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Can You Really Eat Raw & Work Out?

POSTED MARCH 9, 2010

46 COMMENTS

Raw Food Workout

Note from Russell: This is a guest blog post by Rita G, a researcher on one of my favourite books, The China Study, and soon-to-be author in her own right.


If you’ve been thinking of starting up on a raw food diet, it’s important that you carefully plan out this diet approach in accordance with your workouts. Those who are very involved in their workout programs have specific nutrient requirements, and if these requirements are not met, problems can and will likely arise.

You don’t want to take a blind approach here, as the consequences can be high levels of fatigue, muscle mass loss, decreased strength and muscular endurance, as well as poor sports performance if you happen to be involved in athletic events.

Here are some of the most important things to remember if you’re planning on going raw.

Get complex carbohydrates before the workout

The first thing that you must make sure you do is get enough complex carbohydrates in your diet before you head out to do your workout. These complex carbohydrates are what will provide the fuel your body needs to get through those gruelling workout sessions, so without them, you’re going to sputter out quickly.

One of the simplest complex carbohydrates to have before a workout is raw unprocessed oats. Mix these with a small amount of died fruit and some honey for added sweetness. Then form into tiny balls that can easily be consumed before you head off to the gym.

Finish the workout with fast-acting carbohydrates

Second, you also must make sure you get a head start on proper recovery by including a fast-acting carbohydrate source immediately following your workout. This is when the muscles are most likely to suck this glucose up instantly, helping to regenerate the muscle glycogen that powers you through your exercise session.

Fresh fruit or dried fruit works great in this case, as the sugars will be broken down faster in the body than a grain source, which requires more reactions to take place.

Juice also works well, so if you’re not in the mood to consume solid foods after a hard workout, that’s a good option to turn to.

Do not neglect protein

Protein is a nutrient that is often quite low in those practicing a raw food diet because unlike typical diets, you will not consume any cooked meat.

Instead, turn to hemp seeds, nuts, as well as beans to get as much dietary protein in as possible. Beans, also mentioned as a good pre-workout carb, are really ideal for before your workout as long as you don’t find them so heavy that you cannot work out.

You should aim to get one gram per pound of body weight if you can; however, you may find this increasingly difficult, especially if you choose not to incorporate a form of protein powder in with your diet.

Just be sure you don’t go below half a gram of protein per pound of body weight, or you may risk losing muscle mass while exercising. Being sure to get in enough carbohydrates will also help to eliminate the risk of this occurring as well, since that will help prevent incoming protein being utilized as a primary fuel source.

Take in enough calories total

Finally, the last thing that you must be sure to be on the lookout for is total calorie intake. If your meal plan on your raw food diet contains mostly fresh fruits and vegetables, your calorie intake is going to end up being very low, and this can make it incredibly hard to get enough energy in to get you through your activities.

Active individuals who exercise three to five times a week should aim to eat fourteen calories per pound of body weight, so do a quick calculation for yourself.

If you’re aiming to lose weight, you will want to eat slightly less than this but do remember that there is definitely a limit as to how low you can take your calories. If you bring them too low, you risk your metabolism slowing down, preventing further fat loss from taking place.

So be sure you keep these tips in mind if you’re starting up on a raw food diet and are an active individual. You want to be extra sure you’re getting the right foods at the right times of the day, because this is what will help you see optimal results from your workout plan.

About guest blogger Rita G: Rita is a nutritionist, researcher for books such as The China Study, and soon-to-be author. She is also head editor of the gift ideas site snubbr.com.

For more information, take a look at my other Raw Food Recipes.

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User Comments

46 Comments

  1. icemel
    Reply
    Posted

    How the heck do you eat raw oats? Seed-grind a bunch of oat groats? Sprout them? (I’ve found almost all will not sprout) , and why is this not mentioned?

    She doesn’t mean pressed oats? Pressed Oats are not raw, they are roasted and/or streamed in preparation.

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    Reply
    Posted

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  3. Gyorgyibaunok
    Reply
    Posted

    yes ,the book in absolute wrong./aldo I like Russel/
    to be good shape :how hormones working with food.Experts are Shaun Hadsall
    http://getleanin12.com      are free in Face and T
    also Flavia Del MonteCurvalicius fittness. They advise on food PERFECT,they are bodybuilders.
      before exc.best with no food in the morning/just water/going to burn 300% more fat for 3 days.After workouth 1 hour layter eat high carbs.
    Or before exc.1 hour earlier eat protein very small carb.
    get lean shaun explain free how this ways the hormons works for US body,monipulating the inzuline TNX gyorgyi

  4. Gael D. Meyer
    Reply
    Posted

    Hi, my name is Gael. known as the Raw Vegan Realtor. I have been raw now for 4 years and feel wonderful. It certainly has changed my life. I have a book coming out in Sept. The Nuts and Sprouts of Healthy Eating. Glad I have connected with you.

  5. Gael D. Meyer
    Reply
    Posted

    Hi, my name is Gael. known as the Raw Vegan Realtor. I have been raw now for 4 years and feel wonderful. It certainly has changed my life. I have a book coming out in Sept. The Nuts and Sprouts of Healthy Eating. Glad I have connected with you.

  6. Pingback: Cakes recipe :Pumpkin Ginger-tenderness cake that ready to shake up the tongue , Pudding and cake recipesTop Food Recipe | topfoodrecipe.com

  7. MR imaging
    Reply
    Posted

    From playing with your kids to cleaning the house, as little or as much vigorous workout you have is a good start. Walking is one of the best forms of exercise that almost anyone can do. Just walking twenty minutes away from your house and then …

  8. Makeda
    Reply
    Posted

    Hi, I love the recipes on the blog, Keep up the good work Russel :)
    About this article…..I disagree with most of it.
    If you just check out the performances of Brendan Brazier for instance (Ironman triathlete on a raw diet) you would understand that the first statement is 100% wrong….
    It's completely the opposite: actually you gain in strength, you lose fat (yes) but not muscle mass if you train properly, and your performances do improve a LOT.
    Many others athletes “involved in athletic events” would confirm it too….
    You can find some forums about raw vegan athletes to have some ideas about what to eat…

    • Russell James Raw Food
      Reply
      Posted

      Hi Makeda,

      Thanks for posting, I value your opinion.

      I'm going to see Brendan this week so I'm excited to hear him speak as I've read his books.

      Which, “first statement” are you referring to that is 100% wrong?

      The first statement is…

      “If you’ve been thinking of starting up on a raw food diet, it’s important that you carefully plan out this diet approach in accordance with your workouts.”

      Pretty sure that's sound advice.

      Or were you referring to..

      “You don’t want to take a blind approach here as the consequences can be high levels of fatigue, muscle mass loss, decreased strength and muscular endurance, as well as poor sports performance if you happen to be involved in athletic events.”

      A blind approach to nutrition in any cuisine, cooked or raw, could lead to any of those things. She's not saying that eating raw automatically causes those things, just an unplanned approach.

      Hope that helps.

  9. Makeda
    Reply
    Posted

    Hi, I love the recipes on the blog, Keep up the good work Russel :)
    About this article…..I disagree with most of it.
    If you just check out the performances of Brendan Brazier for instance (Ironman triathlete on a raw diet) you would understand that the first statement is 100% wrong….
    It’s completely the opposite: actually you gain in strength, you lose fat (yes) but not muscle mass if you train properly, and your performances do improve a LOT.
    Many others athletes “involved in athletic events” would confirm it too….
    You can find some forums about raw vegan athletes to have some ideas about what to eat…

    • Russell James
      Reply
      Posted

      Hi Makeda,

      Thanks for posting, I value your opinion.

      I’m going to see Brendan this week so I’m excited to hear him speak as I’ve read his books.

      Which, “first statement” are you referring to that is 100% wrong?

      The first statement is…

      “If you’ve been thinking of starting up on a raw food diet, it’s important that you carefully plan out this diet approach in accordance with your workouts.”

      Pretty sure that’s sound advice.

      Or were you referring to..

      “You don’t want to take a blind approach here as the consequences can be high levels of fatigue, muscle mass loss, decreased strength and muscular endurance, as well as poor sports performance if you happen to be involved in athletic events.”

      A blind approach to nutrition in any cuisine, cooked or raw, could lead to any of those things. She’s not saying that eating raw automatically causes those things, just an unplanned approach.

      Hope that helps.

  10. Bruno
    Reply
    Posted

    Very good article. I'm practice Trekking, Ashtanga yoga and Kendo, and I never had any trouble with my raw food. I don't feel pain or tired.

  11. Bruno
    Reply
    Posted

    Very good article. I’m practice Trekking, Ashtanga yoga and Kendo, and I never had any trouble with my raw food. I don’t feel pain or tired.

  12. Benjamin Bach
    Reply
    Posted

    Great article, although I don't think we quite need the 1/2 – 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.

    I lift weights with a trainer three times a week, and I consume 40-50g of protein a day. mostly raw, all veg. Typically whole hemp seeds mixed in with stuff, and nuts & greens – but also chia seeds and a hemp protein powder (Manitoba Harvest cold processed raw organic etc).

    Consuming this amount of protein daily for about 11 months now has allowed me to continue to add muscle, and in fact this morning I hit a new high on the bench press.

    We need less protein than we think :)

    • Russell James Raw Food
      Reply
      Posted

      Thanks, Benjamin.

      Great to hear from someone building muscle on a raw diet. I'm about to embark on some training so thanks for your guidelines on how much protein you use.

      Good luck with continuing with those gains!!! :)

  13. I love Veges
    Reply
    Posted

    Do you realize that would be about 10 grams of protein, 26 grams of fat, and about 50 carbs–pretty heavy. I find after a hard workout I need more protein for my muscles to rebuild or I’m really sore and tired. That’s why I have a hard time not using hemp or rice protein powders. Maybe more tahini and less walnuts (since tahini has 5.6 grams of protien, 8 grams of fat, and 4 grams of carbs per two Tablespoons–a better ratio than fatty walnuts). What do you think?

  14. Russell James
    Reply
    Posted

    Please don’t think that I’m condoning use of whey or other such protein powders by publishing this article. Personally I use David Wolfe’s Sunwarrior powder and have had great success adding it in to my system of eating. There is definitely not 20% protein in celery.I am also aware that our bodies don’t get calcium by eating calcium, but no where in this article does it mention calcium.

  15. Benjamin Bach
    Reply
    Posted

    Great article, although I don’t think we quite need the 1/2 – 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.

    I lift weights with a trainer three times a week, and I consume 40-50g of protein a day. mostly raw, all veg. Typically whole hemp seeds mixed in with stuff, and nuts & greens – but also chia seeds and a hemp protein powder (Manitoba Harvest cold processed raw organic etc).

    Consuming this amount of protein daily for about 11 months now has allowed me to continue to add muscle, and in fact this morning I hit a new high on the bench press.

    We need less protein than we think :)

  16. Emanuela
    Reply
    Posted

    Rawhelper, I totally agree with you. I am sorry to say this but this article sounds very superficial to me, like a regurgitation of stuff heard over and over again and with no real justification.
    I particularly dislike the mention of oats, commonly recommended in bodybuilding circles, but very deleterious to your teeth, for instance. Also, dry fruits before a workout would really interfere with my digestion (see bloating) and workout, I am sure others may be in the same situation.

    Is Rita G a raw foodist? I think she needs to do much more researching before publishing anything at all. Very disappointed with this post, the rawchef!

    From Russell: Please be aware that anything Rita has written here has been researched thoroughly. This is not just information picked out of thin air. Rita has a history of research and, as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, she was a researcher on The China Study, one of the most highly respected pieces of work about animal Vs plant-based eating, including research on proteins.

    From a personal standpoint I’m finding raw oats very helpful in maintaining energy levels over a longer workout and don’t experience bloating from dried fruits.

    • Russell James Raw Food
      Reply
      Posted

      From Russell: Please be aware that anything Rita has written here has been researched thoroughly. This is not just information picked out of thin air. Rita has a history of research and, as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, she was a researcher on The China Study, one of the most highly respected pieces of work about animal Vs plant-based eating, including research on proteins.

      From a personal standpoint I'm finding raw oats very helpful in maintaining energy levels over a longer workout and don't experience bloating from dried fruits.

      • Stuff_yourselves
        Reply
        Posted

        I agree that the statements have been researched – but there is lots of dodgy research out there.
        She has just regurgitated statements found almost everywhere but that does not make them true or useful. I think Rita lacks experience in one of both areas: exercise and raw-foodism!
        Yes, I love eating oats for energy levels, but they there are a couple of books out there (by doctors) who show you that they impact negatively on teeth.

        I was also disappointed that this article did not address micronutrients. Perhaps that is why it seems so superficial to me.

        Emanuela
        Personal Trainer/Holistic Therapist

  17. Sharan
    Reply
    Posted

    I really loved this article.I have been exercising regularly in the gym with fitness classes 5 times a week,intense cardio and havent shed a pound since september and have been wondering why i havent lost weight?This article has made me realise I havent been consuming enough calories with the fear of gaining weight.I am 60-70% raw and a vegetarian.How do you count the calories in a raw meal though?Any ideas..help??

  18. Joseph
    Reply
    Posted

    This article was really useful to me. I am going to the gym almost every day and I have found out that my diet was not good enough. That`s why I wasn`t 100% raw.

  19. rawhelper
    Reply
    Posted

    The amount of protein seems to be a conflict, everyone says need more same a calcium, but taking calcium does not give you more calcium. heck to make stronger bones you don’t take calcium at all, check out David Wolfe to learn more about cellophane, very informative. However, protein, as we are going our mothers milk is only 5% protein, and that is when we are growing, developing, learning, and doing far more developing than building muscle, so relax with the concern of how much more and how much calories of protein, just eat a well balanced well rounded variety of foods, mixed with vegetables and fruits and a few nuts and wonderful healthy fats. Example, Celery has a high amount of protein I think it was 20%, Now I am not saying to just eat celery that is stupid, but what I am saying is don’t stress out about powders and other additives, heavens sake the Romans did not have powders and they were pretty buff, and they did not just eat meat. Certain Egyptian sects were raw vegan and they were just as buff as the Romans AND they lived in the desert to boot. We can get all we need from our food. FYI protein powders and whey powders and isolate protein powders are not good for your liver and kidneys, example the isolate protein powder is packed with MSG, it is not added but it is created in the process of making the powder so just go to the foods and you will be fine. It is those who do not have a good variety that miss out and get sick and loose muscle mass do to self digestion from lack of nutrition. Sports nutrition schools do not teach everything so continue learning and researching outside the “science” world. Open the mind and you will gain good health. Before “science” said things we were cancer free, and other disease free, so be weary of the “science proven” statements. ask questions, and check it out for yourself. If you do not eat balanced and healthy then by all means take your vitamin c and other suppliments.

    From Russell: Please don’t think that I’m condoning use of whey or other such protein powders by publishing this article. Personally I use David Wolfe’s Sunwarrior powder and have had great success adding it in to my system of eating.

    I am also aware that our bodies don’t get calcium by eating calcium, but no where in this article does it mention calcium.

    • Russell James Raw Food
      Reply
      Posted

      Please don't think that I'm condoning use of whey or other such protein powders by publishing this article. Personally I use David Wolfe's Sunwarrior powder and have had great success adding it in to my system of eating. There is definitely not 20% protein in celery.

      I am also aware that our bodies don't get calcium by eating calcium, but no where in this article does it mention calcium.

  20. Angela S
    Reply
    Posted

    As a sports nutritionist, I share with clients and pro-athletes a shake recipe to drink before a workout that really delivers on health, energy, flavor, and is of course, raw:

    Walnut Tahini Shake:
    1 cup of raw walnuts
    2 heaping tablespoons of tahini paste
    1/2 cup of dates, pitted
    1 teaspoons of vanilla
    2 cups of water

    Blend until smooth a blender – at least 2 minutes

    After a workout, coconut water is a must. It is a natural source of electrolytes and minerals. Drink it all by itself or put it in with your favorite fruit smoothie recipe. (It goes especially well with mangos). Mmm!

    • I love Veges
      Reply
      Posted

      Do you realize that would be about 10 grams of protein, 26 grams of fat, and about 50 carbs–pretty heavy. I find after a hard workout I need more protein for my muscles to rebuild or I'm really sore and tired. That's why I have a hard time not using hemp or rice protein powders. Maybe more tahini and less walnuts (since tahini has 5.6 grams of protien, 8 grams of fat, and 4 grams of carbs per two Tablespoons–a better ratio than fatty walnuts). What do you think?

  21. Chip
    Reply
    Posted

    I’m 200 pounds and work out hard 5 days per week. How much complex carbs do I need before the workout? How much fruit afterward? Is one banana enough?

  22. Jeremie D.
    Reply
    Posted

    Hi I am a vegetarian pro athlete who loves to cook and eat all sorts of great, yummy and healthy foods. This article provided me with a good outline to start working towards a diet composed of more raw foods. Thank you for the post!

    The hockey goalie

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