Michael Mendoza wasn’t always the rippling torso of sinew and muscles that he is now. One fateful day, only 30 yards into a 10k that he’d signed up for and not trained for at all – despite his lethargic attitude to life – he realized that taking his body for granted was a dangerous thing to do. His life was going to change immediately and it all began with his diet. He explains…

“Going vegan was definitely not an overnight process, which is why it bugs me that so many people think they can guilt someone into going vegan. Look, I knew that we tortured animals, but I could have really cared less. They were our food, so who cared if they were ethically treated before slaughter, right?

Vegans and animal rights activists just have way too much time on their hands! Don’t get me wrong, I was definitely an animal lover, dogs, cats, and anything on the endangered species list, but not our food supply.”

Michael explains that he got to where he is by what he calls his “Matrix Effect”. He decided to take that  pill and see just how far the rabbit hole led him. Having already started an exercise regimen with healthier foods and leaner meats, the thought of giving up meat never crossed his mind.

“I was pretty successful in losing a large amount of weight when a book called “Skinny Bastard,” made its way into my hands. I laughed at the notion of vegetarianism but read it anyways. After reading the book, I was horrified and in disbelief. I didn’t want to buy into the fact that our food supply was really tainted. I didn’t want to believe that the government could allow any of these practices to go on. I did more research and eventually adopted a vegan diet. I lost even more weight but reverted into vegetarianism. Years go by as a vegetarian and I had gained a substantial amount of weight back.”

Michael didn’t know another vegetarian or vegan (or “v*gan”, as they are commonly referred to in text) at all by this time. This eventually changed due to social media and he met many others with the same philosophy online. Noticing that many of the vegans he saw online were athletes, he decided to give it a try and go vegan. He bought the book “Thrive” by Brendain Braizer – a successful vegan triathlete – and took his advice.

“I followed his program and had this energy that I never had before. I was able to go faster and further with this new diet. I was running 10k’s and half marathons for fun! I dropped a lot of weight and was in the best shape of my life. All thanks to social media.”

“Another thing that happened was that I learned compassion for animals. I gave up leather and anything related to animal products. Being vegan does open your eyes to the fact that you really don’t need animal products to survive. Heck, being vegan is why I have all this energy.”

But there wasn’t just one tipping point or moments of clarity that Michael puts this down to. He was around 300+lbs, smoked occasionally and drank all the time. He recalls how what he consumed on a daily basis wasn’t good. “My diet was also pretty horrendous. I never ate a single meal without meat and drank at least three cans of diet cherry coke every day.”

“I was at a party and a few friends were talking about a 10K they entered. I had run a 10K for a college final once before, and I was still confident about it. I jokingly said that I was able to run a race, and everyone just laughed at me. To prove them wrong, I signed up for it.  It was a scorcher and well over 100 degrees outside. I met all my friends and we headed to the starting line. Keep in mind, I had zero training and did not prepare for this run at all. They shot that gun and we all started running like rats abandoning a ship. I had a good stride until about 30 or so yards. My lungs started to hurt, my legs started to ache, and I could barely breathe! I took a look back at the starting line and seriously thought about heading back in shame.

300 pound guy trying to run six miles? What was I thinking? I decided the shame of turning back would be too much to handle, so I pressed forward. I decided that I would finish this God forsaken race even if I had to crawl to the finish line.”

As he was bent over double, gasping for air, he was passed by a lady that was in her 70’s. The full horror of his own physical fitness was now washing over him like a cold shower. The alarms were ringing and life was slapping his face from left to right and back again. Time to wake up, Michael.

“She looked like someone that I should help cross the street and here she was passing this guy in his 20’s?! This was ridiculous! So I gave all that I had and passed her up. It was a back and forth race for miles with this lady who should have been knitting at home, not competing with me in a race that I was obviously losing! I finally gave up! She passed me and I was embarrassed. I started to hyperventilate and seriously thought I might die that day. But Like I said, I decided to finish even if I had to crawl across that damn line!”

He eventually finished the race in what he considers to be the worst shape of his life. Sweaty, drained of energy and feeling utterly humiliated and beaten down, it took Michael 1 hour and 52 minutes to cover the 10k. Feeling so drained, Michael had to rest for a few hours before he considered himself good enough to drive home, such was the level of his exhaustion.

“Ever since that day I knew that I needed to get into shape but never really knew how. I was so lazy and eventually lost the passion to get fit. A few months later I took a trip to Europe. My life forever changed since then.”

Some of Michael’s training would include things like uphill sand dune sprints

“In the States I was huge but there were others that were equally large around me. In Europe however, I was the biggest guy in the Continent! It didn’t take very long to realize why! My first day in Venice Italy, I went to a local shop and ordered a pizza and soda. It was such a tiny slice of pizza and the smallest soda I have ever seen! I laughed and thought I must have ordered in the over-priced tourist area!

Later on for dinner, I went to another restaurant and ordered some ravioli. Oh I was super excited! I mean, I’m in Italy eating Italian. Awesome right? Nope! Here comes the waiter with my bowl full of ravioli, 4 pieces. 4 freaking pieces! It was the Twilight Zone here!”

Reverting to type, Michael resorted to what he knew – American fast food. Going to Burger King and McDonalds, he knew he would be in familiar territory. Sadly for him, he soon found that there wasn’t a “Super Size” option for him to fall back on. He quickly understood that he would “either starve or go broke.”

“Slowly but surely I started realizing that these Europeans didn’t have tiny portion sizes, but we Americans had gigantic portion sizes. I also figured out another thing, my feet were killing me. I was walking everywhere. In California, walking was for people who didn’t have cars, not for everyone else.

I came back with a new outlook on life. There was a Starbucks about a quarter mile from my apartment that I would drive to. I never took my car again and started a portion control diet with exercise.”

In regards to training, Michael was a rudderless ship. Not really knowing what he wanted to do, or even how to do it, he was all over the place.

“I started this popular diet called “Atkins.” It was great! I got to eat tons of bacon and eggs and didn’t have to worry about anything. Well, that didn’t last long. I didn’t lose any weight and I felt horrible. I started researching different programs and eventually found one that I liked. It was superset lifting with 33% protein, 33% carbs, and 33% fats. It told me to stay away from fruits and not to do any cardio. I cheated and ate fruits and started to run.”

His vendetta was consuming him. He had a score to settle with 10K of asphalt. He wanted to be able to run a distance that he considered a man of his age should easily be able to do.

“I calculated a full 3 miles around my whole apartment block. It wasn’t easy at all but I was completely motivated. My first run was similar to that 10K I did months before. After about 30 yards in, I was done, but pushed myself to keep going. Days that I wasn’t attempting to run, I started to lift. I was way too embarrassed to hit up a local gym, so I used my apartment gym instead. Luckily we had a decent amount of weights and exercise equipment. I didn’t know what I was doing so I just followed a workout plan.”

The difference in his body wasn’t something he noticed at first. Not overly concerned with how he looked, moreover how he felt, he eventually saw that, over the months, his body was changing in a positive way.

“After months of running, months of eating healthy, and months of dropping pounds, I ran 6 miles without stopping. I didn’t even really notice that I had reached this level of “athleticism.” It was everyday work for me and I had never taken notice.”

There was a quote that I printed up and went like this, “Unless you’re giving 100% every time, you might as well stay at home. So that’s what I did, gave it my 100% every time I went out! Granted, you’re going to have good days and bad days, but I never limited myself.”

“What really made me realize the difference were the compliments from friends and family at how much weight I had lost. I honestly did not notice much changing, it was only till my friends said something that I was able to really look at old pictures of myself, and notice the change.”

But as every Spartan Racer knows, there is an area that every single person has, regardless of strength, stamina, build, body shape, age or mental fortitude. A common bond that we all share and one that we all have to push past in order to make it worthwhile – the comfort zone.

“Yes! Getting out of your comfort zone!”, Michael laughs, “the hardest thing for me was getting rid of the people who were negatively influencing me and hanging out with those who would positively influence me. You cannot get into shape if you’re hanging out with people who do nothing but drink, smoke, and eat horrible food.”

“I put friendships, nightlife and fast food on hold. I told myself that it was a temporary inconvenience and that it would be worth it in the end. Boy did it pay off. I seriously felt like a whole new person afterwards. Accepting that everything I knew about food was completely wrong was hard but necessary. Admitting being wrong about a lot of stuff was tough but was the first step to recovery. Once I accepted that I had no idea what I was doing, I was then able to move forward and learn about food and fitness.”

Offering advice for those open to what he experienced, Michael is quick to lay out some pointers, should anyone want to follow his example.

“It is hard and boy is it tough! If it were easy, everyone would be in shape! You have to want it bad and be willing to struggle for it. Once you get to that point where you have that, “nothing is going to stop me,” mentality, you’ll be successful! Most people quit at the first sign of a struggle and wonder why their “diet” doesn’t work. If there is a wall, you climb it. If there is a ditch, you jump over it. If there is a lake, you swim across it. That’s it. That’s the secret! For every object that gets in your path, you have to overcome it. And that is how you will succeed.”

Obstacles are not there to prevent your progress. They are opportunities to show what your mind and body can do.

Sign up today and we’ll see you at the finish line.

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Particularly around the holidays, we really get into food extravagance.  Extreme acts of desserts happen more than extreme bouts of exercising.  Equations of fitness we have been working into our bodies throughout the year unravel with smells from the kitchen.  Rapid caloric ingestions far outweighing our caloric expenditures happen, and hapen on many consecutive days. Bad choices are made about the carbs and fats we hook up with, and we take walks of shame towards our workout the next day.

You are going to have to work to get those bad calories back.  You are also going to need to clear your system that you  just gunked up.

If you do extremely complex foods (processed desserts), try extremely simple foods (raw foods) for a change.

Once a week a Spartans should get in touch with their primitive eating instinct, and simply enjoy the deliciousness of eating only raw fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts for a day.  ‘

If you want to go next-level, don’t even mix your raw food.  In fact, put three hours between each one type of raw food you choose to consume, and the next raw food you choose to consume, so that you don’t cross them, even in your stomachs.

Sounds extreme, right?  You run through fire, crawl under barbed wire, carry heavy objects around mountains…you are freaked out about eating as much as you want all day, as long as you just make sure it is raw whole goodness? Better fuel comes from fewer ingredients.  Processed food products are the worst kind of fuel.  Raw food ingredients are the best. Therefore more processing of products equals worse products.

One ingredient is the best ingredient.  It goes down hill from there, as soon as you start mixing and matching, and then doing various eat processes (cooking) as well. If you want to eat avocados, eat as much as you want, just only eat avocados – eat 2lbs of avocados, go till your full.  Then, wait 3 hours before you eat 2 lbs of cashews.

This is what we did with Chris Davis and Danny Rodriguez, collectively loosing over 300 pounds here at Spartan HQ.

They did it for weeks at a time to really get the benefits, but you can get benefits just by trying this kind of diet once a week. More than anything, use it as an opportunity to reflect carefully about your food choices, and really experience them first hand. To learn that humans were made and evolved to eat foods, not food products.  More nutritional advice can be found by signing up to our Food Of The Day.

What do you have to lose?  Weight?  Try raw food.

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Spartan FOD Update

Spartan Race is proud to be a portion of your email diet. We’ve cooked up the Spartan Food of the Day emails for over a year, trying to highlight healthy raw foods, and giving you suggested ways to combine and prepare them.

Survey results are in, and we were glad to see that you echoed many of our own recent thoughts on elevating our nutritional and culinary game. We are bringing even more to the table.

Starting Sunday we will initiate a new weekly FOD format, delivering you even more content per serving. We will feature a specific Food of the Week, that you can stock up on during your weekly hunting and gathering sessions. This will help with Sunday night food preparations and planning.

In one place we’ll give you even more intel on the foods that you should select when working your way through the grocery store. We’ll even give you Sprint, Super, and Beast level recipes for when you get home, and for later in the week.

Our goal is to make you succeed at our races. Nutrition is a huge factor towards getting you to the finish line. During the week use this email as a reference point for daily food choices. You need to be ready for race day, and nutrition is a huge factor in race success.

Your workout is the product of the foods you eat. Your race is the product of our both your workouts and your nutrition. Up your game by upping the quality of the foods you consume. You have to work on your nutritional habits, just like your your training habits.

We’re here to help. Sign up for the FOD if you haven’t already. And sign up for the Spartan WOD (Workout of the Day), too, to best execute on those calories.

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While it’s clear that the fight against obesity and poor health has never had more momentum, it appears that champagne corks shouldn’t be popping just yet. Save those back slaps and knucklebumps for a moment, as things aren’t quite as rosey as we’d like to believe they are.

The Overseas Development Institute recently said one in three people worldwide was now overweight and urged governments to do more to influence diets. 

In the UK, 64% of adults are classed as being overweight or obese.

The report predicts a “huge increase” in heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.

Globally, the percentage of adults who were overweight or obese – classed as having a body mass index greater than 25 - grew from 23% to 34% between 1980 and 2008.

Spartan Race has been pushing for Americans and indeed those around the world to live healthier and exercise more.

Consider signing up for our FOD . With our Food Of The Day, you will be emailed a different food/recipe that you may like to consider each and every day.

Likewise our WOD – workout of the day – will give you a routine to go through that will not only keep you in shape, but will prepare you for your next Spartan Race. Our WODs are designed to target elements of our races which, when done regularly, will see you attack obstacles with greater strength and confidence.

Sign up your children (ages 4-13) for Spartan Kids so that they can share the pleasure of experiencing what the adults get to enjoy.

Of course, the regular Spartan Race is still waiting for you adults aged 14 and over. Let’s get together and push that obesity percentage down. Sign up your friends and family and have today be the first day of the rest of your lives!

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image credit endurancecalculator.com

Competing in a triathlon, running a marathon, or just trying to beat your personal best time are all exhilarating, until you hit a wall mid-stride. Almost all athletes have experienced this, when their bodies run out of energy, not wanting to go a step farther, let alone faster. Thankfully, help is on the way!

Benjaman Rapoport has come up with an online calculator to figure out how many extra carbs athletes need to avoid the dip in energy that causes them to hit the wall. By entering into the calculator your resting heart rate and target marathon time you get the optimal number of carbohydrate calories needed to give you enough energy to get through your race.

Rapoport, a Harvard-MIT student and marathoner, gives athletes a great tool to improve their performance on game days.

Remember to carb up correctly before your next Spartan Race!

See you at the finish line!

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We’ve all been there: You just crossed the finish line and the only thing that’s more important that that medal being draped around your neck and a congratulatory hug from the friends and family is FOOD. Mixing running and extreme cardiovascular-intense obstacles, Spartan Racers can burn thousands of calories along the course. So it’s not surprising to experience hunger that borders on insanity! However, it seems like this mom from Nebraska may have all our hungers beat. She destroyed a 72oz steak in under 3 minutes. We don’t recommend speed eating (although at least she was eating paleo).

If you’re hungry to get hungry, find your race today. Your steak is waiting.

SIGN UP NOW

Additional Stories
Burpees are good for your health

Forget The Meat: A Guide to Eating Raw Food  

The Definitive Signs That You Are A Spartan (Sorry, there is no cure) 

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by Harmony Heffron

Blueberries recently made the news when companies were discovered putting fake ‘blueberries’ in their products.  Though you now have to be careful to avoid purchasing counterfeit blueberry products, there are plenty of reasons to add this wonder food to your diet.

Rich in antioxidants, blueberries may even prevent some types of diseases, including cancer. A study by the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center reports that blueberries may lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases and reduce fat in the stomach area. High in vitamins A, B complex, C, and E, these berries can keep your body healthy and help your immune system to function well.

Since fresh berries are only available a few months a year, frozen blueberries are a great alternative. They make a fabulous, nutrient-rich addition to health shakes. Just throw them in the blender with everything else!

If you buy fresh berries, check the color. The more blue they are, the more antioxidants they have in them.

Check out our Food Of The Day for more help with eating.

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There is a reason why you see bananas at the end of marathons, triathlons, and obstacle races.  Simply put, you can’t go wrong with eating bananas.  Bananas are concentrated nutrition delivered direct from one raw food, fueling you up with approximate 100 calories, 3 grams of fiber, and 422 mg of potassium.   Muscle cramping has long been documented as being related to low potassium levels.  Anyone who has had their legs lock up at the end of a long race can appreciate this, and should consider grabbing one whenever they are around.

Bananas are easy to eat and digest for the most part. They are easily chewed up and swallowed, even if one is running at 90% intensity.  While everyone manages solid food while exercising differently, the banana seems pretty universally accepted as easy to digest while exercising.

In fact, they are easy on your stomach.

Bananas have long been recognized for their antacid effects that protect against stomach ulcers and ulcer damage. In one study, a simple mixture of banana and milk significantly reduced acid secretion. In addition, bananas also help activate the cells that compose your stomach lining, producing a thicker protective mucus barrier against stomach acids.

So, when reaching for your coffee in the morning, reach for a banana, too.  When you are heading to workout, grab a banana to go with you for either before, during, or after your workout.  Simply put, you never know when you might need an extra dose of quality raw food calories and potassium.

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by Jess Murden

Some people say it’s a texture thing; other people say it’s the green coloring that deters them.  I say, get over it and start stocking up on avocado.  This weird-looking fruit actually provides some of the most essential nutrients that our body needs on a daily basis.

Avocados are native to Mexico, with the first evidence of avocado use dating back to 10,000 BC in a cave near Puebla, Mexico (reference to the Paleo Diet connection).  They tend to have a pear shape and are therefore sometimes referred to as an alligator pear.  The avocado is considered a fruit because it is a large berry that contains a large seed.  Avocados mature on trees but ripen off of the tree.

The average avocado tree produces roughly 500 avocados annually.  Thank the lucky caveman drawings for this because CrossFitters and Paleo Diet advocates alone eat enough avocados to keep the market on the up swing.  So let’s side track to the nutritional benefits.  Avocados are of the good fat family; meaning they are the kind of fat that a person should include in their diet.  Roughly 75% of an avocado’s calories come from fat (monosaturated fat, however; the kind of fat that has positive affects on health, such as lowering cholesterol).  They are also sodium and cholesterol free.

Avocados naturally contain the following vitamins:

Vitamin K – known as a clotting vitamin; it helps the body’s blood clot.

 

Vitamin E – acts as an antioxidant; it is also necessary for the formation of red blood cells.

 

Vitamin C – used in the growth and repair of tissues; it is also an antioxidant.

Vitamin B6 – helps the immune system produce antibodies; it also helps maintain normal nerve function.

Potassium – essential for the proper function of cells, tissues and organs; it is necessary for building muscle.

Avocado Fun Facts:

The word ‘avocado’ comes from the Nahuatl word ahuacatl, meaning testicle, a reference to the shape of the fruit.

Avocados were known by the Aztecs as the fertility fruit.

San Diego County is the avocado capital of the U.S.

Avocados contain more potassium than bananas

Avocados have the highest protein content of any fruit.

If you would like to receive a Food Of The Day, join our FOD mailing list be clicking here.

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by Carrie Adams

We’re back with another installment of some of our biggest stories of 2012!  Not surprisingly, many of our top 10 blog posts dealt with, what else, training and nutrition!  Spartans commit to a healthy way of living and it was clear that our community was paying attention and getting it done.

Some of our biggest blog posts of the year were centered around how to get fit and how to eat right.  In addition to providing resources on our blog, at Spartan HQ, we are trying to make it even easier to get these tips delivered to you, so if you want our daily WOD delivered directly to your inbox for FREE, click HERE.

Here are our three biggest training posts of 2012!

Breaking down the Warm-Up: As our own Spartan Coach manager Jeff Godin, Ph.D. CSCS always says, “Always start your workout with a warm-up.” Although flexibility and unrestricted movement may be important for long term injury prevention, static stretching and flexibility exercises are not an important part of a warm-up. Stretching moves a joint through its full range of motion, however it does this passively and does very little to increase the temperature of muscle. The warm-up should be active and move the joints through their full range of motion. The warm-up progresses from low intensity towards high intensity. For some, the warm-up may actually have them gassed by the end. The benefits of a warm-up include; increased tissue temperature, tissue compliance, energy metabolism, movement efficiency and reduced tissue stiffness. The warm-up can also be used to reinforce fundamental movement mechanics related to speed and agility. The warm-up should emphasize proper foot placement to promote acceleration and prevent deceleration.  Read the rest of the post by clicking HERE.

Spartan Ab 300:  In this post, Dr. Jeff gives a great ab workout for the ages!  300 reps never felt so good!  Click HERE for the full workout and breakdown.

Buck Furpee Day:  The burpee is quintessentially Spartan in that there is nothing wasted in the activity.   It carries with it efficiency,  and, therefore, concentrated effectiveness.  When you train, focus on training – don’t over-complicate things.  When in doubt, do burpees.  How did Buck Furpee Day go down?  Click HERE and find out.

Spartan Race Nutrition:

It should come as no surprise that training, while a critical piece of the Spartan equation, it isn’t everything.  You need the right fuel to get that Spartan body and keep moving!   Whether your goals are to lose weight, get lean, or perform better, nutrition has to be a part of your plan.  And if you’re not sure where to start and you want some help from the Spartan team, we have good news!  Just like our daily WOD’s we offer FREE daily Food tips and recipes as well.  Simply click HERE to get signed up for yours!

Eat to Live: Spartan Performance Nutrition: Not sure what to eat the night before a race?  This popular blog post solves that problem with ease!  Our own Spartan Champion and Chick Rose-Marie Jarry provides her favorite recipe for a pre-race trio.

Click HERE for the full recipe.

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