Sam Spaiser's Raw Food Success Story

Sam Spaiser looked like your stereotypical skinny raw foodist when we first met in the summer of 2009.

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.

Without increasing 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:

Sam Spaiser Flex

Sam at approximately 125lbs.

Full Name: Samuel Jon Spaiser
Date Of Birth: 1990
Eating Raw Since: March 1, 2008
Occupation(s): Graduate Student
Home City: Westchester, NY
Preraw Weight, BF%, Muscle%: Unknown
Current Weight, BF%, Muscle%: Unknown
Average Calories Consumed: If I had to guess, 2,500

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.

Andrew Perlot: 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 muscle?

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” and “anemic.”

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.

Sam Spaiser: Going Raw

Andrew Perlot: When did you start eating a low fat raw vegan diet, and what was the impetus? What type of diet were you eating before?

Sam Spaiser: I was pretty much a garbage disposal before beginning to clean up my diet, a process that began at age 15 after I got sick eating an undercooked cheeseburger (it took a few times to make the connection, but eventually it clicked). From there I started on the vegetarian path, vegan by age 16 (a relative of mine actually told me about the China Study on Thanksgiving Day, 2006), and low-fat raw vegan by age 17. It was just a natural progression. I found the healthier that I ate, the better I felt.

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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 responsibility.

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.

Sam Spaiser: Building Muscle

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?

Sam Spaiser Skinny
                          Photo 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 limitation.

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.

Andrew Perlot: 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 bodybuilders do?

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, planche, etc.).

I 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.

Andrew Perlot: 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.

Sam Spaiser: How Raw Food Affects His Life

Sam Spaiser EatAndrew 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 outlive everyone.

My family does not eat raw but I only lived with them the first 6 months that I was LFRV.

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 issue.

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 lives.

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 together.

Sam Spaiser: Where He's Going

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 challenge.

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)?

Sam StrongSam Spaiser: 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 posting.

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 vigor.

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 sam@samsrawtruth.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).

Sam Spaiser: Following Up

Read awesome raw food success stories like Sam Spaiser's here.

Learn to eat a delicious raw food diet.

Figure out which raw foods are healthy and what you should avoid.

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