Featured Articles with Tony Horton
Michael Grinnell: Hey Tony. I read that you were vegan/vegetarian for a long time. Any tips? I’m thinking of goin all veg (except for wild game/fish).
I was a vegan/vegetarian for over 15 years. I had two bad run-ins with chicken many moons ago so I made the switch for fear of getting sick again, more than anything else. I wasn’t a vegan or vegetarian in the true sense of the word. I was just a guy who stopped eating chicken, meat, game, fish and shell fish. I ate vegetarian Italian, Mexican and Indian food primarily and to be honest, way too many carbs, “healthy” cookies, crackers and chips. I should have been eating more salads and greens, but I wasn’t. I also cut out most alcohol at that time because I just didn’t enjoy it any more. This approach worked for a long time with only the occasional “cheat meal.”
About four years ago I met my girlfriend Shawna who was and still is an amazing cook. She ate a mostly plant based diet with organic free range chicken, wild fish and game. For the first year of our relationship I stuck to my wannabe vegan guns, but watching her eat that scrumptious chicken, wild fish, Bison and Buffalo stirred my desire to try it. After about a week, I was hooked. I still stay away from cow, shell fish and alcohol, but I eat more salads in a week now than I did in 4 months when I was V/V.
My recommendation these days is to count less calories and eat more “real” food. Whole organic (when you can) food. Look down at your plate and imagine if your great, great great parents would recognize what you see there. If the answer is yes then chances are it’s probably safe, healthy and whole food that will fuel the fire, help balance your weight and keep your body and brain going all day long.
Sarah Howen: Hey Tony watched you on Dr. Oz. Does coffee count as a clean food? I need my coffee lol
“I’ve never been a coffee drinker. I don’t like to consume anything that makes me feel lousy when I quit consuming it. Oddly enough that never happens when I stop eating spinach for a while. I find it amazing that so many folks in this country and around the world need a quick pick-me-up through some sort of beverage, whether it be coffee, soda or energy drinks.
It says to me that a lot of people are stressed out, over worked and not getting enough sleep. Coffee can contribute to raising the stress hormone Cortisol in the adrenal glands. This can interfere with learning, memory, lower immune function, bone density, increased weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease. Stress, poor sleep and too much caffeine in your system all the time can also lead to depression, mental illness and lower life expectancy.
On the other hand, coffee can be part of a healthy diet for people who exercise often, manage their stress, sleep 7 1/2 to 8 hours a night and don’t drink more than two cups of coffee a day. If I were you, stop drinking coffee for 10 days and see how you feel. If there are no adverse effects then you’re probably fine and probably don’t need even coffee, except for the ritual and taste. But if you feel waisted by day 2 then that might be an indication that your system is relying on it to function in the world.
Kicking the coffee habit can be tough. I would use water and oxygen as alternative fuels. Drink water before you go to bed and right when you get up in the morning, and find the time and energy to exercise for about 5 to 10 minutes right out of bed. Nothing crazy. A little yoga or fast walk will do the trick.”
People often ask me, “Tony, if you eat like a king with a diet full of organic, free-range, homegrown, farmers’ market food, four or five meals a day, why do you still need to add supplements?”
The answer is simple. You don’t. That is, of course, provided you live in a magical fairy land free of toxins and stress, where you can be 100% sure that the perfect meals you eat fit your exact needs. Also, you need to make sure that you don’t exercise too hard. If your life fits all this criteria, then no supplementation for you! Enjoy your time on the other side of the rainbow. Here on planet Earth, we need supplements to make the most of our lives.
Believe me, when it comes to healthy eating, I walk my talk. I do my best to use only the finest raw materials — and I have the resources to do a great job of it. But for all my good intentions, sometimes I’m still stuck in an airport with nothing but roasted nuts, a bag of baked chips and a bottle of water to get me through the next four hours. Not many micronutrients goin’ on in that exchange. It’s nice to know I can always use that water to wash down a multivitamin as an insurance plan.
Furthermore, as much as I love technology, I don’t run numbers on every single thing I eat and drink. I cannot say for certain that I get every vitamin, mineral, phytonutrient, enzyme, fatty acid, amino acid, acid rock, acid jazz and acid du jour that I need. And even if I were scoring straight As with my RDAs, there are all kinds of external issues that either drain you of nutrients or get in the way of their absorption. Stress, toxins, lack of sleep — these things can be problems. (So can alcohol and caffeine for that matter, but these aren’t issues for me ’cause Tony don’t play that game.)
So, in this hectic modern world, we need a safety net to ensure we’re getting the nutrition necessary for survival.
But that’s not the primary reason I supplement, given that I’m not interested in surviving. I’m interested in thriving — as I’m sure you are. We push ourselves harder, jump higher and run faster than the average bear. We make the most out of this fantastic bag of muscle, skin, bone and organs we call our body. Why do professional athletes, gymnasts, football players, basketball players and lacrosse players kick ass? Is it purely because they eat three squares a day? Do you really think they got that way based on food alone? No way. If you want to perform, if you want to be athletic, if you want your muscles and your tendons and your ligaments to heal rapidly enough so that you can come back and do it day in and day out, then you’re going to need supplementation.
But when you’re downing that creatine, multivitamin, Shakeology or whatever else you’re using, remember that it’s only half the equation. It’s a supplement, meaning it supplements whatever food you put in your body, even the super-healthy stuff. When you combine the two, you greatly reduce your risk of illness and disease. Nutritious foods and the right supplements can assist in lowering fat stores, losing weight, increasing energy, recovering from workouts and maintaining healthy bones, muscles and joints. They can also promote psychological health.
Supplementation is a crucial tool for building a better body, for pushing to the next level. Yes, it’s important to eat like a king or queen, but you shouldn’t stop there. It might be good enough, but since when has “good enough” been part of your vocabulary? It’s certainly not part of mine!
I recently put together the 11 Laws of Fitness, a few pearls of lifestyle wisdom that should help folks lead a healthier, happier life. But, lately, I’ve been thinking — why should exercise get all the attention? Sure, No.11 on the list is “Food and Nutrition,” but given the huge role food plays in our health, doesn’t it deserve its own list of laws?
The answer to that question, my friends, is “yes,” so here’s the latest in the 11 Laws of Nutrition, a series designed to get you thinking about what, why and how you eat. Hopefully, it’ll inspire you to take all the hard work and commitment you use on the exercise mat and transfer it to the placemat. Here is law No. 7. (And, in case you missed the others, here are No. 1,No. 2, No. 3., No. 4, No. 5 , No. 6, and No. 7)
I like to call myself a flexitarian. In other words, I eat whatever I need to stay healthy. It’s a diet that shifts and adapts to allow me to perform at my peak as an athlete. Of course, it took me a while to figure this out. For years, I ate a purely vegan diet. Then my body started telling me that it needed more protein. I fought the need briefly but eventually went with the flow, introducing the occasional high-quality animal product — free-range chicken, wild-caught Alaskan salmon, things like that. My body loved the shift — and my performance skyrocketed.
That said, it was a tough call to make, and some people weren’t thrilled. Many of my vegan fans felt I no longer had their back. In truth, nothing could be further from the truth. I’m a huge proponent of the vegan lifestyle, which is why my meal service, Tony Horton Kitchen, offers a vegan plan — and a darned delicious one at that.
But here’s a little secret. I also stand behind my ovo-lacto vegetarian fans. And my Paleo fans. And my locavore fans. And my Mediterranean diet fans. Basically, if you’re eating a healthy diet and it’s giving you the results you want, I salute you. I’m the Grand Marshal in your nutritional parade. I can’t wait to pin a big, fat, golden dinner-plate medal on your chest. I proudly proclaim that you’ve found the Best Diet on Earth — for you.
Here’s the trick. The “flex” in flexitarian stands for more than just being adaptable with your own food system. It’s also about being flexible with other people and giving them a break when they find their Best Diet on Earth.
In other words, your way may be the right way for you, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the right way for the person next to you. If you’re a Paleo, leave the macrobiotics alone. If you’re a macrobiotic, leave the Paleos alone. If you’re jacked up about Shakeology and vegan eating but your husband and kids like to dig into the occasional red meat, let them eat their steak. Don’t harangue them. Yes, they understand that you’re just trying to help, but according to the Law of Flexibility, the worst kind of advice to give is the kind that wasn’t asked for in the first place.
Your greatest intentions, if not well received, will ultimately turn to resentment. If you find that happening, if you’re resentful of the way others eat or they resent you, it’s time to give this law some serious thought.
I know this notion can be tricky, especially for the vegans and vegetarians who weave ethics and morality into their eating choices. But, to paraphrase an old adage, you can lead a horse to tofu, but if the horse doesn’t eat, you don’t shove its face in the wok.
This holds especially true with vegan eating, which requires people to give up meat, something most Americans view as a constitutional right (for the record, the same goes with Paleos and ditching grains). Try badgering most people into not eating a hamburger, and odds are they’ll end up ordering two hamburgers next time ‘round just to prove a point. All you’ve accomplished is perpetuating the resentment I was talking about earlier.
With this in mind, your best bet is to lead by example. Do your thing, do your best at it and forget what everybody else needs unless they come to you for advice. Then you can give them an earful. It’ll happen. When you eat right and exercise, you can’t help but feel and look good. And when you feel and look good, you can’t help but exude confidence. And when you exude confidence, people will ask you for advice. That’s when you lay down your experience and knowledge to their open minds and hearts.
And that’s when you can make the biggest difference.
I recently put together the 11 Laws of Fitness, a few pearls of lifestyle wisdom that I put together to help folks lead a healthier, happier life. But, lately, I’ve been thinking, “Why should exercise get all the attention?” Sure, number 11 on the list is “Food and Nutrition,” but given the huge role food plays in our health, doesn’t it deserve its own list of laws?
The answer to that question, my friends, is “yes,” so here’s the latest in the 11 Laws of Nutrition, a series designed to get you thinking about what, why and how you eat. Hopefully, it’ll inspire you to take all the hard work and commitment you use on the exercise mat and transfer it to the placemat. Here is law No. 6. (And, in case you missed the others, here are No. 1, No. 2, No. 3., No. 4 and No. 5)
Meet Joe Below Average. He’s a good guy, but he has let stress get the best of him. Because of this, he might get five hours of sleep a night. To deal with his “on the go” lifestyle, he gobbles down fast food. He drinks energy drinks and soda to stay awake so that when he crawls into bed, he can’t fall asleep. Because he doesn’t sleep, his hormones are out of whack, so his ability to pass on those last few French fries when he’s full is compromised. So not only does Joe eat garbage, but he eats too much garbage. He doesn’t have the energy to exercise and is miserable. The ticking time bomb named Joe could blow at any time.
Joe’s situation affects his moods, his immune function and his ability to make healthy choices. Long story short, poor Joe needs help. He needs to learn my next Law of Nutrition: sleep more and stress less.
First, let’s look at stress. When Joe’s stressed out, he makes bad food choices. He doesn’t find pleasure in life, so he looks to junk food to fill the void. He craves fat, salt and sugar. He relies on quick and easy convenience foods as a time-management tool for his hectic lifestyle.
And not only is he eating fast food, but he’s eating food too fast. When he gobbles down a meal, he doesn’t chew it properly. He doesn’t let his teeth and saliva begin the digestive process. Then the half-masticated chow forces its way down the esophagus with a bunch of air. He’s gassy (if you see Joe in an elevator, don’t get in) and bloated, and he’s not giving his body the opportunity to pull nutrition out of his food.
So how can you avoid being like Joe? First off, r-e-l-a-x. What would happen if you took the unnecessary fretting out of every “stressful” situation in life? Life would get a whole lot easier, and you’d have a lot more fun. Remember fun? You’ll always have new problems, and you can panic and freak out all you want, but time will still pass and life will still happen, whether you stress out about it or not. Choose answers, not problems.
Although this advice works across most aspects of your life, it especially applies to the dinner table. Next time you sit down for a meal, slow down and enjoy it. It’s not a means to an end; it’s a meal! Chew each bite until it’s completely mashed up. Set down your fork between bites. Believe me, you’ll notice the difference. Because you’re giving the food time to travel to your stomach, you’ll trigger your satiety with less food. And because you’ve chewed it well, you’ll digest it easier, thus avoiding gas and giving yourself extra energy for other tasks.
Then there’s sleep — which, for the record, does more than make you feel rested. About 40% of adults experience sleepiness that interferes with daily activities.
It’s crucial for exercise recovery and for maintaining a healthy immune system. Furthermore, according to a recent Harvard study, sleep deprivation reduces insulin sensitivity. To be blunt, a lack of sack time increases your chances of getting diabetes.
And that’s what happening to Joe. Because he only gets five hours on a good night, not only is his insulin wonky, but a couple of chemicals in his brain are causing even more problems. A lack of sleep stimulates production of ghrelin, which tells Joe to eat, and decreases leptin, which tells Joe to stop eating. In other words, because Joe doesn’t sleep, his brain pushes him to make bad food choices.
The solution here is obvious. Both you and Joe need to go to sleep! First step, kick the caffeine habit. Any drug that props you up is a problem drug. You might have some serious headaches for a week or two as you break the addiction, but it’ll be worth the detox. Second step, make time to sleep. Turn off the computer at a certain time. If you’re not tired yet, do something that relaxes you, like reading, yoga or meditation. It may seem counterproductive, not packing every waking hour with activity, but in the long run, that recovery time for your brain will actually increase productivity. If you were a Formula 1 racer, would you redline your car for the entire race? Of course not! So why are you redlining your own brain?
Luckily, I’m not Joe Below Average — and neither are you. So let’s learn from him and get that stress in check. Exercise, relax, take on less responsibility. And get some sleep — at least seven to nine hours a night. Sleep and stress management are the linchpin for good health and give you the willpower to make better choices. Stress less, sleep more and strive to be Joe Way Above Average.