Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Michael Arnstein The Fruitarian Finishes 16th in 2012 Badwater Ultramarathon

One thing I love about the internet is following obscure events that I would normally be oblivious to. For the past two days, I was following one of those events every few hours, the 2012 Badwater Ultramarathon. Have you heard of this one, that really long race in really hot temperatures that is mostly uphill. It starts in Death Valley, California in the middle of July at 282 feet below sea level and finishes 135 miles later at 8,360 ft on Mt. Whitney. For a better description, listen to Leslie Stahl of "60 Minutes":

If you finish it, your reward is a belt buckle. It seems to me that only really crazy people bother to sign up for this race. And so I thought it was fitting when I heard that a guy who only eats fruit signed up. Michael Arnstein, the guy who calls himself The Fruitarian, finished this race a few hours ago as I write this post in 16th place out of 96 crazy people runners. His time was just over 31 hours.

Michael Arnstein in middle, photo by BW135 RD Chris Kostman
Honestly, I don't think that Michael Arnstein is crazy. I admire his conviction and have been learning about his lifestyle through the internet. And look at the guy, does fruit make you fat? Yeah, he runs a lot and burns a lot of calories, but he also eats a lot of fruit (see my previous post about him). And he's in very good company. Check out his race pace compared to the overall BW135 champion, Mike Morton, as well as former champions Dean Karnazes and Pam Reed. I also added Art Webb's race pace to the graph. Art was a little slower. He's just some guy who has completed 14 Badwater races and set a personal best time and age group record this year. He did this at the age of 70.

It's curious that all five runners had a similar overall pacing trend. It's not a coincidence when you consider the elevation profile of the race route.

Michael Arnstein finished in 16th place, one place ahead of Pam Reed and four places behind Dean Karnazes. For awhile, as the pace chart shows Michael was ahead of Dean. Congratulations to all the Badwater finishers, but especially to the guy that I was rooting for, The Fruitarian.

I think one of Michael's motivations for all this running is to show what's possible on an all fruit diet. But I'm sure not everyone will share his perspective. Some will say, "Hey, he probably woulda beat Karnazes and others had he swallowed a plug of meat." What do you think? Does Arnstein's fruit diet help his running performance, doesn't matter or hurts it? Leave your comments below.


  1. I don't think a proper fruitarian diet helps or hurts his performance any more than my high meat diet does. I think both are acceptable, and genetics and time spent training have more to do than diet and that a proper diet could take multiple forms. What leads to the multiple forms would likely be tastes and potentially differing ability to metabolize certain foods.

    Said differently, do you believe his success invalidates other diets as being acceptable?

  2. I don't think that Arnstein's success invalidates your high meat diet. Maybe Arnstein ate a high meat diet in the past and performed differently given the same training/racing schedule? I don't know and it wouldn't be very conclusive anyway. I do think his preformance promises that he is getting enough protein (and all the other macro/micro nutrients) from his diet to support his training and racing lifestyle.

    It's not clear to me if one type of fuel (carb v. protein/fat) is better for performance or endurance. I suppose it depends on how those terms are defined. Even Dr. Phinney, who recommended a low carb diet for endurance, didn't recommend a low carb diet for high intensity performance. If you want to win a long race, maybe you need carbs.

    This seems to be a matter of opinion more than fact. I base this comment on Noake's recent reversal on carbs. Apparently, he had data in the past that lead him to conclude that carbs were the preferred fuel source for running. He's changed his view, alhough I don't know what new data trumped the old data. I just know that Noakes went on the Atkins diet and lost weight. I believe that. I don't believe that Mark Allen performed triathlons on a low carb diet as he suggested in his Moore interview. If you know of some evidence to support his comments on Allen specifically, I'd be interested in seeing it.

    Personally, I'm concerned with the health consequences of a high meat diet more than the performance consequences. Afterall, I'm not in London right now preparing for the Olympics. My experience from eating a high meat diet was that I had cholesterol levels that I was not comfortable with. I don't agree that there is a cholesterol conspiracy as outlined by Colpo's "TGCC" even though I do agree with his views on eating carbs from whole foods. As I reduced my meat diet, my cholesterol dropped from 230s to 160s. I also lost weight, but I think that was more a result of controlling my total calorie input. Again, I agree with Colpo on that point.

  3. Nice article! :) I have read up on Mike and he says his times and recovery have greatly improved on his new diet. He wants to show that not only is long and short term health improved on low fat raw vegan but that performance is too. Ruth Heidrich is another lfrv runner and she jokes about how after all her races, the day after she wants to go running to see the sites of whatever city she is visiting but all the other runners and "regular" diets can't even think about running because they are still recovering. I'm not an athlete but having done this diet myself for over 9 months and my husband for over two years, it seems like a miracle in so many ways for physical and mental health and here Mike shows us that you can still perform with the top world athletes. Let's remember MIke also works full time running a company, lol. He is a great inspiration to our family! Keep up the good work Mike!
    Raw Vegan- for health, for the animals, for the planet.

    1. Anon - Thanks for the tip about Dr. Ruth. I checked out her site. Her story is very intriguing: getting breast cancer despite being a fit, active runner for years, then changing her diet to vegan and beating the cancer without conventional treatments.

    2. Great for Mike and Ruth. Ruth is simply amazing and inspirational.

  4. Just listened to a very interesting podcast about a guy who went no/low carb for endurance events. Basically, it's possible if you get yourself into a state of ketosis. I'm not advocating this (I'm a veg and near vegan myself), but I find the ability of the human body to adapt fascinating. If you love weird stuff, this is the podcast for you!


    I do believe that there probably are better and worse diets, but as long as you're not eating standard western crap, the difference between a meat based and plant based diet is likely small (in comparison to either of those when eating processed foods, such as white flour, refined sugars, and other basic high calorie/low nutrient foods).

    I'll stay vegetarian thanks, but to each his/her own. Eating is too personal for preaching!

  5. Good write Kelly. You seem to be one of the very few Bloggers out there that tries to be as objective as he can.

    IMO: As much as we all want our diets to succeed in athletics, the other variables are so big that we can't overlook it: genetics, will, and PEDs. There's more than one way to glory.

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