Radical Nutrient Density

» October 7th, 2014

There are innumerable ways to eat a healthy diet, but plant-based, when done right, is undeniably one of them. For me, a longtime marathoner, the litmus test of my nutrient intake and balance has always been the quality of my running. Since transitioning to a plant-based diet, the quality of my running has not only improved as I’ve gotten older, but it has exceeded my performance when I was in peak shape back in my 20s (over 20 years ago!).

Official proof of this improvement came last Saturday when I ran the St. George, Utah marathon three minutes faster than my pervious personal best (done back when I was 25). When I crossed the finish line I was stunned. Simply unbelieving. I was even more stunned when I looked at my mile splits and discovered that the last 7 miles were faster than the first 7 miles. Freakish. Reflecting on my preparation, I kept coming back to a decision I made a week before the race: I was going to eat meals that were radically nutrient dense.

Meals like this (quinoa, amaranth, cashews, sunflower seeds, bananas, blueberries, mint):






And this: (peppers, zucchini, okra, quinoa, onions)






I think these made the difference. These foods are not only radically nutrient dense. They are radically sustaining, keeping me strong well after the race and into the recovery period (with the help of some delicious IPAs), which has been pretty mild. The real beauty of these meals is how simple they are to prepare, cheap to buy the ingredients for, and tasty to eat. No animals required. One should never be smug about much of anything, especially something as variable as diet. At the same time, when it works for us we should say so.

My 3:11 marathon speaks volumes for the virtues of plant-based eating.

(Sorry for the gaps here; I have no idea how to get rid of them.)

13 Responses to Radical Nutrient Density

  1. John t maher says:

    For once I can not disagree with a single word. I am curious as to the blood type of our subject as I have been discussing blood type and vegan diets recently and can not decide whether there is a correlation between blood type and the diet optimization jmc has achieved or not. Personally I am betting on the mitochondria but they may be correlated to blood type. Photos look ever so yummy and avoid the soggy quinoa outcome which has plagued me for years.

    • James says:

      well, it only took 900 posts but I finally succeeded!

    • Ellen K says:

      possible soggy quinoa solution: put rinsed quinoa in pan with sufficient water, bring just to boiling, and simmer for just 9 minutes, 11 max (recipes usually call for 15-20 min, guaranteed mush)
      Drain in strainer and fluff to release steam.

      Am skeptical of blood type, but maybe that’s my anti d’adamo bias. feeding mitochondria very important, though.

      • John t maher says:

        Genius insight as usual! 15 minutes is the quinoa culprit. Suspect jmc might be blood type ab with mitochondria geared for slow burn energy release, hence the euphoria of the long distance runner.

  2. edie says:

    Yayyy to you and yayyy to the gaps!!!

    ps: feeling silly ;)
    so proud of you – congratulations!!!

  3. Teresa Wagner says:

    Thank you so much for this. Seems so important to let the world know about vegan athletes! I am vegan to prevent suffering of the animals and to help the earth, but anything that helps others stop eating animals and their secretions is a very good thing. May many athletes read this and go vegan.

    And congrats on your marathon.

  4. Karen Orr says:

    Congratulations on your marathon.

    I’m passing this post along to my runner friends who recently watched COWSPIRACY (http://cowspiracy.com/) at the Gainesville, Florida screening.

  5. Susan Vitka says:

    Fabulous! Congratulations on your time! Am passing along to all my physician and (young male) athlete friends who remain convinced that peak athletic performance requires animal protein.

  6. Layne says:

    Congratulations James!

    I am currently trying to follow Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s nutrient density plan, which as everyone here probably already knows is G.O.M.B.S. (Greens, Onions, Mushrooms, Beans/Berries, and Seeds, with the greens claiming most room on the plate.)

    Please send a copy of your post to Dr. Fuhrman, if you haven’t done so. He’d be thrilled.

  7. Tay says:

    congratulations! Love your posts.

  8. John Savage says:

    Nice work JMC. How did you cook the veggies? Did you season them?

  9. John Savage says:

    They look delicious!

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