80/10/10 Allstar: Harley Johnstone : Ultra-Endurance Mountain Bike Champion

Published: Fri, 11 Dec 2009


Another interview in our "Low-Fat Raw Vegan Elite Athlete" series.

"With 80/10/10, suddenly a whole new landscape opens up, making it possible to compete at the level of world champions while exclusively consuming fruits and greens provided by Nature. If the word really got out, 80/10/10 would explode!"

Harley Johnstone spent his first 24 years battling up-and-down energy levels and a host of maladies including chronic fatigue, asthma, Crohn's disease, hypoglycemia, mild arthritis, sleep disorders, depression, drug addiction, alcohol abuse, anorexia, acne, and more. These challenges led him to explore veganism and eventually raw veganism in 2005. As a 100% raw vegan, Harley has won 24-hour solo mountain bike races, completed many marathons and half marathons, cycled all over the globe, and raced bicycles in Europe. Having raced and trained with Olympic gold medalists, Tour of Italy riders, and Tour de France winners including Lance Armstrong and Oscar Pereiro, Harley continues to compete at the national level in Australian road and ultra-endurance races. He aims to win his first ultramarathon in Adelaide, Australia this month.

Harley also spends time in Thailand training in Muay Thai and doing damage to local supplies of mango, banana, durian, chempedak, passionfruit, mangosteen, etc. He travels the world teaching people how to thrive on fruit and nature's abundance. Never having held a driver's license, Harley fancies himself an automobile-free raw vegan organic athlete, racing to save the planet. Says Harley, "If I can transform from a chronic-fatigue Nintendo zombie to an ultra-endurance mountain bike race winner, totally free of drugs and stimulants, just by learning about my body's daily needs and how to meet them, imagine what others can achieve!

Tell us about yourself: your age, where you live, your job, your family, and the like.

Harley Johnstone, aka Durianrider. I am 31. I'm a raw coach and a world traveler.

Do you eat 100% raw vegan?

I have been 100% raw vegan since October 10, 2005. I eat no honey, salt, oil, superfoods, condiments, or seaweed.

Health & Fitness Week 2006

How long have you been eating the 80/10/10 way?

When I attended Sports Camp [Health & Fitness Week] in 2006, I learned how important it is to know how to fuel yourself properly and what that looks like in terms of volume and calories. Ever since then, I've evolved on my low-fat raw vegan lifestyle.

Why did you choose this path?

I'm into growth and natural living.

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 vegetarian for one week, then learned about the dairy industry and how unhealthy dairy is, and I went vegan overnight. That was like eight years ago. Then I learned about raw food and food combining and got in contact with Dr. Graham and went from there. The hardest thing is learning how to eat enough fruit and not feel guilty about it. We live in a fruit-phobic society, and anyone who eats more than two oranges in a sitting is seen as having an eating disorder!

Were you sick before going raw?

I was very sick with digestion, blood sugar, and fatigue issues. My low-fat (cooked) vegan diet helped heaps! But 811 is another level. When you stop eating garlic, salt, and seaweed, you rise up more levels. It feels pretty cool!

Harley and Freelee

Does your partner eat the way you do?

Yes, my partner is also 100% raw vegan and was so before I met her. There are only two 100% raw vegan chicks in Australia! So the attraction was instant and lasting, because we have such high standards about how we live.

Has eating an 811rv diet changed how your family (or household) eats?

We don't have a house and live as gypsies traveling around on our bicycles. But we like to think we positively change the houses of other people we stay with sometimes.

Give us a sample of your daily diet and lifestyle routine.

I am mentoring on the computer around three hours a day, on average. We don't have a car and choose to ride, run, or walk for food. We exercise only on the days we want to eat and try and do exercises that have meaning, such as cycle commuting or carrying heavy boxes of fruit.

I like to eat around 3,500 calories a day. For me that generally means about ten bananas before 9 am, another 20 bananas at noon, and two large heads of lettuce plus two kilos of tomatoes & cucumber before sundown. During days when I exercise heavily, I eat about twice that much, usually by doubling or tripling my banana consumption. I LOVE spending so little time on food prep now...no more recipes and complex combinations followed by lowered vitality! Life is so much simpler now, leaving me more time and energy to devote to my partner, family, and clients.

Freelee (my partner) eats the same lately, as she has upped her weights and cycling program. We usually eat three meals per day and try to finish up before the sun sets. We get around 10 to 14 hours of rest each night. It's a life of health and freedom we have worked hard to obtain and are very grateful for. Thai Durian Feast

Isn't that too much fruit?

It's ENOUGH fruit! I've NEVER seen a fat 811 person. Nobody is getting fat on this diet. Fat people who make the switch get fit, and super-thin people who go 811 get muscles.

Here is a radical concept: As I see it, there are two types of people in the raw-food movement: (1) those who eat enough fresh fruit to properly satiate their natural need for simple-sugar fuel, and (2) those who don't eat enough fruit and thus turn to cooked foods, raw animal products, supplements, stimulants, and high-fat raw imitations of cooked food dishes to compensate. I never try to turn my banana into a pizza, and I have no need for the emotion-numbing, taste-bud-exciting substances so common in the raw food movement.

I used to crave cooked foods and gourmet high-fat raw foods when I first started, simply because I was undereating fruit and still eating salt. When I cut out salt, seaweed, herbs, spices, condiments, vinegar, etc., that helped a ton. Maybe it was a coincidence, but when I learned how to eat enough calories from fruit to meet my needs, I stopped trying to make raw versions of my favorite cooked foods.

Of course, I'm human, and cooked foods do start to look inviting if I've been training hard and undereating fruits. But my conviction is strong, and I'm not tempted. It's just 27 years of cooked programming. After a meal of fruit I'm good, and then cooked food starts to look like the stodge it really is! Even maggots look inviting when we're really hungry!

So let's ensure our glycogen tank is taken care of and eat sufficient calories from fruit! All my friends who try raw, undereat fruit and go back to cooked food. Then they tell me they have no discipline. But we cannot fight the body's wisdom. It will overtake us and force cooked foods in if we starve ourselves, EVERY TIME! The only sustainable solution is to become a fruit eater in earnest, ditching the "oh my god, that's too much fruit!" dogma.

Besides diet, food, and nutrition, what other lifestyle factors do you find most important in supporting you in following 811rv?

Conviction to seek the truth and live it. Conviction to save the planet and make my life count for something more than a pretty face and a nice DVD collection.

Do you ever wonder whether you're getting enough (protein, calories, micronutrients of your choosing)?

Yeah, I used to wonder, but then I remember how crappy I used to feel on those protein-rich foods and how my body has to fight to thrive in spite of them. I've done my homework now: I've listened to over a thousand hours (literally) of Dr Graham's recordings, so I've been brainwashed enough!

Half marathon

What are some of the personal benefits (excluding athletic performance) you've experienced since transitioning to an 811rv diet?

Increased spirituality, VO2 max, agility, power, endurance, life commitment, passion, life purpose, and clarity of purpose.

Compare for us your experiences eating a low-fat raw diet versus the popular high-fat version? How do you view the two differently?

Well, I'm in Thailand today at the 2009 World Durian Festival. We eat only durians for dinner, as a mono meal. We still notice that durians in that amount don't allow the body the same vigor as a meal of mangos or bananas or oranges. High fat is nature's slow-down plan: slow you down and fatten you up, so you can survive a possible famine.

How have you found it socially to eat this way?

It scares away all the drainbows and attracts rainbows! I had to get rid of my mobile phone, because it rang so much. I'm always meeting strangers and have made lasting friendships worldwide. I found my soulmate because I stood up and committed.

How have your family and friends reacted to your dietary choices?

At first people freaked out. But that's okay. If mainstream people aren't FREAKING out about your lifestyle, then you're probably working in a job you hate, to buy food and junk you don't need. I like to appear in the newspaper and on television, because I find that it helps people to swallow the message more easily, when they read it in print or see you on a TV show. As soon as I was on radio for the first time, many very mainstream friends began to take me more seriously. Some people distance themselves from Internet, radio, TV, etc., but I know these are vey powerful tools for reaching our family and friends. Suddenly I hear them saying, SEE, THE TV SAID IT'S GOOD FOR YOU!! :)

How have others in your sports community reacted to your dietary choices?

Some don't want to train with me, because they feel guilty at the cafe when I'm eating organic fruit and they're ordering a quad latte and three chocolate donuts. But I don't give my crew a hard time and usually just let my walking do the talking. I've got a sense of humor, and that helps heaps.

Can you tell us about some difficult realities of eating an 811rv diet in a world of SAD eaters?

When I stay with people who say, "Oh, we can cater for you, no problem - we eat heaps of fruit too!" THEY HAVE NO IDEA HOW MUCH I EAT! I always come prepared. ALWAYS! I used to miss meals, but that just affected my training recovery and made me look like a weirdo who didn't eat. So now I bring my 30 ripe bananas for a meal and show people how to eat healthy. At meal time I'm careful not to insult people and try to keep it fun and light. It's not what you say, but how you say it.

Have you had success finding ripe fruits when traveling?

ALWAYS! Because when I'm hungry, I get what I want!

How long have you been vegan?

Since March 2001.

Do you find yourself frequently debunking myths or inaccuracies about veganism?

Yes, people said I couldn't be a good cyclist as a vegan. Now I'm flying and totally drug free. It is funny, the people that said I couldn't do it, none of them ride now.

Teaching Cambodian orphans about fruit

What about veganism appeals to you?

It's so eco! There are 6.6 billion people on the planet! We need to start getting conscious and compassionate. And having fruit parties every meal!

Are there things about being vegan that you find challenging?

Challenging? Well, being a voice for the voiceless has given me such life purpose that I find it a little challenging to decide where I want to focus my energy. There are so many good things to be a part of in regards to getting the vegan message out.

Harley's Bamboo Bicycle

Describe a typical day of training.

Yesterday I got up at 6 am and cycled 160 km in the Thai summer sun. I drank five quarts of water and ate eight small bananas. By the end of the day I had eaten about 4,000 calories. I got two hours of massage and did some stretching. I feel great today.

As an athlete, you have quite specific nutritional needs. How do you meet the demands of your training through your nutritional choices?

I count my calories! Not because I fear getting too much, but so I get ENOUGH. Fruit is nearly impossible to overeat, because it doesn't stimulate the taste buds like cooked foods do. That's why you NEVER see a real chunky long-term 100% 811er. Now what other way of eating can you say that about??? NONE!

When training through periods of maximum exertion, what do you eat, and how much per day, typically?

Well, my biggest days are 24-hour mountain bike races, and I eat around 7,000 calories during those races. I find the maximum number of calories I can absorb, while still riding well is around 300 per hour. Multiplying 300 calories by 24 hours give me 7,200 calories. Anything more than that starts to affect my riding performance, as does anything less than that.

In terms of actual foods, I eat one kind of fruit, and aim for 60 grams of carbs per hour. This means eating high-calorie fruits that travel well and can be eaten quickly and easily, like bananas (2 to 4 per hour), dates (3 to 6 per hour), sultanas or raisins (100 grams per hour), or figs (about 4 to 6 per hour).

During 24-hour races, I burn far more calories than I eat - about 18,000. The 11,000-calorie deficit is consumed in reserve body fat, which I eventually replenish over the following days. That's a little over 3 pounds (at 3,500 calories per pound), or just under 1.5 kilos (at about 7,700 calories per kilo.) Harley's Bamboo Bicycle

Can you tell us about any overall athletic performance improvements you've noticed since adopting 811rv?

I've objectively increased my VO2 max [maximum oxygen uptake measure of cardiorespiratory endurance] to 78. I've increased my power on the bike when riding uphill. I have better agility on the mountain bike. I feel more emotionally balanced.

What are some of your most notable recent athletic achievements while maintaining a strict 811rv diet?

In 2008, I was the South Australian 24-hour solo mountain bike champion. I've cycled across Australia, and most importantly, I enjoy movement a lot more, because I see it as a celebration of health, rather than something I "have" to do. I've run a 1:22:35 half marathon and a few marathons.

What athletic goals do you have moving forward?

A sub-2:30 marathon is realistic, based on my VO2 max and my physiology. People ask if I plan to ride pro. I don't. Riding at 100 km/h down an alpine descent with no barrier and in lycra and a 200 g helmet has never been part of my goals. I have officially raced against Tour de France riders - not just trained with them, raced with them. There are two speeds in those races, if you know what I mean. I'm not interested in compromising my health to meet sponsorship goals. Million-dollar bike companies have no time for organic athletes. Perhaps things will change. Either way, I love to ride my bicycle.

What do you imagine is the future of vegan athletics?

It's increasing! More and more sports stars are learning about the lifestyle and its health benefits and karma, etc. And WAY beyond vegan, the HUGE plus comes with 80/10/10: Suddenly a whole new landscape opens up, making it possible to compete at the level of world champions (at least ones who don't take performance-enhancing drugs) while exclusively consuming fruits and greens provided by Nature. I hope my example will lead to more athletes knowing that they can compete powered by fruit and greens and get healthier and stronger every year. If the word really got out, 80/10/10 would explode I'm all about making that happen!

How did you learn about Dr. G and 811rv?

I was seeking the best, and what we seek is seeking us.

What is your personal opinion of Dr. G's book, The 80/10/10 Diet?

Best book on health ever written. Why? Because it's OBJECTIVE! It offers clear-cut direction on how to measure calories, what foods to eat, how much to eat, and the other factors which play a role in succeeding on the raw-food diet. It's also authentic. Lots of fruit books talk about why eating fruit is good, but they aren't written by a 100% raw vegan.

Have any particular points or messages in The 80/10/10 Diet stuck with you, above all else?

Learn how many calories you need to stay fit and healthy! Do your homework and learn about calories! Get so good that you can walk into a grocery and tell people how many calories they are eating! It's very fun!

Do you think people on a tight budget can do this diet?

Can anyone NOT afford to eat the best nutrition? Have you ever heard of a heroin junkie quitting drugs because they were too expensive? Me neither. When something is important to a person, they make it happen! The money thing is just a weak excuse. Kids in Bangladesh can do 811 by drinking coconuts and eating wild bananas and wild tender greens.

Looking back, is there anything you would change about how you transitioned to 811rv?

I would have learned about calories sooner, instead of saying, "calorie counting is for Jenny Craig clients!" I train with Tour de France cyclists, and EVERY ONE I've asked knows how many calories they need and how much they burn in training.

Time in nature

Do you plan to change anything or do anything differently with your 811rv regimen, going forward?

I plan to keep eating my meals early before bedtime and to keep eating a hearty breakfast (fruit, of course).

What advice would you give a newbie to 811, or someone who is looking to refine their program?

Learn calories! Start moving! Get more sleep! Study 811 like a champ! And if you want to live your life purpose and live a life of happiness, you'll have to stop taking things personally. Taking things personally or being suspect of others' intentions often leads to burnout, while speaking from the heart and trying to combine truth with humor often leads to burning brighter.

Also, I would like to add that on this 811 path people tend to have super energy like they have never experienced before. Crazy amounts! I've seen so many people be overwhelmed by this phenomenon and reach for numbing foods that block this energy. Blocking your vitality will not lead to a life of fulfillment. Rather, transmuting this energy into our life purpose, creativity, relationships, sports, etc. these things will allow you to stay raw, stay sane and keep in the game!!

Feel the energy it's here to help us help the planet. Feel it, tap into it, use it, let if flow freely into your life. Only an 811er knows the feeling when we decide that numbing our emotions is no longer an option, we will be rewarded for our conviction with contentment. That high-water-content vitality is truly the best drug on the planet! There are no comedowns, just bedtime!

Feel like you're going crazy with the contradictions in society? Then go bananas! Get fruity! Keep it fun and heartfelt. Stay supple, stay funny, stay passionate. Be part of the solution or keep being part of the problem.

Can't find a raw hero in your world? Just look outside at the first wild critter you see. Thousands of thriving raw examples are out there, if you just open your eyes and tune into an attitude of gratitude.

Can't find a human example reaching the standards you admire? Then become that example! 811 is like anything worthwhile in life—climbing mountains for instance: some people love 'em, see them as an opportunity for growth. Some people whine and complain about the gradient and look for the chair lift. And in the end, our altitude reflects our attitude.

Is there anything you'd particularly like to share that hasn't been asked?

Hydration! I personally feel that people on 811 don't drink enough water! Sure, we don't need as much as cooked food eaters or salt eaters, but we still need enough! The chimps in the forest don't wear clothing and are in the rain many times a day! We know that if you put a dehydrated person in a river they will rehydrate! So not drinking enough water and living clothed indoors in winter dry air is a MASSIVE hindrance.

And you know what? When we stop drinking water, we don't want it anymore! We feel sick when we drink it! And that's a rut we don't want to stay in, because emotionally it will crack us!

I've gotten dehydrated out on bike tours. Water hurts to drink, I'm peeing rusty nails, and clearly performance and attitude are out the door. Just watch a person who's been rescued after being heat stroked. They grab at the water bottle and guzzle some water, and they almost vomit at the pain they experience.

So my tip is to drink a quart upon rising. Cold climate is dry climate! Thinking we can get all our water from juicy fruits and coconuts is the biggest mistake I see people making.

I've been a water watcher for over 10 years now. I can tell if a spider is dehydrated! And I can make a spider drink! It's a subject I'm very passionate about, and I believe it is too often overlooked.

Want to know more?

To read all interviews in our 80/10/10 Allstars series, visit the FoodnSport blog.