q&a: Michael Arnstein, ultra-marathoner and fruitarian

Michael Arnstein NJ Marathon Winner 2009

When an apple falls off a tree, some people might pick it up, shining it on their shirt to save as a snack for later. Michael Arnstein, however, would think only one thing: lunch. And dinner. And dessert. In fact, the 37-year-old New York native and father of three children under age 15, will go for weeks at a time consuming only one type of food: fruit. He’s even moved almost 5,000 miles from his home in Brooklyn to feed his eating habit. So why did this high-school-runner-turned-ultra-marathoner decide to ditch fatty foods – and everything else, really – in favor of mono-eating? There’s only one explanation: fruitarianism. And it’s darn well worth it, he says.

So, when did you first become a fruitarian?

My health diet journey started when I was in high school. As a runner I was naturally talented and I wanted to try and improve my performance so I stopped eating hamburgers and French fries and became a dedicated vegetarian. As I got older, I wanted to get back into my athletics. I had hoped to be a college runner and that never happened. So I started getting back into running very seriously and I continued to refine my dietary habits, cutting out a new food every New Years. I cut out fish, cheese and diary – I cut out egg products, I gave up on fried foods, I gave up on anything processed over the course of 15 years.

So you eventually became a vegan before you became a fruitarian. But what was your turning point?

In my attempt to run faster and faster, I had to loose body fat and get as lean as possible. I tried vegetable protein shakes – and I did run much faster on a calorie restriction diet. But it wasn’t sustainable. My wife was really interested in cleaner diets. She read a book about a low fat raw diet of mostly fruit. Basically overnight I went 100 percent fruitarian in 2007.

What’s your body mass now?

I weighed about 135 when I was running competitively.  On the fruitarian diet I weighed between 122 and 123 – and I’m 5’4.” I was muscle and that was about it. I ran really, really fast.

That improved your running time?

I started running 2:32 marathons and running longer and longer – 150, 170, 200 miles. Like huge, huge miles. And I never got injured, I wouldn’t get hurt, I wouldn’t get sick, I just kept going faster and faster and that’s when I was like ‘wow this diet is unbelievable.’ I just become a super human.

Traditional fruitarians’ diet consists of 75 percent or more of only fruit. I know you travel a lot for your software/ecommerce business; how do you eat when you travel? Can you go out to eat?

Well I’m not in competition anymore. My diet is not as super, super strict as it was in the past. So for example, tonight at a business meeting we went to a restaurant and they’re getting all kinds of crap. I just ordered steamed vegetables and a big salad and asked for a big fruit plate. Normally in the past, I’d never eat cooked vegetables. I’d much rather not be in that situation so I don’t go out to eat. But at the same time, it’s not like I’m going to the death to maintain my diet purity.

How often do you eat?

I eat all day, as much as I want until I’m full. If it’s the summertime I’d eat just to rehydrate and no matter how much food I would eat I wouldn’t gain weight. I’d eat 20 pounds of produce a day.

What would a typical lunch be like today?

I’d probably eat 15 oranges, maybe 20.

Wow, that is a lot of fruit!

Yeah, if they were good. I was getting really good Minneolas, or really good oranges in season I’d eat 20 of them and be so happy. Or I might eat three cantaloupes that might be exotic.  Or black mission figs.

You’d probably buy out the entire grocery store’s worth of oranges at that rate. Where do you buy that much produce?

When I lived in New York, I had four refrigerators: three in the basement and one upstairs. We would shop at wholesalers, where the trucks would unload at Hunts Point in the Bronx. If the mangos were good, we’d buy one case of mangos and eat that for ten days and then we’d go buy more. Mono-eating is very important because it’s a sustainable way to eat. That gives you the best digestion and you don’t overeat because you’re not eating too much variety. When you’re mono-eating you’re eating for health and not for entertainment.

How much do you spend on groceries?

For me alone, I probably spend $150 a week on food.  It’s very expensive.

What do you eat in the winter when there’s less fresh fruit?

Winter is a situation. That’s why I moved to Hawaii. I wanted to be in an environment where there’s tropical fruit all year-round.

You still run 30 miles a day. Where do you get your protein?

I don’t eat any protein. I don’t get any protein. What I get is something that makes protein. It’s called amino acids. Your body takes that and builds them into protein. So when you eat animal flesh, you’re not getting amino acids you’re getting protein. But your body can’t do anything with that. Your body has to break it down into amino acids and build it into your own muscle. So just by cutting out protein, you’re cutting out a huge process that expends a lot of energy.

What does your doctor think about your diet?

I don’t know. I don’t have a doctor. I never get sick. My blood work is great. No problem on blood work.

Do your kids eat only fruit?

They eat a lot of fruit when they’re home. When they go to school I’m sure they eat a lot of crap there. I don’t fight them on it – they know what’s the best option and that’s the point. Rice is not going to kill you and a bean burrito is not going to kill you. But I am all about the best option: Would you rather have fresh squeezed orange juice or orange juice out of a can? I’m all about what’s the best. I don’t settle. I want the best health, I want to the best options and I make that a vocal point of what I want to eat.

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