Are Vegetarian Athletes Weaker?

A new study shows that meat-eating athletes have no advantage when it comes to cardio or strength training. Credit: Getty Images

Vegetarian diets have so many proven health benefits, but will ditching meat tank your training? Not at all, finds a new Arizona State study[1], one of the first to answer this question. If you do vegetarianism right[2], you can build just as much cardiorespiratory fitness and strength.

Researchers recruited 70 elite endurance athletes — 27 vegetarians and 43 omnivores — and tracked their food intake, including protein powders and other caloric supplements, for one week. Then they took the participants’ body measurements. Although the vegetarians weighed less than the omnivores, both groups had almost equal body-mass indexes and percentage of lean muscle mass.

MORE: Why UFC's Toughest Fighters Are Going Vegan[3]

Next, to assess the athletes’ cardiorespiratory fitness, they measured their VO2 max during treadmill runs. The vegetarian men proved just as fit as the meat-eating guys, while the vegetarian women actually had 13 percent greater VO2 max scores than their omnivore counterparts. And to the researchers’ surprise, strength, as measured by peak torque during leg extensions, was equal for all men and women.

“I expected cardiorespiratory fitness to be about the same since lots of endurance athletes say their performance has improved since going vegetarian,” says lead study author Heidi Lynch. “Now this study backs that. I was more surprised about strength, because people often think they need meat to get big and strong.”

Go Vegan, Get Ripped: How to Make the Switch[4]

Of course, the key nutrient that meat delivers is protein, essential to building muscle. But according to these findings, if you get enough protein from plant sources such as soy, quinoa, and nuts, you shouldn’t need meat to gain strength. “Both groups were consuming amounts of protein that fell within the range of what sports dietitians recommend,” Lynch says. “The vegetarians got 1.2 grams per every kilogram of body weight while the omnivores consumed 1.4 grams, so not much more. This shows you can still get adequate protein from a plant-based diet.”

The vegetarians consumed more total grams of carbohydrates than the meat eaters; carbs also made up a higher percentage of their total caloric intake. Both factors may benefit athletic performance, Lynch says, especially in distance running, cycling, triathlon, and other endurance sports. As seen with the vegetarian women in the study, who had higher VO2 max scores, the perks may stem from better fuel availability.

“Perhaps by having a higher carb intake, you have better glycogen storage, which could improve training and benefit VO2 max,” Lynch theorizes. She assumes the same would happen with men but it just wasn’t evident in this study because the guys had a wider range of body sizes.

Besides being sufficient for increasing fitness and strength, vegetarian diets have been linked to healthier hearts, less cancer, and longer lifespans. Plus, they’re way better for the planet. “A big reason why I’m investigating this is I’m so interested in the sustainability aspect of nutrition,” Lynch says. “Plants use less land and water resources and produce fewer greenhouse gases. I wanted to know whether an athlete can maintain athletic performance and strength when eating in a sustainable manner.” Looks like the answer is a resounding yes.


  1. ^ Arizona State study (
  2. ^ vegetarianism right (
  3. ^ MORE: Why UFC's Toughest Fighters Are Going Vegan (
  4. ^ Go Vegan, Get Ripped: How to Make the Switch (

Adventures in Advent: Patton Oswalt's Daily Whiskey and Short Story Pairing

Credit: Getty Images

Every day during Advent, Patton Oswalt is offering up a pairing of rare whiskey and literature — the kind of meditation we all could use leading up to the holidays.

ALSO: The 50 Best Whiskeys in the World[1]

Oswalt is really just documenting a trend in hipster Advent calendars that, we have to admit, are pretty brilliant.  The first, Short Story Advent Calendar, offers up a story a day from authors like Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket), Sheila Heti, Katie Coyle, and Charles Demers.

The whiskey, too, comes from a calendar, this one put together by Master of Malt, a U.K.-based company that sells sample sets and individual samples of products you probably really want to taste, but might not want enough to purchase a bottle. They come in one-ounce measures — enough for a few sips while reading.

The pairing of the two is all Oswalt. But while he’s been sharing the pairings nightly, he’s been uncharacteristically closed-lipped and closed-Tweeted about what he thinks. Maybe he wants you to find out for yourself, or he’s just too busy enjoying the experience to live Tweet it.

Either way, he’s not making this too heavy. You don’t have to take it seriously either — meaning you can start late. Though the short story calendar is sold out, you can still purchase the whiskey Advent calendar here[4].

You’ll just have to do a little catching up, which really doesn’t sound so bad.


  1. ^ ALSO: The 50 Best Whiskeys in the World (
  2. ^  Short Story Advent Calendar (
  3. ^ Master of Malt (
  4. ^ purchase the whiskey Advent calendar here (

What Does Proof on a Liquor Bottle Mean, and Where Does It Come From?

Credit: Getty Images

Proof is one of those terms most of us use to describe our whiskey without entirely understanding what it means. Legally, a modern-day proof signifies twice the percentage alcohol by volume in the United States. You can figure this out because the alcohol by volume percentage is required to be on every bottle — usually right next to the proof. In other words, it's entirely redundant. So why is it really there?

We asked whiskey historian and author of The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of American Whiskey[1], Fred Minnick, to help us make sense of it all.  Minnick, of course, blames the British. 

MORE: What, Exactly, Is the Difference Between Bourbon and Whiskey?[2]

If you go back 300 years, before instruments allowed you to determine the density of a liquid, a consumer would determine the alcohol content of a liquid by pouring it over gunpowder, lighting the powder on fire, and watching what happened. “If the alcohol was diluted with water or other non-flammable liquid, the alcohol flame went out without sparking the wet gunpowder,” says Minnick. And if it was not diluted, the gunpowder caught fire and eventually sparked. That was considered the “proof.”

So proof was essentially the point at which there was enough alcohol in a liquid for gunpowder to still spark. There could be more than the minimum requirement, in which case a spirit was considered “overproof.” Which is why, today, proof can be a number over 100.

The Next Craft Beer Trend: Make It Into Whiskey[3]

As with many things, the terminology stuck even after the method became outdated.

“The hydrometer was invented in the 1730s, nullifying this crude “proof” method,” says Minnick, “but the name stuck.” And even when the original hydrometer was replaced by more advanced ones in the late 1700s that could measure percentage levels above proof, the name continued since, according to Minnick, it was still “a trusted symbol in consumer expectation.”

The U.S. adopted a simple measurement of alcohol by volume in the 1840s, and modern distillers are now required to print the percent of alcohol by volume, or percent ABV, on the bottle. But they are also allowed to print the proof, legally defined as twice the percentage of alcohol by volume, even though that’s largely redundant. 

Today, the traditional term has itself become a simple bit of marketing. After all, 100 proof sounds a lot cooler than 50 percent ABV, doesn't it? 


Light Beer Is Coming Back, and Other Findings from the Brewers Association Annual Report

Credit: Dave Shafer / Getty Images

If you feel like every article you read about the beer business cites a different number of breweries in the country, you’re not wrong. With small and independent craft brewers cropping up in every state, the number of breweries is always on the rise, and it recently reached another milestone: According to the 2016 Craft Beer Year in Review report from the Brewers Association (BA), the official brewery count reached 5,005. That’s nearly 1,000 more breweries than last year’s historic high of 4,144.

MORE: 16 Gift Ideas for Beer Lovers[1]

Here are the key findings of the report, which was released this week.

IPAs are Still King—but Lighter Styles are Coming Back

In an ironic twist of fate that many beer drinkers report experiencing — ourselves included — the delicious varieties and volume of IPA styles are still dominating the U.S. beer market. As of this year, IPAs account for about 25 percent of craft volume. But hold the phone — even as New England craft brewers fight to have the haziest, yellowest juice bomb, other easy-drinking styles are in, with sales of sessionable beers like golden ales, pilsners, and pale lagers (the “never-go-out-of-styles,” as the Brewers Association appropriately calls them in their report) increasing by 33 percent in 2016, accounting for nearly 5 percent of craft beer sales.

ALSO: In the Golden Age of IPAs, Consumers Deserve Clearer Bottle-Dating[2]

Big Beer is Still Big...

A shudder could be felt throughout the craft beer community when, earlier this year, the Department of Justice approved Anheuser-Busch InBev (also referred to as AB InBev, or ABI) to acquire SABMiller, effectively combining the two largest brewers in the world. The multinational conglomerate is two and a half times the size of the U.S. beer market in its entirety. While this poses a threat to craft brewers as well as consumers’ freedom of choice in the beers they buy, the BA optimistically reports in their December findings that a majority of craft beer lovers said they are drinking more craft because it offers more variety, which offers a beacon of hope.

...But Craft Has Room to Grow

According to mid-year data, released in July, craft beer production increased 8 percent by volume during the first half of the year, which led Brewers Association chief economist Bart Watson to believe that while the craft brewing industry has matured, most U.S. markets reflect room for growth, rather than being oversaturated. In other words, the bubble isn’t bursting any time soon.

Beer is Good for the Economy

We wouldn’t have craft breweries without homebrewing, and according the BA, homebrewing in the U.S. has created more than 11,000 jobs and generated more than $1 billion in spending and more than $700 million in revenues. The American Homebrewers Association (AHA), the homebrewing arm of the BA, also announced in October that homebrewing is on the rise, with Boise, Idaho; Minneapolis/Saint Paul, Minnesota; Nashville, Tennessee; Phoenix, Arizona; Rochester, New York; Tampa, Florida; and Windsor, California topping the list of up-and-coming homebrew hotspots.

The BA also reported that craft beer export volume, supported by the BA’s Export Development Program (EDP), increased by 16.3 percent in 2015, with more than 100 craft brewers exporting their beer internationally — a total of 446,151 barrels worth $116 million, to be exact.

Beer is Good for Budget Travel

Beer travel has also reached new horizons, with the Beer Tourism Index, created by Travelocity in partnership with the Brewers Association, debuting in October. According to the Beer Tourism Index, the number one large metro area for beer is Portland, Oregon.

Beer Has a Place at the Table

Beer and food pairing is also on the rise: The BA reported that among craft beer drinkers, 73 percent said that when making beer purchasing decisions, “complementing a meal” is either a “very important” or “somewhat important” selection criteria while dining out; and 63 percent said they select beer based on the food or meal they’re planning to eat.

Beer Got Political

Thanks to the BA’s efforts to push forward bipartisan legislation to restructure federal excise tax for brewers and improve outdated laws that regulate the U.S. brewing industry, more than half of the U.S. Congress now supports the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act. What the act seeks to accomplish is to effectively reduce excise taxes, compliance burdens, and regulations on the breweries, cideries, wineries, and distilleries, helpful in particular for the small and independent craft beverages makers who are most affected by them.

In other news, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History announced its American Brewing History Initiative, a three-year project to collect, document, and preserve the history of the beer industry in America. According to the BA, the job posting for a historian to study brewing history was one of the most viral beer stories of the year.

The BA also added that the December figures — provided by the Brewers Association, IRI Group, and Nielsen — are a compilation of data and do not represent all craft beer sales. A comprehensive annual analysis of craft brewer production will be released in March of 2017. View a recap of the 2016 Craft Beer Year in Review in this handy infographic.


We Ate at Trump's New Restaurant So You Don't Have to

Credit: Samuel Corum / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)

When Donald Trump made his first public appearance at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.[1], he was there to kinda, sorta put his birther claims to bed. But not before he boasted “this will be the best hotel in Washington.” (Short pause.) “It will be one of the great hotels anywhere in the world.”

Soon after its debut on September 12, the press pounced: A Daily Beast headline proclaimed it was “Fancy, Expensive, and Probably Doomed[2],” while the Washington Post called i[3]t “a luxury hotel his blue-collar supporters can't afford”; Mother Jones surmised[4] it would be a “financial flop” and the Washingtonian noted “The Biggest Hurdle Facing DC’s New Trump Hotel Might be Donald Trump[5].”

MORE: American Fine Dining Isn't for You, Per Se[6]

Lost in the media fury was the fact that the hotel also is home to two new fine dining options — BLT Prime and the Benjamin Bar & Lounge, restaurants that have been all but ignored by critics. If you look to Donald Trump’s other hotel restaurants, you’d know that’s a misstep. The Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago is home to Sixteen, which has two Michelin stars, while Trump’s New York city hotel boasts the highly regarded Jean-Georges.

That’s where we come in. Early on a Thursday, we went to check it out — a casual sampling of appetizers and drinks with two local chefs: Victor Albisu, chef-owner of the internationally acclaimed Del Campo[9] in nearby Chinatown as well as two Taco Bamba[10] taquerias in Virginia; and Abisu’s current executive sous chef and former sous chef at D.C.’s BlackSalt[11], Faiz Ally.

ALSO: The Most Historically Luxurious Hotels[12]

We sit down at a marble topped table with gilt flourishes by the Benjamin Bar & Lounge. Two flat screens flank either side of the bar, one showing ESPN, the other Fox News. The sound is muted, but the talking heads are clearly yelling on both channels.

A waiter comes over with drink menus. All of the cocktails are $20, except the restaurant’s signature drink, the Benjamin — a rye and vodka concoction that also features caviar and oysters. It costs $100. The wine list features more than 60 varietals, and five wines are so rare they are offered by the crystal spoonful. Champagnes will be sabered upon request.

“All the champagnes can be sabered?” I ask.

“No, it has to be a French champagne,” the waiter replies. “Those are the only bottles that can withstand it. The others break.”

“So we couldn’t get the Trump blanc de blancs sabered?”

“No, sir. It’s a safety concern.”

Ally orders an Anchor Steam lager, Albisu opts for a cappuccino, and I request a crystal spoonful of Furmint’s 2009 Royal Tokaji, a sweet Hungarian varietal, $20 for an ounce.

“I was expecting the hotel to be more gaudy,” says Albisu. “This is more understated than what I expected — even with the beautiful chandeliers with the aggressive crystal quality. Dare I say I’m impressed?”

“I was expecting a little more opulence than this,” Ally agrees. “It’s tasteful. It feels warm and inviting.”

Another waiter arrives bearing a crystal spoon on a tray and a bottle.

“You get two pours,” he says. “We want you to get your money’s worth.”

Small bits of wax that the waiter missed falling from the neck of the bottle float in the miniature amber puddle. I feel a little silly picking up the spoon, a crystalized version of a dumpling spoon, and even sillier sipping from it. I’m no oenophile, but I’ve never heard of tasting from a spoon for what seem to me obvious reasons — you can’t really smell the stuff, and so the taste comes as a bit of a surprise.

The wine is sweet and cloying. I dutifully down the second pour. I’m glad I hadn’t ordered a $325 bottle of the stuff and sort of wish I had ordered a full glass of, say, a 2015 Trump Chardonnay ($12).

“Did you like it?” the server asks.

“Mmm,” I reply, trying to hide my poor wine choice with a smile. He bows and departs, leaving us to peruse the food menu. This is the product of David Burke, a last-minute replacement for D.C. chef-restaurateur José Andrés and celeb chef Geoffrey Zakarian, both of whom were set to open restaurants in the hotel but both backed out after in the wake of the GOP candidate’s inflammatory remarks about Mexicans. Characteristically, Trump is suing both men; they are countersuing.

Burke is no slouch in the food industry: He owns a series of restaurants in New York City, Las Vegas, and Chicago and is known for playful presentations and unexpected flavor combinations, such as salmon seasoned with pastrami spices. While he clearly had limited time to put together a menu, what we see here shows some promise.

“‘Hipster fries’ with beef jerky on them sounds good,” says Albisu.

Price tag: $16. We order them anyway and a few other shareable appetizers.

Yet another waiter arrives with glasses of water. One of the glasses has ice; the other does not. He places them in front of Albisu and me. Ally, for some reason, is not served. A moment later, our original waiter returns with two varieties of nuts to snack on, and we request another water.

“Of course,” he says, and disappears.

I sample the corn nuts he brought.

“Are these truffled?” I ask.

Albisu and Ally don’t believe me, but each try the white dusted snacks. They are indeed truffled corn nuts. As far as we are aware, it’s a high-low flavor combination no chef in his or her right mind has ever foisted upon their diners, and with good reason. They’re awful, and instead of mushroom flavoring, there's an lingering artificial aftertaste.

A couple on the powder blue couch next to us orders a bottle of Trump Meritage red wine. They carefully study the label when the waiter brings it, toast with a loud clacking of glasses, and smile broadly as they sip. Our food arrives, including crab-stuffed tater tots, octopus — both grilled and in a tiradito-style crudo — and the hipster fries, an indelicately tossed mishmash of limp potatoes, stringy bits of jerky, grilled shishito peppers, and partially melted parmesan cheese. We pull them apart tentatively, looking around for a condiment to dip them in. Not a Heinz bottle in sight, and neither is our waiter.

The crab tots are good, a play on the crab cakes for which the Chesapeake Bay region is renowned. Unfortunately, there are only nine of them. The octopus, which is served with a creamy swipe of pureed avocado, is met with murmurs of appreciation. It’s an unexpected dish done well.

I excuse myself to use the bathroom. I am not surprised to find it aglow with gold accents. The bars next to the toilet, the tissue paper holder, the soap dispenser, the faucets, the mirror frame, even the sensor on the urinals — all gold. Everything shines as if it was recently polished.

I return to the table in time to see yet another waiter deliver a glass of water for Ally. It’s been an hour since we sat down.

Our original waiter returns bearing a plate with a small, silver tree with cheesecake lollipops for branches and a quenelle of princess pink bubblegum whipped cream. Everything is dusted with a snowfall of confectionary sugar.

“Try it,” the waiter urges. I take a bite of the whipped cream. It tastes like piece of stale Bazooka Joe. I’m not sure of the intended effect.

As we each work through a cake pop, I note that we’ve encountered variety of accents from our wait staff — from Eastern European to North African. I wonder aloud if Trump’s rhetoric and proposals have made being employed here problematic for them.

“People who work in the U.S., they don’t really have the luxury of paying attention to all of this stuff,” says Albisu after a bite of dessert. He puts down the unfinished pop on the rim of his saucer, where it remains. “They take this work, because they think it’s going to advance their career and they can learn from it. Latinos in particular are used to forgetting about the politics, because it’s way worse where they come from,” says Albisu, himself the son of two immigrants, his father from Cuba and mother from Peru. “Corruption is everywhere. They always feel like working class people are going to get screwed anyway, so they just get to work.”

Faiz, also the son of immigrants, both from Pakistan, has a more optimistic take. “While my father was getting his Masters, he worked in the cafeteria, because he got a burger every day he would work,” he says. “So for me, it’s amazing to be in this position where we can sit here and have these discussions. The reason he and my mother came to the States was to improve the life that they had and the life that their family would have. That’s reflected in a lot of the people that we’re working with.”

“Since your father spent some time in food service, was he excited when you decided to pursue a culinary career?” I ask.

“No, not at all. Expectations where always very high for me. I was supposed to be a doctor or an engineer.”

Albisu’s mother had hoped he would become a doctor or a lawyer, but she is proud of the path he ultimately took.

“I’ve had the pleasure of cooking at the White House and FLOTUS has come to Del Campo,” Albisu says. “The amount of time, effort and energy this administration has put into food on multiple levels has been huge — and they’ve allowed chefs to be heard. I think our children need better food; we need better kitchens in our schools; kids need access to breakfast. These are all very important issues.”

At this point we look up to see groups of two and three starting to trickle into the atrium. The music gets louder, and staff arrives to man the food and drink carts at the center of the room.

“Seeing the crowd here is actually strangely encouraging,” says Albisu. “Obviously everybody in here can’t be just conservatives, Republicans, or Trump supporters, right? It’s kind of cool. People are still coming here. After the election is all done, everybody needs to be able to go back to normal.” 


  1. ^ Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. (
  2. ^ Fancy, Expensive, and Probably Doomed (
  3. ^ Washington Post called i (
  4. ^ Mother Jones surmised (
  5. ^ The Biggest Hurdle Facing DC’s New Trump Hotel Might be Donald Trump (
  6. ^ MORE: American Fine Dining Isn't for You, Per Se (
  7. ^ Sixteen (
  8. ^ Jean-Georges. (
  9. ^ Del Campo (
  10. ^ Taco Bamba (
  11. ^ BlackSalt (
  12. ^ ALSO: The Most Historically Luxurious Hotels (