Healthy raw foodists often lose their excess body fat, as I did, making it very apparent that, just like almost everyone else in the developed world, they've got far less muscle than they thought.
Sam, however, was always on the thin side. What's so impressive is that he decided to defy the perception that vegans and raw foodists can't gain muscle because of their diets.
We haven't seen each other in awhile, but I've watched with great interest as he's posted pictures of himself slowly but surely adding muscle to his frame though an ambitious gymnastic training regime.
protein intake beyond what is naturally found in a healthy raw diet, or supplementing, he simply got started working out and reaped the benefits.
Since so many are worried about being unable to gain muscle on this diet, I'm happy that Sam agreed to an interview so readers of Raw-Food-Health.net can benefit from his experience.
Sam Spaiser Q&A:
Full Name: Samuel Jon Spaiser
Andrew Perlot: Tell us a bit about yourself. Where do you live, what do you do, and what's your life like?Sam Spaiser: I’m currently a PhD student in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fl. I live in a 1 bedroom apartment a couple of blocks off of campus and I bike to get around. I generally have a class in the morning and so I get up around 7 a.m. and try to get in at least 30 minutes of fitness (there’s a soccer field one block away and I like to hang my gymnastic rings on the soccer goal), followed by a quick mono fruit meal (ex. persimmons) and then I’m off to class.
I spend the rest of the day (until about 5pm, or sometimes later) working in the nutrition lab. I’ll return to my apartment and maybe do a bit more fitness and then have dinner while studying, and I generally continue to study until I go to bed, which is on average around 9:30 p.m.
I’ve made great friends with many of the local farmers and purchase much of my food from them. One farmer is so wonderful that he delivers persimmons and citrus right to my door.
When we first met you were quite thin. If we'd
gathered up a group of 10 people and asked them
for a word to describe you physically, my guess
is many would have used the word thin or
scrawny. Was this something you were very
conscious of? Did it bother you? Earlier in your
life did you ever make an attempt to gain fat or
Sam Spaiser: For the longest
time I took pride in being thin, and strove to
remain thin, which is why I chose to be an
endurance runner, at least initially. I saw
people gaining weight all around me and I
actually became fearful of falling into the same
trap. However, once I went vegetarian, vegan,
and then 80/10/10,
many people were starting to call me “emaciated”
They thought that I must have
been deficient in countless nutrients.
Eventually after two serious running injuries
and the realization that a leg length
discrepancy was the cause of them, I set out in
attempt to see what was possible in terms of
strength gains on 80/10/10. Initially I set out
on this journey to prove everyone “wrong”.
Thankfully, these days I
train for my own pleasure.
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Andrew Perlot: What were some of the differences (mental, physical, emotional, etc) you noticed eating a LFRV diet?
Sam Spaiser: I never got sick. I also noticed that I could eat a heck of a lot of food, and that was very enjoyable. AND that all of my food tasted fantastic.
Andrew Perlot: Tell us a bit about the mindset behind your choices to radically improve your diet, follow a vital lifestyle, and shoot for ambitious fitness goals. What exactly are you aiming for in your life, in the broad sense?
Sam Spaiser? I want to take the
best care of myself that I possibly can. I get one
body and that’s it, and I’m the only person that
truly has the ability to nurture or destroy it. I
view taking care of myself as my primary
The fitness aspect just made me feel great and I enjoy having a functional body. Currently I’m aiming to develop as much functional muscle as possible to see what gymnastic skills my body is able to perform.
Andrew Perlot: When and why did you start attempting to put on serious amounts of muscle? When it started to work, were you surprised given your past thinness and the fact that vegans and raw foodists have a reputation for being thin?
Photo: Sam in the
summer of 2009 before starting his gymnastic
training. Approximately 105 lbs.
Sam Spaiser: I started my
muscle-building journey in January, 2009. I had
some surgery in May, 2009 that resulted in major
muscle catabolism that set me back until October,
but from there it was all uphill. This was truly
the first time that I ever attempted any
consistent strength training program.
I was actually surprised that I
was able to gain muscle. It’s something that I had
never done before, and so I actually thought that
maybe it just simply wasn’t something that I was
able to accomplish; that it was some physiological
My family was the first to notice and they actually started showing me off to relatives and friends as an example of what following a healthy diet can do for you, and it was rather flattering, coming from a past where I was more often ridiculed for my choices. I think it goes back to the cultural construct of what the healthy male is perceived as looking like, and that is muscular.
Do you shoot for any specific dietary goals for
muscle gain, such as a specific percentage of
calories from protein or a certain amount of
grams of protein per kg of body weight, as many
Sam Spaiser: I simply follow 80/10/10
and everything just falls into place. It’s by far
the easiest dietary program I’ve ever tried, and I
don’t even have to think about it. (Andrew's note:
Most established low fat raw foodists won't have
problems putting on muscle, but for those who are
concerned, see my suggestions
on protein intake).
Andrew Perlot: The best diet in the world won't make you gain muscle without exercise to put strain on your body. What type of exercise have you been doing to gain strength?
Sam Spaiser: Prior to getting
elbow tendonitis from improper training, which I'm
about to begin therapy for, I trained gymnastics 4
days per week. This generally consisted of 2 days
of stretching, and sometimes a day of light
running, or an extra day of light fundamental
static positions (back lever, front lever, L-sit,
generally had some kind of warm up including
prehabilitation work, often wrist and forearm
conditioning, followed by pre-fundamental static
positions such as arches and hollows, for example.
Then I moved on to the fundamental static
positions, and after that I would do some
fundamental bodyweight exercises such as different
pullup variations, or pushup variations through
gymnastics progressions, all of which are found in
the book “Building
the Gymnastic Body
Sometimes I simply followed the Workout Of The Day on the Gymnastic Bodies forum at GymnasticBodies.com, and this worked very well for me. I generally ended the workout with some type of active mobility work, such as wall slides. I ran into problems when I started to attempt feats that my body simply wasn’t ready for. The greatest lesson I learned is to respect the adaptation period. Once I’m fully healed I expect to get back on track to attain levels of fitness I’ve never experienced before.
Do you have any advice for low fat raw vegans who
want to put on muscle?
Sam Spaiser: Taken 20 minutes a
day, 4 days per week and just do the Workouts of
the Day on GymnasticBodies.com scaled to your
current fitness level. Follow it consistently and
you’ll be surprised.
Andrew Perlot: How does being raw affect your social life? Do family/friends understand? Does your family eat raw, and if not, does that cause conflict?
Sam Spaiser: My family just sees
it as part of who I am and they often say that I’m
the healthiest one in the family and that I’ll
My family does not eat raw but
I only lived with them the first 6 months that I
After that I did 80/10/10RV in
the dorm, the first meal eating bananas by the
case (which I stored under my bed) and dinner in
an all you can eat dining hall salad buffet.
After that first year of
college I moved into a single apartment and would
only have meals with family during my breaks from
school, in which case I’d just prepare my own meal
and sit down with my family and it was never an
Sometimes my family enjoys accommodating me and asks if I’d like to go somewhere like Ruby Tuesday because of their all you can eat salad bar, and while I recognize it’s not organic and thus not my first choice, it’s an enjoyable experience to be able to eat all the salad I care for, for $8, and be able to go out with my family for a fun evening.
My circle of friends are all
either raw vegans or those who are very
understanding and accepting of my choices, some
who even aspire to eventually follow LFRV and
others who from befriending me have incorporated
some new healthier eating habits into their own
It’s not an issue in the
nutrition lab, where I’ve heard a few times that I
eat the healthiest out of everyone there, and I
also have an incredibly supportive girlfriend who
is also a raw vegan and we enjoy making meals
Andrew Perlot: What are your passions in life? What makes you excited to be alive?
Sam Spaiser: I’m incredibly
grateful to be in school for a PhD in Nutritional
Sciences. I hope to some day become a world-class
researcher in nutrition and conduct top quality
nutrition research. There’s simply so much to be
done and no one doing it, so I decided to take the
There is often much research cited in the raw food world, and much of it falsely so, or it was poor research, or it really wasn’t even research to begin with and it was cited anyway, or it really didn’t say what the authority claimed it said. So the door is wide open for the field of nutritional research to be tackled and hopefully turned into something that people can turn to for some quality information. Beyond that, I just simply have my own curiosities that need quenching.
Of course, I also enjoy trying new fruits and I hope to travel to more tropical regions of the world (I’ve been to the Big Island of Hawaii and hope to travel to Malaysia and SE Asia some day, I’m highly envious of you Andrew!).
I also get a lot of joy out of building my fitness and building relationships.
Andrew Perlot: Tell us about your future goals for yourself? Where do you want to be in 10 years?
I hope to be conducting nutritional research and to have secured a research position or a professorship in a location a bit more tropical than Gainesville (Gainesville is incredibly beautiful and I love it, although I don’t see it as a permanent home.)
Andrew Perlot: Both of us jumped on the LFRV bandwagon fairly early, long before it was experiencing its current rapid growth. Have you been surprised to see how popular it's become (relatively speaking)?
I remember going on to Dr.
Graham’s VegSource message board, reading the
posts, and wondering how many other LFRVs were
actually out there full on doing the program.
The FoodnSport YouTube page was
only a few months old when I started, no one else
was posting up 80/10/10RV videos, and from all of
the fake names on the message board it was very
difficult to figure out how many people were
At the time I would have been surprised if there were more than 10 people doing the program 100% (now I’m pretty sure that there were actually more than 10 people, but that’s how it felt at the time). It was just near impossible to connect with other LFRVs back then, and so I only had myself to count on. There were no other LFRV websites I knew of besides the message board and FoodnSport.com.
It’s absolutely incredible to
see, at the least, 100s of individuals doing the
program now, and that’s quite encouraging. I never
anticipated that happening. I’m excited to see
where the movement will be 5 years down the road.
Andrew Perlot: Favorite fruit(s)?
Sam Spaiser: After a wonderful summer spent at what was formerly known as Pangaia on the Big Island, jackfruit will forever have a place in my heart. I was there for a month and consumed nearly an entire 25-30lb jackfruit every day. Some of the varieties only exist on that piece of land, and I’ve never had any jackfruit since then come close to the quality of what I experienced there. After this past autumn in Gainesville, having tried roughly 30 different varieties of local persimmons, I think persimmons are coming in at a close second.
Andrew Perlot: Anything else you'd like to tell readers of raw-food-health.net?
Sam Spaiser: I strongly believe
that there’s far more to health than food,
fitness, fresh air, sleep, etc. For me the
keystone component has been working on developing
my mind in ways so that it can function as
efficiently as possible, so that I can speak with
the greatest of eloquence and articulate exactly
what it is that I’d like to say, and so that I can
remain focused on my goals and pursue them with
The mental clarity and awareness that I’ve gained through this process has literally revolutionized my life and I’m grateful for it. I encourage others to email me at email@example.com if they are interested in learning more about how I have attained some of these benefits and I’d be happy to point them in that direction (or of course any other inquiries as well, should that be the case).