The Diet That Worked Too Well

Hello, readers! Today I’m going to share another one of my favorite blogs with you. Matt Frazier is the vegan marathoner and ultra-runner who writes the No Meat Athlete blog. I enjoy the blog because I eat a mostly vegan diet, I occasionally run long-distance races (though nothing over 26.2 EVER!) and I share Matt’s enthusiasm for self-experimentation. He has put himself through some fairly crazy nutrition and exercise experiments, all with the goal of seeing whether there is any truth behind the latest craze.

In his latest dietary experiment, he and his wife spent an entire month following a “fruitarian” diet. I had only heard minor mention of this diet before, and dismissed it as a crazy fad, but when Matt and his wife decided to give it a try, I paid more attention to it. Basically, a fruitarian diet is a raw vegan diet. Since most people can’t (or won’t) eat enough raw vegetables to meet their daily calorie needs, there is a lot of fruit involved, hence the name. The diet naturally provides about 80% of calories from carbohydrates, 10% from protein and 10% from fats, so it is also sometimes referred to as the 80/10/10 diet.

Since Matt and his wife aren’t totally crazy, they didn’t strictly limit themselves to raw fruit and vegetables all day, every day for a month.  Rather, they ate fruitarian throughout the day until dinner time, and then cooked a normal (vegan) hot dinner that may or may not have included whole grains and plant proteins (tofu, tempeh, seitan, beans and legumes, etc.)

After following this diet for a month, Matt reported that he felt amazing! All of those healthy raw fruits and vegetables left him feeling energized like never before. But he decided not to continue on the diet for one surprising reason – he had lost too much weight, despite a relatively light training regimen. While he didn’t feel that his weight was unhealthy (the opposite, in fact) he just didn’t want to look that skinny, so he ended the diet after his experimental month.

This made me wonder about the possibilities of the 80/10/10 diet for people who want to lose weight. It seems that it could be a viable short-term option for those who don’t have health-related dietary restrictions or requirements outside the parameters of the diet.  It certainly compares well against liquid or meal replacement diets. Long term, though, I don’t think this way of eating is sustainable for most people. As a mostly-vegan eater, I know that I already don’t get any Vitamin B12 and I get smaller amounts of calcium and Vitamin D than my vegetarian and omnivore friends. I religiously take supplements to guard against nutrient deficiencies, but if I removed cooked foods from the diet, I’d be eliminating whole grains, beans, legumes and anything processed at all (plant milks, tofu, tempeh, oils, etc.).  This would basically cut out about 75% of my usual sources of protein. I imagine it would also greatly reduce intake of another whole set of micronutrients (Iron comes to mind, for example).

Wouldn’t it be great, though, if you could get the energy boost that Matt experienced from eating all that fresh produce without sacrificing certain categories of nutrients? That’s the elusive nutrition goal I’ve personally been chasing for over a year. I’ve been looking for that magic formula, the right combination of foods that will put my metabolism on high, while keeping my energy levels up and my mind clear and sharp.

In the spirit of self-experimentation, I’m going to borrow a page from Matt’s playbook and add a lot of raw fruits and vegetables to my diet for the next month. I won’t substitute them for meals, though, but rather for snacks. Instead of grabbing a granola bar mid-morning or nibbling on chocolate after dinner, I’ll reach for fresh fruits and vegetables. Since protein consumption is something I keep my eye on, I’ll munch on raw nuts and seeds, too. I’ll check in and let you know how it goes.

If you want to read Matt’s recap on his month-long fruitarian experience, you can read it here.

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