80/10/10 Allstar Richard Gambino
Competitive Steeplechase Runner
Another interview in our "Low-Fat Raw Vegan Elite Athlete" series.
"I'm lighter and leaner, which helps me run faster and longer. I have better endurance. I recover from workouts much quicker. Pains I used to have such as plantar fasciitis, and stiffness healed. My weekly mileage is getting higher and higher, and I am totally psyched about setting new PRs this year!"
ATHLETE BIO: Richard Gambino has always strived for happiness in all his endeavors. As a kid he loved adventures and could always be found outside playing and running around. Since high school he has been a competitive runner and finds it thrilling to see how the body's abilities improve with proper training. He loves stretching his limits. On the 80/10/10 raw vegan diet, Richard has made improvements in all aspects of life. It has helped him become more and more of the person he wants to be—empowering his competitive endeavors, his daily work, and his personal/spiritual growth.
Tell us about yourself: your age, where you live, your job, your family, and the like.
I'm currently 48 years old. I live on the big island of Hawaii, and Eugene, Oregon. I am self-employed as a stonemason and farmer. I run currently 60+ miles a week and compete in track meets and road races (5Ks, 10Ks, and half-marathons). I am single and have a 22-year-old daughter who lives in Oregon.
Do you eat 100% raw vegan?
How long have you been eating the 80/10/10 way?Since September 2007.
Why did you choose this path?
I wanted to be healthy, strong, and vibrant. I want to thrive and grow in many ways.
Describe your journey to 80/10/10—from the diet you were raised with, to the other dietary approaches you tried, to how you learned about and came to embrace veganism, to where you are now with 80/10/10.
I was raised on a pretty typical diet. I ate a lot of home—cooked meals, meats, veggies potatoes—basically everything. In college I started eating more whole grains and what I thought was healthier foods and got into macrobiotics some. I was into eating whole foods, including cooked squashes, grains, and salads, and meats too. After college, I still kept my food choices healthy most of the time and I ate a lot from my gardens. But then I got into eating more typical again—meats, some fast foods, ice cream, and baked sweets were also in my diet. After a while I started to clean up my diet again and got into the Ayurvedic approach to eating. That was fresh cooked soups, salads, grains, and beans. I still ate sweets that were cooked and "healthy," which included more whole sweeteners. I also ate oils. It was a more vegetarian focus. Soon after that phase, I learned about veganism from my girlfriend at the time and decided to adopt that way of eating. I felt better being vegan—I was eating whole cooked vegan foods then I kept the vegan diet for about 10 years before I found my way to the 80/10/10 way of eating.
Were you sick before going raw?
I was not sick before going raw, though I had some minor issues and still got colds a couple times a year.
Does your partner eat the way you do?
I don't have a partner currently and would like a healthy raw vegan one.
Has eating an 811rv diet changed how your family (household) eats?
I think my eating 811rv has given my family and friends an opportunity to eat that way, and they probably have eaten more raw fruits and veggies as a result of my diet.
Give us a sample of your daily diet and lifestyle routine.
I get up at 5:00 a.m. currently and meditate, run, eat breakfast, and begin my day of work and farming. I eat lunch and go back to work and then eat an early dinner at about 5:30-6 p.m. and get to bed by 8 p.m., so as to get 9+ hours sleep. Some work days are more physically demanding than others. Breakfast is usually a sweet juicy fruit meal (melons, papaya, citrus, grapes, sweet pineapple). I eat until I feel satisfied within my digestive capacity. Lunch is usually a sweet denser fruit meal such as bananas, mamea sapote, chico sapodillas, green sapotes, mangos, persimmons, figs. Dinner is usually some juicy fruit such as mangos, citrus, papayas, pineapple. Then I also eat nonsweet fruits, such as cucumber, tomatoes, zucchini, sweet peppers, tomatillos. I also eat greens, such as lettuce, celery, spinach, pak choy, cabbages, and some mild herbs, including cilantro, dill, fennel bulb, or sometimes a small amount of chives or green onion tops. I also love fresh sweet corn and shelled peas. At dinner I make some simple recipes, like dips, salsa, lettuce/fruit soups, or lettuce or cabbage wraps. I occasionally eat a small amount of tahini, sunflower seeds, almonds, etc. I eat avocado occasionally as well. I go for weeks or months sometimes with no overt fats, though. Some days I eat no greens. Currently I'm estimating I eat 2,500-4,000 calories a day of mostly sweet, raw, ripe, organically grown fruit!
Isn't that too much fruit?
No, it's not too much fruit! I feel great eating this way. Lots of fruit powers and nourishes me just fine!
Do you ever have cravings for cooked foods or gourmet high-fat raw foods?
Sometimes I have cravings for cooked foods but not usually for high-fat gourmet raw, because I didn't really eat that way in the past. I find that the cravings sometimes come at dinnertime when I'm really hungry and smell some cooked foods from a restaurant, or if I haven't eaten enough fruit for my fuel that day. They are not strong cravings, just a memory of how I liked the taste of something I used to eat. I remind myself of my desire to be healthy and vibrant and know that I have plenty of delicious food to eat, and the cravings just pass in an instant.
Besides diet, food, and nutrition, what other lifestyle factors do you find most important in supporting you in following 811rv?
Exercising vigorously each day, absolutely getting enough sleep and rest, staying hydrated, meditating each day, being out in nature, learning about fruits and veggies, having plenty of ripe fruit and fresh produce on hand, learning about how and why this way of eating is so excellent for us, staying connected with others on the 811rv path, sharing these kind of meals with people occasionally or often as I can. Always follow my body's wisdom.
Do you ever wonder whether you're getting enough (protein, calories, micronutrients of your choosing)?
I don't wonder if I'm getting enough protein, calories or micronutrients now, because I've read a lot on the subject and know that I have a super healthy diet. I've been eating this way for over 2.5 years, and I see how strong and healthy I am—better than before!
What are some of the personal benefits (excluding athletic performance) you've experienced since transitioning to an 811rv diet?
- I feel strong and healthy in general.
- I haven't had a cold in over a year and a half.
- Allergic reactions to grass and tree pollens have vanished.
- Aches and pains heal more quickly.
- Some chronic aches went away.
- My sinuses have cleared.
- I have a clear mind, steady emotions, and steady energy.
- My skin is soft and healthy.
- My body odor is pleasant.
- My digestion is great.
- Elimination is easy and regular.
- I feel good.
- I am more peaceful and happy.
- I'm more connected with and appreciative of nature.
- My senses have become more clear and discerning (I appreciate music, visual beauty, and natural fragrances more deeply).
- My intuition and judgment have become more accurate.
Compare for us your experiences eating a low-fat raw diet versus the popular high-fat version? How do you view the two differently?
The few times I ate high-fat raw vegan meals made me feel so bad that it was easy to decide it wasn't good for me and not eat that way anymore. Slow digestion, sluggish energy, heartburn, bad breath, bad body odor were some of the things I experienced when I ate high-fat raw vegan meals. When I eat low-fat raw vegan meals I feel great. I feel light and clear and energetic and strong and ready to go! I have great digestion and energy. The high-fat diet tries to mimic cooked foods and uses fat as the main source of fuel, which takes a lot of time and energy to digest and process. The low-fat raw vegan diet is simpler and the way our bodies are made to eat food. It uses fruit as the main source of fuel, which is most efficient and healthy for us, because it suits our biological nature.
How have you found it socially to eat this way?
I have sometimes found it difficult socially to eat this way, since most people don't and things are not set up that way. I learned what to do to get my needs met and still spend time with people I enjoy. I would eat some fruit before a gathering, and also bring plenty of fruits and veggies that I like to share. I always make sure I have enough to eat with me. I pick restaurants where I can get fruit and salad, and I eat before if there isn't much fruit where I'm going. I don't eat out a lot, because I can get what I want on my own better.
How have your family and friends reacted to your dietary choices?
I'm not sure exactly how my family and friends feel about my diet. They have accepted my eating this way, and they have been curious. I haven't heard that they have adopted this way of eating yet, and I would love it if they did.
How have others in your sports community reacted to your dietary choices?
In my sports community (my running group, and runner friends) I've had some friends start eating more fruit and more raw meals, and some stay skeptical.
Can you tell us about some difficult realities of eating an 811rv diet in a world of SAD eaters?
I have found that most people don't know about how ripe fruit should be. I've had trouble at restaurants getting what I like when I eat out with friends. At parties, people eat all sorts of stuff, and I usually bring my own food. I find it disappointing that so few people eat this way, because I want to be around like-minded people. I also don't like explaining my diet and educating people all the time at gatherings. I feel odd and uncomfortable sometimes.
Have you had success finding ripe fruits when traveling?
It can be challenging finding ripe fruit right when I want it when traveling. I go to local natural food stores and buy whatever is the best at the time. Also I definitely go to farmers markets when I can.
How long have you been vegan?
I have been a vegan since 1998—twelve years now.
Do you find yourself frequently debunking myths or inaccuracies about veganism?
I am a living vegan myth debunker! I run, work hard, and have great health, all while being a mostly fruit-eating raw vegan!
What about veganism appeals to you?
Contributing to my own health and the health of the planet are two aspects of veganism that bring me joy. I like the simplicity. I like the low environmental impact. I like the efficiency of the diet. I like that no animals are killed for me to live.
Are there things about being vegan that you find challenging?
Since my vegan diet is so different from other people's diets, sharing meals with people who eat animals or cooked food can be upsetting or saddening. Finding vegan nonfood products, like work boots, can be a challenge also.
Describe a typical day of training.
So far my typical day of training is an early- to 15-mile run at dawn (after meditating and drinking water). Then when I'm done, I stretch a bit and drink more water. When I'm hungry, I eat a juicy fruit meal. Then I work at the farm or on a job fixing and building things or creating a stonework. That work is usually some sort of lifting and moving heavy material, so I consider that some of my strength training! Sometimes I do push-ups and crunches and chin ups. Also I run with my running group when I can, and we do intervals, hills, or track work, usually in the evening. Days that I do evening workouts, I run easy the next morning.
As an athlete, you have quite specific nutritional needs. How do you meet the demands of your training through your nutritional choices?
I meet my nutritional needs by eating lots of fruit and some greens. I eat as much as I like and what feels good in my body. I really like sweet juicy fruits, tomatoes, cucumbers, greens, celery.
When training through periods of maximum exertion, what do you eat, and how much per day, typically?
I may eat a bit lighter or mostly fruit, or I may eat a lot more. Days when my mileage and work load is higher I eat more fruit! I also make sure I drink enough water. I would say right now I eat about 3500-4500 calories a day, most of them coming from fruit.
Can you tell us about any overall athletic performance improvements you've noticed since adopting 811rv?
I'm lighter and leaner, which helps me run faster and longer. I have better endurance. I recover from workouts much quicker. Pains I used to have such as plantar fasciitis, and stiffness healed. My weekly mileage is getting higher and higher.
What are some of your most notable recent athletic achievements while maintaining a strict 811rv diet?
I have been getting faster in my 3000 m and 5K times, and I also ran a 1:29:03 PR [personal record] for the half marathon, beating my previous time of 1:32 just out of high school. However, I was not training seriously then as I am now, so I'd have to run another to get a good comparison.
I competed in the Hood to Coast Relay (running three 5-6 mile races in 12 hours). I also got real close to the All-American standard for the 3000 m steeplechase.
I should mention that I only started running regularly again in 2004, after doing so in high school, college, and a couple years thereafter. During the intervening 18 years, I ran only occasionally. Since then, I have clocked the following personal records:
- 01:29:03 - half marathon (Eugene, OR 2009)
- 00:11:13 - 3K (track 2009)
- 00:18:51 - 5K (track 2008—before 811)
- 00:39:19 - 10K (road 2007—before 811)
- 00:13:01 - 3000 m steeplechase (2009)
- 00:05:32 - mile (track 2007—before 811)
I have not run another 5K, 10K, or mile since achieving the numbers above, so I can't yet say whether they have improved on 811. Additionally, I can't really know how much my diet has contributed to my running times, because I have also increased my training in recent years. But I'm definitely healthier, and I don't think I would be where I'm at now if I weren't eating 811rv.
What athletic goals do you have moving forward?
Some of my athletic goals are to run 70 miles a week and make the All-American Standard for the 3000 m steeplechase, as well as set new PRs for the mile, 3K, 5K, and maybe the half marathon.
What do you imagine is the future of vegan athletics?
I imagine that raw vegans will dominate the future of athletics. I see it as the optimal diet for developing our full potential. I already see lots of raw vegan athletes, and I think it will keep catching on more and more.
How did you learn about Dr. G and 811rv?
I learned about Dr. G. through my own search for better health and performance as an athlete and craftsman. I was looking to heal some chronic pains accrued from running and working. So I typed in "vegan athletes" in a search engine and found Doug's raw vegan forum on VegSource.com. I also found his book that way.
What is your personal opinion of Dr. G's book, The 80/10/10 Diet?
Personally, I think Doug's book is excellent. It really makes it easy to understand why this way of eating is our optimal diet. It is clearly written, and has plenty of scientific research studies to back up the facts. He did lots of research. The book clearly explains our physiological/biological requirements. It is written in plain simple terms and covers all the issues involved in eating this way.
Have any particular points or messages in The 80/10/10 Diet stuck with you, above all else?
What stuck with me the most from his book is that every creature has a species-specific diet, and that made it easy to see why eating fresh raw fruits and greens is our natural diet.
Do you think people on a tight budget can do this diet?
I do think people on a tight budget could make this diet work. One needs to make it a priority and make any necessary creative adjustments in their lifestyle to do it. The benefits outweigh the effort.
Looking back, is there anything you would change about how you transitioned to 811rv?
Looking back, I'm glad I went to the 811rv diet directly and completely. If I had to do it over, I would probably bring fruit to the sports bar/restaurant that I went to with my running friends after some weekly interval workouts, since the only thing on the menu that was 811rv was the small salad. I was always hungry after running and didn't like watching others eat heartily while I was hungry!
Do you plan to change anything or do anything differently with your 811rv regimen, going forward?
Going forward, I plan on being more in tune with my body's needs continually and eating what feels best always.
What one piece of advice would you give a newbie to 811, or someone who is looking to refine their program?
My advice to a newbie is to always have more than enough ripe fruit with you and at home. Keep your meals as simple as possible for optimal digestion. Eat fruit that you enjoy! Give yourself plenty of time to adjust on this diet. Give it at least a year. Do it completely. It will take time to let go of old eating patterns.
Is there anything you'd particularly like to share that hasn't been asked?
I want to add that eating this way is a true joy. It frees up energy for your body to use in more positive ways and it will improve the quality of your life in every aspect. You will see the benefits of the diet right away, as well as continuously along the way!