Thursday, December 29, 2011

Santa Doesn't Give Breaks- Training Update

Because Santa doesn’t give breaks or abs the holidays are no time to slack. With the ING Miami Half Marathon quickly approaching, it was time for me to get serious. According to Hal I was suppose to run 8 miles this week. However due to time restraints and holiday train schedules we had to spilt it up. As such on Xmas morning, my good friend and I did an easy 5 miles in Veterans Park while my Mother tagged along and went for a walk. It was nice to return here for a run, since I did some of my first long runs ever in this park with my good friend Darius! The three of us ended our work out with a light sprint up a large but short hill. It was awesome, Mom crushed it!

During this run I took a sports endurance gel to see the affect it would have on my body. I tried VEGA’s Raspberry Gel. It was a little too sweet for me, but I appreciate the fact that it is completely derived from whole plant foods. The main ingredient is dates, which help provide near instant energy and claims to be the only gel on the market with coconut oil, providing a non-carbohydrate form of energy.

I only took half on the first run, on the second run I enjoyed the flavor much more.

This run was truly a day of firsts, as I also wore my new Lululemon base layer. A holiday gift, the shirt was great. Lightweight yet warm, I couldn’t ask for more in a base layer.  

 Ali and I sporting our grey Lululemon baselayers (the blurry photo is a trademark of my mom!)

The next morning I woke up early and did my usual workout. In sets of 30 and 25, I did 250 push ups, 200 crunches, held a plank for 1 minute, did 20 pull ups and then did some light stretching. After a big bowl of quinoa (There he goes again. Always talking about quinoa) tomato and avocado, I tossed on my running cloths and was off. A bit warmer, I ran to the park and then did the same route I followed the day before. 

Running at a greatly increased pace, I did 7.1 miles in less than an hour. It was a beautiful morning for a run and I realized how lucky I was to have grown up so close to such a nice park. With the exception of some duck and goose poop on the trails I had the park mostly to myself! Perhaps the best thing was that when I got home there was a brand new foam roller just waiting to be used and after the 5 miles consecutive long runs, my IT band really needed to be loosened!

After a needed rest day, I returned to Brooklyn and did another long run. This one was an 8.5 mile run. Starting outside my apartment in Brooklyn Heights and running to Prospect Park, doing a loop and then returning maintaining less than a 8-minute pace. This marks the longest run I've done since I started having leg pains back in August. With no pain, the run was amazing.

This is the last post of 2011. In just a few days I leave for Nepal to go trekking with my good friend Brian. 

So now the holidays are over. Get off the couch and go do something you enjoy! 
Until next time, happy New Year!

ps- feel free to comment below on how you stayed active during the holidays.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Quinoa Cookies!

So I’m sure you are all thinking, “why the heck did this guy name his blog lentils if he only ever writes about quinoa?” Well, I love both, sorta like my relationship with kale and collards. When it comes to nutritious food, I'm non-monogamous.  

The other reason is it’s the holidays and many of my friends and family who will be celebrating with me have been pressuring me to make something special, ie: they don’t want to eat lentils and collards on Christmas.

So here is my compromise! Unprocessed yet super delicious, stress busting, high-in-protein and antioxidants Quinoa Banana Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies! I got the recipe from none-other than Sequel Naturals’ holistic nutritionist Peggy Kotsopoulos, so you know it is healthy!

The Goods

The recipe is really simple, doesn't require any special equipment and tastes similar to oatmeal cookies that I’ve had in the past.
Here’s what you do.

First, mash 4 ripe bananas in a large mixing bowl. Not only will these guys be adding all of their super healthy nutrients such as potassium (a necessary nutrient to aid in muscle recovery) but they also act as a binding agent. Making the need for eggs completely unnecessary.

Then add 1 cup cooked quinoa, (this is about ½ cup dry measure) unsweetened shredded coconut flakes, unrefined Palm Sweet Coconut Sugar (more on this ingredient below), uncooked quinoa flakes (more on this ingredient below), and just a tiny bit of organic vanilla extract to the mixing bowl. Mix well with a spoon.

After you are done mixing the batter, open an Organic MacaSure Chocolate Bar by Sequel (note: any dark, vegan chocolate bar will work, however the Maca in the MacaSure bar claims to give added nutritional benefits such as stress reducing capabilities as well as an increased libido! "I'm interested!")

MacaSure Chocolate is available at Whole Foods and Amazon!

Using a sharp knife, cut the chocolate bar into small chunks to replicate chocolate chips. After cutting up the entire bar, add the chocolate chunks to the batter and mix again.

Using a tablespoon, scoop out a small ball from the mixture and place onto a cookie sheet.

I apparently don’t have cookies sheets, so I had to use my pyrex glass baking pan.

At this point, try not to eat the cookie batter. This is more difficult than it sounds as this batter is seriously tasty!

After using all of the mixture, place the cookie sheets in a preheated oven at 180˚. Cook at this temperature for roughly 20-25 minutes depending on how brown you want the cookies. 

So at this point you are probably curious about Quinoa flakes and Palm Sweet Coconut Sugar. Quinoa flakes have many of the same benefits that quinoa possesses. High in protein and other vital nutrients such as Phosphorus and Riboflavin, Quinoa flakes are naturally gluten free. Sold in the cereal aisle, quinoa flakes make a great oatmeal replacement for mornings on the run but can also be used for baking. 


Palm Sweet Coconut Sugar is becoming the new "hot" commodity in the sweetener world. While Dr. Greger of recommends using Date Sugar, there is considerable buzz around Sweet Palm Coconut Sugar. Having a low glycemic index and rich in vitamin C, B vitamins, iron, zinc, potassium, and magnesium, Coconut Sugar appears to be an excellent sweetener replacement. Now, I really like the flavor of coconut so I wasn’t able to tell if this sugar gave off a coconut taste, however if you don’t like coconut, I would suggest trying date sugar in this recipe. Simply use Coconut Sugar at 1:1 ratio for sugar in other recipes as well for a more nutritious outcome. Not only is it healthy but perhaps the best thing about it, is that it’s not any more expensive than other sugars!

Okay, it's time to go an take advantage of this beautiful 55˚ December day!

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Banana Coconut Quinoa Cookies

4 bananas –mashed
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup quinoa flakes
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
½ cup coconut sugar or date sugar
½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
½ cup chopped organic dark chocolate or blueberries

Preheat oven to 380 degrees
Put all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well
Using a tablespoon scoop small balls of mixture onto cookie sheets
Cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Quinoa with Hemp Pesto & Sun-dried Tomatoes!

Today the Western World learned of the death of Kim Jong-Il’s death and BYOL is posting its first recipe. Truly, a historic day!

After my Nutrition Manifesto two weeks ago, thousands of my adoring fans have been flooding my inbox every day asking for recipes. Okay… Fine… maybe it wasn’t thousands, but I definitely got at least one text!

 A few months ago while procrastinating  studying procrastinating in the library I received the VEGA newsletter. Among other things, there was a mouth-watering picture and recipe for a “Secret Pesto.” I closed my books, packed my things and headed straight for Whole Foods to try it out. This evening I decided to celebrate the end of a LONG semester by recreating the deliciousness.

The Goods

This pesto sauce packs a serious one-two punch: taste and nutrition!
Served on top of Quinoa, an ancient seed that resembles a grain. Quinoa originated in the Andes and held a sacred place among the Incas who referred to it as the ‘mother of grains’ (silly Incans, Quinoa is a seed!) and had special planting and harvesting rituals to ensure a bountiful crop. It is actually more closely related to beets and spinach than to modern day wheat. As such, it is naturally gluten-free.

Okay, so a bunch of dead Indians, excuse me, Native Americans ate the stuff, so what? So What! Well for your information, Quinoa is an endurance-athletes dream come true! High in iron, B vitamins, and calcium it’s also a source of complete protein! Dishing up 6 grams of protein for each dry quarter cup, this is one seed that should not be dismissed. Not only is it super healthy, but it has a light, fluffy texture, mild earthy taste and is super easy to prepare. Before cooking, soak quinoa  in warm water for a few hours whenever possible. At the least, rise it well. Quinoa contains an outer-inhibitor that prevents complete digestion. Soaking and rising removes this and increases nutritional absorption. I used a rice cooker, however you can easily prepare Quinoa without one. To cook to perfection, simply boil it at a 2-parts-water-for-1-part-quinoa in a large pot, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes or until all of the water is evaporated. You can also bake at 350 for about 40 minutes (thanks for the super useful tip Sharona!).

Meet my vitamix Louise. You will be seeing a lot of her.

Simply add the ingredients to your high-powered emulsifying blender such as a vitamix and blend until you have a beautiful, vibrant-green smooth pesto. If your blender isn’t up to the challenge, fear not. Any food processor should be able to handle the job. Whatever you do, do not use one of these!!! 

The sauce also packs a one-two punch! However there are a few ingredients you may not be as aware of, so I will indulge.

The base consists of Hemp Seeds. These little guys can be expensive but are seriously worth the investment. As I mentioned in my other post, Hemp seeds are often called the “most perfect protein.” Containing all the needed essential amino acids, this is one of the most digestible forms of protein on the planet! Three little tablespoons is 9 grams of protein! Hemp seeds are also an excellent source of essential fatty acids and Omega 3 and 6. Hemp seeds can be found at any natural or organic grocery. If you cannot find hemp seeds, they can be substituted with pine nuts in this recipe.

Behold the Power! More torque than your Grandma!

The other surprise ingredients are Hemp and Flax Oil. The recipe calls for these two oils to be split evenly to the amount of 1/3 cup. These oils cost some serious skin, so if you can’t afford them, don’t sweat it; simply substitute with cold-pressed, unrefined olive oil. I recently used a groupon to get mine!

I don’t really like consuming oils as they are heavy and difficult to digest. Some studies even link oils to serious health issues, including DEATH! However, high quality and in low quantities, oils become safe and tasty. Flax and Hemp might be the best two oils commercially available so if you have either of these oils use them. Both boast high ratios of omega 3 and 6 as well as antioxidants.
(Warning: low quality oil can be one of the most damaging foods consumed).

Feel free to comment on how sexy this photo is, I'll assume you're referencing the pesto!

 Chiffonade Spinach!

Now that your sauce is made and your Quinoa is cooked, put the quinoa in a bowl. Before adding the pesto simply chiffonade (basically chop finely) a large handful of leftover spinach and thinly slice a half-cup of sun-dried tomatoes. Mix these with the Quinoa. Now add the desired amount of pesto and toss the ingredients well before serving!

Feel free to throw in sunflower seeds, chia seeds or even red pepper to increase both the nutrition and flavor of this already phenomenal dish! The red pepper really adds some pop to the color of this stunning meal.

Quinoa with Secret Pesto & Sun Dried Tomatoes
Makes 4-6 servings

·      ½ cup (packed) sun dried tomatoes
·      2 cups or 10 oz fresh basil
·      ½ cup hemp seeds
·      1/3 Flaxseed and Hempseed oil- divided evenly
·      1/3 cup cold-press extra-virgin organic olive oil
·      ¾ teaspoon sea salt
·      2 cloves garlic (note, if you have a vitamix there is no need to peel, just toss it in there!)
·      2 1/2 cups baby spinach

(this recipe can easily be made without oil. Simply sup the all of the oil with 1/2 cup veggie broth. It is just as delicious!)

1. Soak, rinse and cook quinoa.
2. Using a high-powered vitamix blender, blend garlic, basil, hemp seeds, both oils, sea salt and 2 cups of spinach. Blend until smooth.
3. Chop remaining spinach and sun dried tomatoes. Add on top of quinoa.
4. Add sauce, mix and enjoy!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Road ID.

Getting hit by a truck was scary and finally provided the motivation for me to order a Road Id. A good friend had been pushing me to get one since August, however the belief of my own invincibility had to be shattered before I would act.

Their logo says it all: “If you can’t speak for yourself, Road Id will speak for you.”

Having several different product models, they are similar to military dogtags. Inscribed on each band is personalized information such as name, birthday, emergency contacts, and any prior medical history or information that could be pertinent in an emergency. They also suggest putting an inspirational quote (I chose not to).

I was initially drawn to the Shoe Id, a band that wraps onto the laces of a shoe, however, after thinking about it carefully I opted out of that model because it would be difficult to attach to my cycling shoes but more importantly because in a real emergency, paramedics will not be looking on your shoes for medical information.

Instead I chose the Ankle Id. It’s a simple reflective and padded band (which comes in a few color choices) and velcros around your ankle. Ordering was easy and shipping was incredibly fast. Arriving three or four days later!

Your Road ID will arrive in this conspicuous package!

Inside this envelope was a lightweight potential lifesaver! The next morning I tossed it on for the real test (well I suppose the real test would be for me to get into a life-threatening accident, but I'm in no rush to test it that badly). On my 4.5 mile run, it didn't rub at all and even better I didn’t even notice that I was wearing it.

The following morning I strapped it on over my thermal bib pants and logged a great 17 mile ride without incident but with peace of mind! 

Seriously! Don’t wait for a crazed cabbie or service vehicle to run you down before ordering yours! They’re relatively inexpensive and make a great gift for any runner or cyclist. Furthermore, if you order in the next month try entering coupon code: ThanksAnthony9724503 for $1 off. 

In other news, I had a great training week. Logging 5 workout days, (4 runs and 1 ride) I threw down 37.5 miles. Definitely starting to feel strong on the pavement.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Little Red Book: A Brief Vegan Nutrition Manifesto.

Yes, your diet of pasta is killing you! Well, it's killing you less quickly than a diet of meat and dairy, but more quickly than a more nutrient-packed diet of whole fruits, vegetables and legumes. Athletes need to be especially conscious of what they put into their system because of the demands they make of their bodies. As such, you want everything you put into your system to work for you, not against you. How quickly your body recovers between workouts is closely linked to the nutritional value of your diet. When you eat a balance and healthy diet your body will heal itself more quickly, allowing you to trainer harder more often. When you eat foods low in nutrient value your body is expending valuable energy to digest it while getting little back in return. 

Preferably, a high fiber, high carbohydrate, high protein, alkaline-forming food.

One thing athletes want is a diet that is easy to digest. This typically means eating food with as little processing as possible. While you do not have to completely give up processed foods and eat only a whole plant diet, simply decreasing processed food intake and increasing your nutrient rich whole food intake can greatly increase your energy and performance levels. 

Yes, you can still cook your food. In fact cooking makes many nutrients more absorbable than in the raw state. Rather, what a whole food diet means is you are eating your food as close to nature as possible. No modified corn starch, no processed sugars, no junk. Rather than eating pasta, a highly refined food, try eating beans or spelt, an ancient, less refined and more nutrient-rich form of wheat. These foods are high in carbohydrates to give you fuel for long rides, but are still densely packed with macro and micro nutrients! Personally, I believe lentils and other legumes (chickpeas, split peas and kidney and navy beans) are super foods for endurance athletes and should compose a majority of their three main meals. They have a perfect complex carbohydrate to protein ratio to help build muscle and recover between workouts. Soaking legumes for a few hours and washing them throughly helps increase their absorption, decreases the amount of gas they will produce in your body as well as reducing their needed cook time. I typically put my legumes in a large bowl and soak them in warm water the night before I eat them.

Seeds from sunflowers and pumpkins are also great supplements. Sunflower seeds are 22% protein and offer trace minerals as well as Vitamin E.  Pumpkin seeds are high in protein as well as in iron, an essential nutrient- particularly for athletes. Hemp seeds are also an excellent choice and can be sprinkled on top of anything, added to your favorite sauces or blended in a smoothie. Hemp is sometimes called the "most perfect protein" and for good reason. Containing all 10 essential amino acids, hemp helps boost the immune system and hasten recovery while building muscle!  

You will also want to eat as many greens as you can. Greens have the highest amount of amino acids per ounce, which essentially helps your body digest and utilize protein that will allow it to regenerate your muscles after a long workout. However, be wary. Not all greens are created equal. While greens such as spinach are filled with good nutrients, they have inhibitors that keep your body from accessing their nutrients. As such, foods like kale or collards are far superior. Lightly steaming them will increase the nutrient absorption. 

Pseudo grains such as Quinoa, Buckwheat and wild rice are also excellent to incorporate into your diet. They contain B vitamins, iron, essential amino acids, and are easily digestible. 

You want your food to work for you between meals as well! Try incorporating more fruits into your diet. An apple for instance is a better source of energy than a cup of coffee and offers antioxidants too boot! However, bananas and dates are my go-to food for instant energy. Often, before going for a run or ride I will eat dates and slather on some almond butter (like peanut butter but healthier). Bananas and dates are both high in glucose, a carbohydrate that is rapidly converted to glycogen in the liver providing near instant energy. On longer runs I've actually brought a few dates with me and ate them while running to give me the pick up when I really needed it.

Ultramarthoner and Vegan Scott Jurek eats around 5,000-8,000 calories each day!

Raw and lightly roasted nuts are also great snacks. Nuts are both high in protein and have antioxidants. If you have the inclination, you can soak raw nuts to increase their digestibility.

Not only will all these foods help increase your energy due to their easy digestion and high nutrient value, but they are also high in antioxidants as well as alkaline forming. While the science is still out on this aspect of nutrition, studies suggest that the PH of your body is important. Research is starting to show that an acidic ph can actually harm performance and will increase recovery time (the time needed for your body to heal between workouts). A high Alkaline diet is essentially a diet of leafy greens (kale and collards are my recommendation), legumes (lentils, chickpeas, split peas), pseudo-grains (lentils, buckwheat, quinoa and wild rice) and fruits. Even seemingly acidic foods such as oranges become alkaline forming once digested while toxins such as meat and diary often lower your bodies ph in a negative way, and increasing recovery time needed between workouts. 

The best thing to remember is to do what feels right. These foods are stress-reducing and after giving your body a few weeks to adjust to the new diet you should start to notice an increase in both energy and vitality. Don't stress too much about things like protein. You should get more than enough by eating these foods. Also keep in mind that plant protein is more easily absorbed than meat and dairy proteins, so while meat eaters typically have 20% more protein intake, vegans often have more protein plasma found within their blood. In this case, quality over quantity is what counts! 

That said, calories are essential. And as Scott Jurek said: "And when you're a vegan, to increase your calories as you increase training you need more food. This isn't an elimination diet but an inclusion diet." Vegan athletes don't have to count calories to restrict themselves, but rather to make sure they are getting enough. 

These foods can also help increase your metabolism, helping your body to burn fat more efficiently. Protein, once ingested, instigates the release of a hormone that enables the body to more easily utilize its fat reserves, which in turn will improve endurance and facilitate loss of body fat.

I highly suggest the book Thrive by Brendan Brazier (review coming soon). He is a professional Ironman athlete who has written extensively on nutrition and its connection to athletic performance. I also suggest incorporating these foods into your diet slowly so as to give your body time to adjust to the new routine. 

You may have noticed that at no time did I ever suggest putting meat or dairy into your body. They are not only carcinogens that have been linked to increased levels of life threatening diseases but are also highly acidic once digested and will inhibit your overall ability to perform. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

First Real Post!

Today marks my first real post as well as my first day exercising since Saturday. As I mentioned in my last post, I am currently training for my first half marathon (ING MIAMI Half) and as such I am following the Hal Higdons Novice Training Program. However, while some disagree, I think I should have found a slightly more advance program since I believe my general fitness level is much higher than the program assumes. As such, the workouts don’t really tire me out and so I often add extra to the program.

I wish I hadn’t on Saturday!

According to the plan, weekends are for long runs, and because I’ve been battling with my schedule as well as a reoccurring injury I did the only logical thing and jumped forward a week in the program to ensure I get all the longest runs in before race day. As such I increased the run distance from 5 to 6 miles. No biggie! I ran the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan Bridge and back to the Promenade, rocking out to the Next to Normal soundtrack the entire way! A pleasant 6.1 mile loop that I completed at a 7:39 pace which I was pretty happy about since I wasn’t paying any attention to my speed.

I got back home and hopped on my foam roller and then made some breakfast while continuing my stretching routine. I had a nutrient dense breakfast: ¾ cup soaked quinoa with half an avocado, half a tomato and ¼ cup of raw almonds and a generous tablespoon of hemp seeds. Then I started filling my bathtub to take an ice bath when I decided that it was a beautiful day and I wasn’t tired enough to call it a morning.

Abandoning my schoolwork on my desk, I chose to do a short ride to Prospect Park. After one loop in the park, I was returning to a dull afternoon of school and work when a Verizon truck hit me!  How’s that for excitement?

The lowdown: I was following the truck down the street when it slowed and pulled to the right side of the road as if to park. Continuing my ride, the truck pulled back out into the road completely cutting off my lane as I was about to pass. Squeezing the brake handles, the truck clipped my back tire; the back of the bike flew up into the air, my feet popped out of the clips and were thrown upwards towards the heavens and then gravity regained control and threw me straight down into the pavement as if Zeus himself had struck me down. Yeah, it really sucked. However, all things considered I am counting myself incredibly lucky:

  1. there was not another vehicle directly behind me or coming from the other direction to run me over.
  2. my favorite pair of bib shorts did not rip.
  3. because of the way I fell, I suffered only minor degrees of road rash.
  4. most importantly my bike appears to be fine

I literally bounced off the ground then landed with a soft thud. I remained still for several seconds (felt like minutes). The world became quiet but through the fuzz I could hear strangers screaming "Are you okay?" as they rushed to me. Still I just lay there, wiggling each finger and toe before finally moving. The adrenaline hid the pain that was growing in my shoulder and hip. I thought I was fine. Finally I sat up, and saw a man walking away with my bike. Terrified that I was too weak and discombobulated to stop a mugger, I gathered as much strength as I could, deepened my voice and said, "That's my bike!" 

Clearly I've adopted that New York attitude!

Everyone, the driver who-ran-me-over included, was incredibly friendly. Coincidentally, a guy who competes in triathlons saw the entire thing and I was hit in front of the apartment of a man who advocates for Transportation Alternatives (really awesome organization, donate now people!) His wife not only brought me hot chocolate (I didn't drink it, but it was nice to hold something hot!), but he also offered to hold onto my bike overnight for me. Feeling okay, I crawled out of the street and onto the sidewalk. It was then that I took out my phone, stopped MapMyFitness app (priorities!) and then called 911. By the time the firetrucks and then police arrived, I was freezing and my hip and shoulder were in some intense pain.

Grinning like a fool while waiting for the Police!

The rest of the story is boring but basically I spent much of the day in the hospital and while I’m still sore, I am healing nicely (nothing a little Neosporin can’t fix, even if that Neosporin expired in November 2007! (Oops! Now you all know what I need for the holidays!)). Friends rallied to my side and their support meant the world to me. 

Me pretending to be FDR at the ER

Thanks to all! 
Until next time, Ride and Run safely.   

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Welcome to BYOL!
The inspiration behind this blog is the search for endurance and athleticism, the quest for the healthiest foods and healthy living, for tips on training and the search to find peace with oneself. Essentially this is my journey to becoming the best athlete that I can be and I'm inviting you along for the ride!

As will become apparent over the coming days, weeks, months and years, this is really about finding a way to stay focused on training and nutrition. To allow me a forum to test new thoughts and methods and share with all of you the results that I find.

So who am I? While such a philosophically-rich question takes a lifetime to answer, here is a brief sketch of how I view myself. I am a 25 year old vegan. The transition from a T-Rex to herbivore took place, as it does for many, during the first years of college while living in a small Pennsylvania town. I've never looked back. Now I am a graduate student sojourning in the City that Never Sleeps and running, cycling and swimming as often as I can.

This blog, however is about inspirations. And I have become obsessively inspired by the incredible athletes who surround me. I've ran regularly for the past three or four years however recently these people have pushed me to finally start training for actual races. I am currently training for a half marathon but I have far bigger health and fitness goals. So start stretching now because it is going to be a long and exhausting journey!