + giveaway)

green smoothi** giveaway details at bottom**

Nowadays you see “green smoothie” this and “green smoothie” that. One person tells you that they are good for you and that you can become healthier by drinking more of them. The one thing they don’t do is tell you how and why!

Tracy not only explains the how and the why, she breaks down each ingredient for it’s health benefit. For instance, one of my favorite recipes in the book is the Coconut Peach Smoothie.

Why? Because it’s calcium rich without having to consume dairy products to get it! It’s only four simple ingredients so it’s super easy to make!

Coconut Peach Smoothie
2 peaches, pitted
1/2 mango, peeled and pitted
3 large chard leaves, stems removed
4 oz unsweetened coconut milk

This smoothie is packed with 13% of the days calcium!

Even more detailed, here’s what else it is packed with. Calories: 245 • fat: 4g • protein: 7g • carbs: 53g • vitamin a • 90% • vitamin c: 145%

Peaches are a good source of Vitamin A and C. Mangoes are a powerhouse and contain Vitamins A, B, C and E. They are also packed with 11% of your needed omega-3s! And Swiss chard is a great source of beta-carotene and Vitamin K. Naturally, it provides a decent source for sodium.

I didn’t have to research any of that. It’s all in the book.

Tracy isn’t trying to sell you something, she’s trying to provide you with the best ingredients for your health and your health goals.

I’m looking forward to making more smoothies from this book and hope you will try it as well.

As a matter of fact, the publisher has agreed to let me give away one copy to a lucky reader! Just comment on this post and I will pick one winner, at random, after 24 hours! Good luck!

“China Study” and “Whole” by T. Colin Campbell

chinastudyWhat can be said about both of these books that hasn’t already been said? You can see polar opposite reviews on Amazon for the China Study specifically. People are all over the map on it, some opinions have become the fodder for an argument trying to debunk the science behind both books.

Before we get into my opinion, here is some validation for both books.

The author, T. Colin Campbell, espouses a whole food plant based diet based in his research and it’s no secret he has an angle. The thing is, it is based on solid numbers and there is no denying that. Unfortunately, his research has been torn apart by some based on the fact that they did not read it, or the fact he is fighting a system so much larger than himself that his research is simply tossed aside.

For instance, the idea that somehow the Chinese populace eats a diet based on meat and fish. If the detractors actually read and understood the “China Study” they would have known the research was conducted before the mainstream SAD diet was introduced to China. They would also know that most of the research was conducted in rural areas, where they were not exposed to the SAD diet. In the author’s words, “What made this project especially remarkable is that, among the many associations that are relevant to diet and disease, so many pointed to the same finding: people who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease. Even relatively small intakes of animal-based food were associated with adverse effects. People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease. These results could not be ignored. From the initial experimental animal studies on animal protein effects to this massive human study on dietary patterns, the findings proved to be consistent. The health implications of consuming either animal or plant-based nutrients were remarkably different.”

Others who would argue against it and say it’s not science than tell me how? Tests were taken at length. Trials were constant and results were obtained. I’m pretty sure that’s science.

In “The China Study” he not only saw the differences a WFPB diet could have on obesity, but the effects it had on cancer and heart disease. While there is no definitive proof it can cure cancer, the results do say that it inhibits cancerous growth. We all know what is a driving factor in the fight against heart disease and that’s cholesterol. This is because all the processed and animal based foods we eat are loaded with it. There is a reason why our bodies do not create their own cholesterol, it’s because it’s not something we need. Plants do not create these types of issues as they are cholesterol free. When you convert to a plant based diet your cholesterol levels decrease. That is a fact based on science.

wholeSo, where the “China Diet” explains the science behind a plant based diet and why it’s so important, “Whole” looks at the industry and system that keeps us in the dark based on power and profit. What would happen to Big Pharma if we all moved to a WFPB diet and didn’t need all those statins, heart disease medications, diabetes medications, etc? They would be out of business, and they can’t have that. Interestingly, Dr. Campbell writes “the Journal of the American Medical Association states that physician error, medication error and “adverse events” from drugs or surgery kill 225,400 Americans each year. That makes our health care system the third leading cause of death in the US, behind only heart disease and cancer.”

My opinions on both books is this, read them and then judge them. You can talk all you want about there being evidence or not being evidence. Without looking at it though how can you say it doesn’t exist? I’m no scientist, nor do I claim to be. But, based on the information I’ve been provided I can tell you that having switched to a whole food plant based diet my life has seen many changes. I have more energy. I sleep more soundly. And, not to be so blunt, but I haven’t been so regular in my damned life! That said, I feel lighter! 🙂

You don’t have to buy into this. This is not the hippie, vegetarian, bunny food eating trend. You are not only eating lettuce and carrots, there are so many other foods to eat. It is not a vegan diet. You don’t have to be one of the cool kids to join.

To be plant based is to be compassionate toward yourself, to treat yourself with enough dignity that you only put foods into it that are going to do something good for it. Would you put diesel into a gasoline only vehicle? No, you don’t. Because it would wreck it.

The evidence is there if you choose to read it.

Review: “Off Course: Inside the Mad, Muddy World of Obstacle Course Racing”

offcourseWe all have our stories of suffering through the VT Beast, a hard fought push through the finish, or even just a silly themed mud-run. This book, “Off Course: Inside the Mad, Muddy World of Obstacle Course Racing”, unlike all the OCR training guides; is the written journey of a woman who has taken on triathlons but had been dealing with nagging injuries. After proverbially writing off running altogether, Erin Beresini found OCR and fell in love with it, as many of us have.

“Off Course…” pulls back the veil of what it takes to not only train for an Ultra-Beast, which Erin completed, but also walks us through the emotion, pain and absolute suck that only Killington mountain can serve up. Her wit and humility make for a great read. I found myself not only nodding my head when I knew exactly what she was going through, but I laughed out loud more than once too.

Erin also delves into the history of OCR and has done a fantastic job of crafting the story-line of how it all began, where it is, and where she thinks it may go. From Mr. Mouse to Joe Desena to Will Dean and more, Erin takes us inside some of the dark parts too. From the rivalry between Spartan Race and Tough Mudder, to the lawsuits against Tough Mudder via Mr. Mouse (who runs Toughguy in England) and even the details on the athlete that drowned at a Tough Mudder some time back.

I’d definitely give her an A for getting down to the nitty gritty of what has gone on behind the scenes. I appreciate the fact she is also not writing with rose colored glasses on. Unless I missed something, there is not an ounce of OCR polarity in this book. She takes umbrage with anyone and writes what some might not want to say. Are the facts shocking? Maybe not to us, I mean you are on this page because you are “in the know” as far as the OCR scene goes, right? We all know that Will Dean is “Mark Zuckerberg” of OCR, like Erin likes to call him. We all know that Joe Desena is a tyrant, but a tyrant who has an interest in bringing us back to our primal selves. Knowing what we know about these characters, some of the antics will not surprise you but you will just shake your head and say, “yup, that’s who ___ is alright!”

It’s a quick read. Erin’s words are light-hearted and you’ll find yourself cheering at times for her. At other times you may slouch down in your seat as she faces some of the barriers that you very well have faced on a course or two.

It’s and excellent read, I suggest it 100%!

Check out the book details at http://www.hmhco.com/shop/books/Off-Course/9780544055520 where you can purchase the book direct from the publisher.

You can also find it on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Off-Course-Inside-Obstacle-Racing/dp/0544055322

Erin also has her own persoanl page, which links to her old Triathlon blog which was interesting to look back on, go to http://www.erinberesini.com/ to check that out if it interests you!

Review: Spartan Up

spartanuporiginally posted on nespahtens.com

I was lucky to receive an advance reader copy of the book from Houghton Mifflin. And while I am breaking a golden rule of advance reading reviews, I’ve seen a ton of them posted already so I figured what can another one hurt? If anything, it could help drum up some interest in our community, not that a ton of you haven’t already pre-ordered it right? And if you haven’t, click the cover right over there —>

We all know and love Joe DeSena, well some of us do at least, all those damned burpees he’s doled out has a few too many people hatin’ on him. That said, we know him as one of the founders of one of the most successful OCR companies, Spartan Race! You can search the history, but nuts and bolts of it is, Spartan had their first Spartan Race event in 2010. Since then they have exploded and are currently one of the largest international OCR racing companies. They push the limits and are driving the industry.

“Spartan Up” lays out the groundwork not only for Spartan Race from the past, present and future, but gets us into the head of what makes Joe DeSena the man he is. From humble beginnings, to desk jobs and then finally getting fed up with it all. Joe tells stories of how he broke and realized there was more to life than the rat race. I had no idea the extent of what Joe has accomplished in his short time on the planet. From running Badwater to doing other ultra-marathons and endurance hikes, he’s done it all.

desena1His wit and wisdom (did I just call Joe witty?) is expounded by the page and parallels are drawn from every possible angle. His advice is not medical advice, and should not be taken as such, but is practical and could save your life. You’ve heard it before, simple things like changing your diet, making time for movement of any sort. Joe basically talks about our roots as animalistic beings. We used to have to scavenge for our food, now it’s in a machine tucked neatly inside of cellophane and a box. We used to scavenge for our foods, which were fresh and free of preservatives. We have become so lazy that the most effort we put into our food, for the most part, is to tear open the package and shove it into our mouths.

He also talk about dealing with pain and prioritizing that pain. For instance, and I am not typing this verbatim, he mentions marathon running. Instead of focusing on the pain the whole lump sum of 26.2 miles may bring, prioritize it to each telephone pole. Deal with it bit by bit, it’s easier to cope with and is less daunting. It won’t control your mindset the whole run and maybe, just maybe you might enjoy it.

I have a new respect for this guy, nothing was handed to him on a silver platter, he made himself into the man he is today. One word you will read throughout the book, and that describes Joe the best, is grit. He has it, it’s been a driving force for him. Without it, he would be nothing. Spartan Up can very well provide you with a path toward building that grit of your own.

One thing I respect the hell out of Joe for is the fact he is what he is. There is no sugar-coating, there is no filter at all on this man. He will tell you like it is whether you want to hear it or not. Call it tough love, because I honestly believe he wants to see you become the best YOU that you can be!!

Highly recommend you read this!

Order the book by clicking the cover up above or CLICK HERE!!

Review: Mud And Obstacle Magazine #1

mudandobstacleBy the time this review is posted, the first issue of Mud And Obstacle Magazine should be on the stands. That said, I wanted to give a review of the copy I received.

Published by Active Interest Magazine, the publishers for great magazines such as Black Belt, MuscleMag, The Box and a plethora of others ranging the gamut from rock climbing, equine sports and more. With that type of history you could only hope it would be great and they would treat the sport respectively. That is exactly what they have done.

By now you’ve seen the cover to your right. Gracing that cover is none other than Hobie Call, to many, the face of Obstacle Racing. While he has emerged as the sports most well-known athlete, as of this moment though there are myriads of other OCR heroes, both men and women, to look up to and admire. That aside, the article about Hobie is written well and if you didn’t know a bunch about him before, you will know enough to know he is one of the most dangerous guys in the game. He’s not going to whip out a shiv and shank you behind the showers after your heat, but dangerous in the way that he can, and will, push himself to get to the end before you. He has, and will for some time, be the man to beat.

Mud And Obstacle does a great job mentioning as many of the OCR’s out there, but mostly the big guys are written about. It’s my hope that as the magazine gains some traction that they maybe reach out to some of the smaller races and feature them. We all know, as Spahtens, that there are a ton just in our area alone. If you’re listening, Mud And Obstacle, check out our race review section and see what races your magazine is missing. Hell, drop me an e-mail at nate@nespahtens.com and I’d be glad to put you in contact with whomever you like as far as our scene here goes!

Aside from interviews with the Spartan Race founders there are articles on gear, training and more. So far it’s not to ad heavy, which is nice as there was more content to read and less stuff to flip through to get to the good stuff. Coming from a print background I can appreciate the quality of the paper, the layout is clean and easy on the eyes. All in all, it’s a great package!

You can subscribe and save a bit, or head to your local Barnes and Noble to pick up a copy. For those that head up to Shale Hill, Rob will be selling copies as well. TEASER: Look for a Spahten in the issue, you will see at least the one that I saw!