This weeks interview is with Ravi Raman of sethigherstandards.com!
Ravi is an inspirational guy. He works full time, flat out for one of the worlds largest companies, while at the same time becoming a highly trained yogi, vegan and is currently mid way through a 30-day raw food challenge!
Earlier this week I caught up with him to quiz him on the virtues of his lifestyle, and also find a little more about his other passion – consistent personal development!
You’re a huge fan of Veganism and, more recently, raw foodism. When and how did you learn about this and what made you decide to go down this path?
I’m currently 29 years old and went vegetarian when I was 9 years old (hard to believe that was 20 years ago!). My family ate vegetarian food at home (including some eggs and diary – but never any fish or other animal products) so this was easy for me to do.
About 8 years ago, after taking a yoga workshop with Jivamukti Yoga Teacher Sharon Gannon, I picked up a copy of her book that spoke about veganism. She wrote about it in a way that really made sense to me. I went vegan the next day and never looked back!
While I am not a raw foodist by any means, I do enjoy eating a large variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, and have gone raw for weeks and months at a stretch just to experience what that would be like. In fact, right now, I am in the middle of a 30-day raw food challenge – 100% raw for an entire month! I’m feeling great so far!
I have been an athlete for most of my life, competing in Ironman Triathlons, long distance running, swimming and cycling events. As an athlete I have always been interested in learning about how to have more energy and recover faster between workouts. Lots of reading, research and self-experimentation pointed to the health and fitness benefits of eating a diet with less processed food.
Exploring online I discovered some great resources, including the website www.veganbodybuilding.com that was full of great insights on how to be a healthy vegan athlete, with many insights from raw or mostly raw athletes that were performing at a high level. I learned a lot from this site, and many others like We Like It Raw and several books like 80/10/10 and The SunFood Diet. The more I read the more I started to understand the impact the food I was eating was having on my body.
While I am not a 100% raw foodist by any means today, I do try to incorporate as much raw food in my diet as possible.
A question I often get asked is how, with a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle do you possibly get enough protein to sustain a gym/physical routine? People think without eating meat it would be impossible to build muscle and a strong body. What is your take on the protein debate? What has your experience been of a gym-going vegan?
There is absolutely no problem getting enough high quality protein in sufficient quantities. In fact, just one look at some of the profiles on www.veganbodybuilding.com will demonstrate that you can not only survive, but thrive on a plant-based diet!
People forget that every fruit and vegetable has protein. Leafy greens are loaded with plenty of protein and whole grains like quinoa, millet, buckwheat and amaranth are brown rice also contain plenty of protein. Combine these foods with plenty of sprouts, legumes/lentils, nuts and seeds – and you should not have any problem getting protein on a plant-based diet.
In my personal experience, my own fitness and endurance went through the roof when I went vegan. I dropped unwanted water and fatty weight, this made my strength-to-weight ratio skyrocket. I also noticed that I recover faster when I eat a plant-based diet with mostly unprocessed foods.
I remember you following a programme close to the Colorado experiment – similar to Tim Ferriss (click here for Tim’s AMAZING results)- can you tell me a bit more about this, and how did you go?!
The experiment involved doing very short and infrequent resistance training workouts – that were incredibly intense. The program involved doing only one set each of a few compound (multi-joint) exercises. The trick is, each set would include about 10 reps done incredibly slowly – 5 seconds up and 5 seconds down! The idea is that the last few reps would be to muscular failure or beyond (using a spotter).
I did this experiment for a while, and it did work in terms of getting me some major strength gains, but I did not gain anywhere near the weight as Tim Ferriss mentioned in his blog article. At the end of the day, I think if you have a personal trainer or workout partner and can stay incredibly focused in workouts, it could be worthwhile to try. However, I found it very difficult to approach my workouts with that kind of intensity. The upside is that the workouts are ridiculously short. If people are curious, I think they should give it a try and see how their body decides.
Back to the raw – in your opinion, what are the benefits of eating raw food? What have you seen happen in your life because of it?
Let’s start with diary products. I’ll say that the benefits of giving up dairy products are absolutely incredible. If there is just one dietary change that I could recommend to anyone, it would be to eliminate dairy products completely from their diet. The transformation I witnessed going from vegetarian to vegan were absolutely incredible. I felt lighter, lost bloat weight, had increased clarity of thinking and that is just the start!
In terms of eating raw food, it just makes natural sense. Our bodies were designed to eat food in its natural unprocessed form. When you consume raw and living foods, you are naturally hydrating your body with the living waters from the food. The minerals, vitamins and phyto-nutrients in the plants are left intact and this makes the food more nutritive.
Another thing that people really need to understand is the nutrient density of the foods that they eat. Most people tend to think about the total number of calories or fat/protein/carbs in a given meal – but what about the actual nutrient density of the foods? If you are going to have a meal of 6-700 calories, the nutrition you would get from a large green salad with avocado, seed, carrots, spinach and sprouts is 10x (at least!) higher than what you would get from a bowl of pasta! We underestimate how much real nutrition our bodies need in the forms of natural vitamins and minerals. Raw plant foods supply these nutrients in abundance. You can’t come anywhere close on a cooked food diet.
Since I’ve started eating more raw food (I’d say my diet is about 50% raw on average), my skin is far clearer, I sleep better, think better, meditate easier and my yoga practice is through the roof! Through my 30-day raw food challenge, I’ve seen even more profound effects from going 100% raw.
And your top 5 tips for someone wanting to go raw?
Great question! Here are a few things that I’ve learned the hard way:
- Educate yourself! Read a ton and soak up all the insights you can. Read books, online forums and websites like www.energiseforlife.com to educate yourself. Remember that at the end of the day you are your own best teacher. Read a ton, test ALL of your assumptions and then do what feels right.
- Count calories! Most people who make a dietary change end up restricting their calories too much. Especially if you have an active lifestyle, you need to eat a lot! Keep a food log for at least a few weeks so you can be sure you are feeding yourself well.
- Fruits are your friends! I have a great friend who follows an 80-10-10 raw vegan lifestyle and the 80-10-10 book by Dr. Doug Graham has a wealth of information that every raw foodist should read. Don’t be afraid to make a meal out of fruits! I’ll have smoothies with 4-6 bananas for breakfast. I’ll go through 10 bananas in a day sometimes!
Check out raw food restaurants. Most large cities have them, and they will open your eyes to the wide variety of tastes you can experience. Just don’t overdo the heavy nut-laden raw gourmet meals. Everything in moderation!
- Exercise, exercise, exercise! Exercise makes any dietary change have more impact. Remember, we eat to live we do not live to eat! Walking, running, cycling, yoga, weights – just pick something you like and do it every day!
And you’re mid-way through a 30-day raw food challenge! What prompted you to do this and how is it going? How long have you got left?
It is rockin!!!!! I’m on Day 12 of my 30-day raw food challenge and I feel absolutely fantastic! I’ve lost some weight, but now my weight seems to have stabilized – which is great since I am already quite lean. I really feel amazing and my senses are much more in tune to the world. I’m enjoying my smoothies, creamy soups and fruits so much. I’m also lucky that I have two raw food restaurants in the Seattle area. So on the weekends, I’ll indulge in a raw gourmet meal or two.
You’re a massive fan of the smoothie too – what is your favorite recipe?
I think my Vita-Mix has to be my single most used piece of technology I own (yes, more than my computer!). I consume 1-2 smoothies a day, sometimes three on the weekends. Since I am so active, they are delicious and nutritious ways to get in high quality nutrients in a short period of time.
Almost every day for breakfast, I’ll have the following Banana Superfood Smoothie:
2-4 ripe, organic bananas
12-16 ounces water
5 large organic strawberries
½ teaspoon maca root powder
1 teaspoon cacao powder
1 tablespoon Organic hemp seed powder
In the afternoons or evenings after a yoga practice, I’ll enjoy a green smoothie. I’ll usually throw in 4-6 large kale leaves with either 1 banana or 1 apple or some pineapple. You can see a couple of my smoothie recipes and photos here.
Your other big health passion is Yoga. I’ve only really recently started and I’ve fallen in love with it – it is addictive! I put it off for years because I thought I’d need to be flexible to start with! What would your advice be to someone who is a bit scared of getting started or who is putting it off? And what benefits have you experienced from practicing yoga?
I wish I discovered yoga earlier in my life. I’ve been practicing regularly since I was 20 years old, and the benefits to my corporate career and other athletic endeavors have been profound. Yoga teaches you to maintain poise in difficult situations. It teaches you to cultivate a deep and penetrating awareness of the present moment. It teaches you to breath fully and deeply.
I came to yoga after suffering a stress fracturing while training for my first Ironman triathlon. It was 3 months before my race and couldn’t run at all! I was worried that I would have to drop out, but decided to give yoga a try. After a month of daily yoga practice, not only did my leg heal, but I was actually running faster than when I stopped! From that day I kept up with a regular yoga practice. In fact, just last year I started teaching Vinyasa Power Yoga as well.
There is no time like the present to begin a yoga practice. If you are thinking about it, I recommend dropping into a local studio and giving it 5-10 classes. Remember that like learning anything new, the first few classes may be a challenge as you begin to learn how your body moves. It is like learning to ride a bike all over again! Keep at it and you will have a lifetime to enjoy the practice.
We both started blogging at almost exactly the same time, back in 2006, and we pretty quickly connected through it (I can’t even remember how!) – how has blogging effected your life? Would you recommend it?
I think that everyone should blog. We are lucky to have the technology and means to be able to connect to other like-minded individuals and learn from other people’s successes (or struggles). Blogging is a great outlet for clarifying my own thoughts, and I have also met several people that I stay in regular contact with as a result of my blog.
We’ve both also been through Date with Destiny – I think you went the year before me, how did this impact your life? Do you think that you’re still benefiting from it now?
Tony Robbins trainings and programs have completely changed my life. I draw upon the tools and technologies learned through his programs almost every day of my life. His seminars also offer a chance to connect to hundreds (in some cases thousands!) of other motivated individuals. I’ve made many life long friends as a result. In fact, a few years ago I started a Powergroup community in Seattle that meets regularly to discuss and apply Tony’s and other personal empowerment tools.
Your blog, sethigherstandards.com is based around human improvement – not only in health, but also in terms of goal setting, personal achievement and creating an outstanding life. You’re clearly a man who knows how to set and achieve a goal! What are your top three goal setting tips – how would you advise my readers to set their health goals?
- Write your goals down. It is amazing what happens when you actually take the time to write down your goals. I am also a big fan of vision boards, they are a rich and visual way of reminding yourself every day about what you are looking to achieve and bring into your life.
- The “why” matters more than the “what.” I’ve written about this at length before on my blog. We are all motivated by compelling reasons. So instead of just saying “I want to lose 5 kg this month,” think about how losing that extra weight will allow you to be more active, enjoy more of the sports you love, have the energy to play with your family and friends, etc. For each of your goals, write a solid paragraph (minimum) about “why” the goal is important.
- Consistency is key. For example, many people ask me how often they should practice yoga. I say that 15 minutes daily is better than 2 hours once a week! Whatever your goal is, think about what you can do consistently to make progress against that goal. Remember that small changes made consistently will completely transform the quality of your life over the long term!
What is the biggest goal you’ve set and achieved? Have you got anything big in the pipeline at the moment?
I completed my first (of two) Ironman Triathlons in 2002. This was a really a lifelong dream for me, and something I had wanted to do ever since I was a little overweight kid! No joke, I had to work for it, but it was worth every step (and blister!).
I have a few big goals I am working on right now. I’m most motivated right now to grow into my yoga teaching, and to assist other master teachers over the next year in a few big workshops. I’m also working on a book project!
And finally, if you had to recommend three other blogs to my readers, what would they be?
Absolutely! Here are three blogs that I read regularly.
- Seth Godin’s Blog: An amazing blog where he posts short daily insights that are useful for both building a successful business and improving your own personal potential.
- Tim Ferris’s Blog: A wealth of insights on how to life a fulfilling life with less time and money!
- We Like It Raw: If you are at all interested in raw and living foods, this is a must-read blog.
Thank you Ravi!
I cannot recommend Ravi’s blog highly enough – he posts some truly inspirational stuff and is just such a lovely fella. Go see it now: http://www.sethigherstandards.com