Category Archives: Nutrition

Chipotle Empire Grows

By Pete Williams

Chipotle's newest location: Countryside

Chipotle will open a new restaurant on Tuesday, which isn’t exactly headline-grabbing news. The Denver-based chain is up over 1,200 stores and now is in London and coming soon to Paris. The company recently opened a new Asian-themed restaurant in D.C. called the Shophouse Southeast Asian Kitchen.

But this particular new Chipotle will be in Clearwater, Florida, across from the Countryside Mall, much closer to my home than my current six-mile commute, meaning I’ll somehow eat at Chipotle more than I already do.

Chipotle has close ties to the endurance sports world, even though the company does precious little in terms of advertising and marketing. For starters, it’s a favorite among endurance athletes because it’s tasty, high-quality performance fuel.

Company founder Steve Ells believes in using only meat and dairy products from animals that have been raised in family farms, not factory farms, which means they haven’t been confined and injected with hormones. Veggies are organic and locally sourced, wherever possible.

Ells, a classically-trained chef who starred in the recent reality series “America’s Next Great Restaurant,” is changing the way Americans eat fast food and for that he should be commended. Heck, he’s already receiving accolades for forcing the food industry to go back to nature and away from the processed food model that is making Americans fat and killing them. Last month The Wall Street Journal named Ells the 2011 Food Innovator of the Year for “bringing sustainable agriculture to the masses.”

Still, there are two myths about Chipotle still out there. The first is that it was created by McDonald’s. Nope, Ells launched Chipotle in 1993 out of a tiny property near the University of Denver. He did, however, take about $300 million in McDonald’s money as an investment early in the company’s history to fuel Chipotle’s growth. McDonald’s had no influence on the company and was happy to walk away with triple its investment when Chipotle went public in 2006.

The second myth is that the food is bad for you. Admittedly, it can be a lot of calories. The key is to opt for the bowl, skipping the tortilla, and go with just one scoop of rice. Choose either sour cream or guacamole, not both. Drink water instead of soda. Voila – world’s healthiest, tastiest fast food.

I get that exact burrito bowl with black beans, mild and corn salsas, light cheese, lettuce, and chicken, for $8.31. It’s tough to eat the processed, semi-fresh stuff coming out of Subway or Quiznos for that price.

Mark Verstegen introduced me to Chipotle in Phoenix in 2002 when we began work on our first Core Performance book. Since then I’ve eaten at Chipotle between 500 and 1,000 times, which brings us to our third Chipotle myth: that you’ll get sick of the food. Chipotle does not have many food options, but apparently there are more than 1,200 taco and burrito combinations they can make.

I’ve eaten at dozens of Chipotles and I’ve yet to see one busier than the one just off Wall Street, which makes sense since CMG has been one of the hottest stocks over the last three years – and one of my biggest non-investment regrets.

Chipotle has an upscale-yet-casual decor that’s perfect for business lunches. Brody Welte and I did much of the work for our Paddle Fit “vook” on stand-up paddleboarding at Chipotle in St. Pete. Mark Verstegen and I worked on a chunk of each of our five Core Performance books at a Chipotle in Phoenix.

I can’t wait to get started on another – perhaps from the new Chipotle Countryside.

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My PSA for the PSA

By Pete Williams

Dr. Katz' new book

“It can be a sign of prostate cancer.”

That’s what my urologist told me two weeks ago, right in the middle of National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, when he phoned with the results of my PSA test.

No way, I thought, heart beginning to thump. I’m too young. I’m a health nut, the co-author of fitness books, a triathlete and stand-up paddleboarder, someone downright OCD about my diet.

Then again, that’s what I thought in January when I underwent anesthesia three times to remove a 1 cm kidney stone. Since then, I’ve dialed in my nutrition further, becoming a borderline vegan. I’ve dropped to what I weighed at college graduation 20 years ago.

The numbers were scary, though. PSA (prostate-specific antigen) is present in small quantities in the serum of men with healthy prostates but often elevated in the presence of prostate cancer.

My PSA was 1.7 – not dangerous in and of itself, though high for a guy my age (almost 42). The problem was my PSA “velocity,” the rise in PSA from year to year.

Many guys my age haven’t had a PSA test. It’s recommended for men over 40, especially those with a family history (which I don’t have), and highly recommended for guys 50 and over.

I probably wouldn’t have had a PSA test at all at this point. But in July of 2009, the Tampa Bay Rays held a free prostate cancer screening at Tropicana Field. As someone with self-employed health insurance, I jump at any free medical services. Plus, there were free Rays tickets involved.

So I had the PSA, which is a blood test, and it came back at a modest 0.9, well in the safe range. I also had the dreaded digital rectal exam and, um, poked fun at the experience in a blog. A year later, in August 2010, my PSA actually decreased to 0.8. I blogged about that too.

I wasn’t planning to get a PSA done this year. The guidelines suggest waiting until you’re 45 if you’ve had favorable results at 40. The Rays offered another free screening in early September, offering a pair of tickets to late-September games.

Yeah, right. As if the Rays would be playing meaningful baseball at the end of the month.

During a kidney stone follow-up visit to my urologist on August 11, he suggested some routine bloodwork. While we were at it, we could do a PSA test. No problem, I said, though I declined the digital rectal exam. My doc and I have been through a lot this year, and I didn’t want to stress our tenuous relationship.

The PSA results didn’t come back until Sept. 12. When your PSA jumps more than 0.35 from year to year, that’s cause for concern. Mine had gone from 0.8 to 1.7.

“We might want to do a biopsy,” the doc said.

Urologists like to say biopsies are routine. That is, if you view the insertion of the equivalent of a sewing machine needle up your backdoor to take a dozen rapid-fire shots at your prostate as routine. You’ll piss blood for a few days. You’ll see it elsewhere for weeks.

“There must be something else we can do,” I said.

The doc offered to prescribe an antibiotic for a week. It was unlikely, but perhaps I had some prostate inflammation. This could knock it out and we could do another test.

“What else can I do differently?”

He mentioned that vigorous exercise within 48 hours can skew a PSA test. “I don’t imagine you know what you did the two days before your appointment.”

“Are you kidding?” I’m a journalist, triathlete, and an all-around anal guy. I called up my training logs.

Tuesday, August 9 – 5:45 a.m. — 55-minute spin class, 45 minutes of core conditioning

Wednesday, August 10 – 6: 15 a.m. — Dry land Paddle Fit workout. (Water too rough to get on the paddleboard.)

Thursday, August 11 – 6 a.m. — 60 minutes of core conditioning. (Urologist appointment followed at 10:50 a.m.)

“That might be the case,” the doctor said. “But a more telling sign would be if you ejaculated within 48 hours of the PSA test, especially 24 hours before. Do you keep records of that?”

Smart ass.

“I’m pretty sure I’m guilty there, too, Doc.”

We set up another PSA test for a week. I felt nauseous as I hung up the phone. Prostate cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer, though impotence and incontinence are common side effects. Other than that, there’s nothing to worry about.

I wanted a second opinion. And a third and fourth. I wanted to know everything about the prostate. Let’s face it. What guy gives his prostate much thought until it’s threatened?

I called Dr. James Borin, a urologist at the University of Maryland medical center in Baltimore who had provided so much insight during my kidney stone saga.

“The PSA is not a great test, but it’s the best test we have,” he said. “The holy grail of urology right now is finding a better diagnostic tool for prostate cancer.”

Borin reiterated the need to avoid ejaculating and vigorous exercise for up to 48 hours before my next test. I felt relieved after talking with Dr. Borin.

Dr. Aaron Katz, however, initially scared the hell out of me. I saw him interviewed by Don Imus, who has dealt with prostate cancer for three years. Katz stressed that the side effects from prostate removal and radiation are very real. The impotence percentages are scary.

But what I came to realize is that Katz, who appeared on my Fitness Buff radio show earlier this week and is the author of the new book The Definitive Guide to Prostate Cancer: Everything You Need to Know about Conventional and Integrative Therapies, is a strong advocate of taking a holistic, wait-and-see approach to prostate cancer.

Imus, 71, has not undergone radiation or prostate removal, preferring to undergo a strict diet, along with a regimen of supplements and exercise in order to avoid surgery or radiation.

“Not all men need to be treated,” Katz told me. “It’s not like pancreatic cancer or leukemia where you need urgent treatment. Because of PSA screening, many of these prostate cancers are caught early and many patients go their entire lives without needing radiation or surgery, which has side effects such as impotence and incontinence. There are some patients that do need to go those routes for treatment, but for others a change in diet, combined with herbal compounds and monitoring the cancer for years – even a lifetime – is a better course of action.”

Katz calls the PSA test the “Patient Stimulated Anxiety” test since the results often cause a patient to unnecessarily panic.

“We do more than a million prostate biopsies a year in this country and many are just a knee-jerk response to a high PSA,” says Katz, who is a New York urologist and director of the Center for Holistic Urology at Columbia University. “There are other things we should do first. Take a re-test, especially if you’ve had recent sexual activity. We can do a urine test to make sure bacteria isn’t at work. We can do a free-and-total PSA test and even a prostate ultrasound to calculate its size and density. Some men have a bigger prostate from genetics or a fatty diet. All of which will bump up the PSA and not necessarily be a sign of cancer.”

Katz mentioned that taking a spin class as I did within 48 hours of my first PSA exam wasn’t a good idea. That kind of up-and-down on the bike seat can affect the prostate and thus a PSA reading.

I liked Katz’ philosophy and his diet-and-exercise prescriptions. But if I had prostate cancer, what good would that do? I can’t eat much healthier and exercise much more than I already do.

Last Thursday, I went in for second PSA test. I refrained from vigorous activity of all sorts, including sex, for 72 hours, just to be sure. I finished the antibiotics. I prayed a lot.

This time we did a free-and-total PSA test, which is more in-depth than the regular one.

My “free PSA” was 33 percent. That didn’t sound good until I learned that the highest a guy my age can register is between 35 and 40 percent. As for my regular PSA number?

Back to 0.9, consistent with 2009-2010 and well in the normal range.

We’ll still monitor my PSA, revisiting in another three months. I’ll remember to refrain from vigorous physical activity, especially sex, for at least 48 hours beforehand.

Speaking of sex, what about the theory that lots of it is good for the prostate? Use it or lose it, right?

Katz says he often has men ask him to prescribe a program of sex three to four times a week to present to their wives.

“I see a lot of men at a time in their lives where they don’t ejaculate as much,” he says. “The fluid can build up into the prostate-causing calcium deposits that can cause inflammation that can lead to rising PSA or pain in the prostate. There have been studies suggesting a role in the chronic link in inflammation of the prostate and prostate cancer. So in that regard sexual activity has great benefits ranging from reducing stress to perhaps reducing your rate of prostate cancer.”


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Chipotle Creates “Chipotle Cultivate Foundation”

By Pete Williams

CMG: Furthering the cause

Chipotle Mexican Grill already has helped transform the way Americans eat with its”Food With Integrity” vision, using ingredients that wherever possible are sustainably grown and naturally raised.

Now the Denver-based company, which has dozens of restaurants in Florida, has created the “Chipotle Cultivate Foundation,” aimed at supporting people, organizations and institutions that are committed to making a better, more sustainable future.

“For more than a decade, we have been working to improve the nation’s food supply by finding more sustainable sources for all of the ingredients we use in our restaurants,” said Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle. “By creating the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, we are extending our reach beyond our restaurants and will be supporting organizations and people that are working to improve individual family farms, animals and the environment, and youth and education programs.”

We’re huge fans of Chipotle here at EnduranceSportsFlorida. It’s tough to think of a better power-food lunch or dinner for an endurance athlete than a burrito bowl. The best part about it is that you know you’re eating organic food, especially farm-raised meat from animals that have not been shot up with hormones. And, of course, it’s delicious and affordable.

Chipotle has a history of supporting causes related to improving the way people eat. Over the last two years, the company has donated more than $2 million to philanthropic organizations, with much of that benefitting groups that are working to improve some element of the food system, including Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, The Nature Conservancy,,

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The Chipotletarian Diet

By Pete Williams

The Chipotle chicken bowl

I love the idea of vegetarianism and veganism. I love the concept of organic foods.

But this all-or-nothing approach seems stifling, impractical and impossible to sustain.

One of the major beefs, pun intended, that vegetarians have with the meat industry is how animals are treated – long before slaughter. There’s no question that it’s downright scary what’s going into our food supply, from all of the corn animals eat to the hormones to the feces and other stuff that inevitably gets into our food because of the way animals are mass produced.

That’s why I decided to undergo an experiment for August. The only meat I would consume would be chicken from Chipotle, which comes from free-range chickens like those raised at Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farms in Virginia, which was featured in Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma and the movie Food Inc.

So this month I’ve eaten an average of four meals a week at Chipotle, sometimes lunch, sometimes dinner. Same thing every time: burrito bowl with one scoop of white rice, black beans, chicken, corn and mild salsa, sprinkling of cheese, guacamole, and lettuce. All other meals I go totally vegan, though I have consumed all-natural Mix1 protein shakes, which include whey protein.

I’m not sure how much of this is the diet – probably most of it, though I’ve trained a lot this month, too – but I’m in the best shape of my life. My energy levels are off the charts, my productivity is high, and my athletic performance across strength, speed, and endurance is incredible.

September is almost here, but I’m going to continue The Chipotletarian Diet.


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Chipotle Comes to Citrus Park

By Pete Williams

Open in Citrus Park

Good to see Chipotle Mexican Grill open a new location in the Tampa Bay area today near the Citrus Park Mall by the on-ramp to the Veterans Expressway.

Chipotle does an incredible job scouting locations. They like high-traffic spots in upscale areas. The company has an endurance sports heritage, at least in supporting cycling and the occasional triathlon, and seems to have a knack for placing restaurants in areas frequented by the endurance sports crowd. (Good bike routes and proximity to the Suncoast Parkway in the case of the newest Chipotle.)

We’re big fans of Chipotle  here at Endurance Sports Florida. Steve Ells’ vision of food with integrity served in a fast casual style is especially appealing to endurance athletes.

The concept is brilliant on so many levels. When Mark Verstegen introduced us to Chipotle in October of 2002 in Phoenix, Chipotle was virtually non-existent on the East Coast. Now it continues to grow…and grow…and grow.

Even as Wall Street traders scurried about in the last week in a semi-panic along the lines of 2008, the Chipotle around the corner from trading floor continued to attract a line out the door. Incredible, healthy food at an affordable price.

Simple yet amazing formula.

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Tough Mudder Training “Camp”

By Pete Williams

Four months and counting

With the debut of Tough Mudder in Florida just four months out, many registrants are getting ready to tackle what’s been called the toughest race in the obstacle mud run category.

There’s a free Tough Mudder training session on Saturday, August 6 at Crossfit TNL in the Westchase section of Tampa (12720 Dupont Cir.). It gets underway at 10 a.m. and is followed by a Paleo Potluck BBQ. Our pal James Bellamy from Mix1 will be out there with free samples of Mix1, the all-natural protein shake.

Athletes of all fitness levels are welcome. Whether you’re signed up for Tough Mudder, considering registering or have just been wanting to try an adventure race, this is a great way to ease your way into it.

It’s difficult to think of another event that involves many of the breakout elements of endurance sports in 2011: CrossFit, obstacle mud runs, the Paleo Diet, and convenient post-workout protein shakes.

We’re registered for Tough Mudder and we’ll be there on Saturday. Will you?


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Tour de Chipotle

By Pete Williams

Coming to Paris

Even if you’re not a Wall Street analyst, it’s tough not to be bullish on Chipotle Mexican Grill, which has been among the market’s hottest stocks over the last two years.

As someone who began eating at Chipotle frequently years before the 2006 IPO, I try not to think about why I kept my hands in my pockets all of these years.

There are two areas Chipotle only has begun to tap into: the European market and the endurance sports crowd. Those worlds collided this week at the Tour de France, as today’s Wall Street Journal reported. On Monday, the Garmin-Cervelo team – sponsored in part by Chipotle – held a lunch at Chateau de la Nerthe, a “sweeping vineyard north of Avignon.” The meal consisted of chicken burritos paired with pricey Domaine de Nalys white wine.

The WSJ characterized it as an “odd moment,” as if you’d never pair an expensive wine with a burrito. I say it’s a perfect match. Granted, it can be a challenge to pair a wine with a spicy Chipotle burrito. I’d recommend a dry white and though Domaine is out of my budget, I’m guessing it went over quite well.

Development Team Kit

Not only that, Chipotle stock is trading at $335 a share, having risen about 900 percent since it sold for $39 in November of 2008. At $335 a share, Chipotle’s products don’t have to apologize for accompanying any upscale French wine.

Not that Chipotle food is expensive. In fact, a Chipotle burrito is a phenomenal value at $8. The company’s “food with integrity” concept has driven its meteoric success. It’s the perfect fast-casual, high-performance fuel that many endurance athletes only now are discovering.

I was very envious three years ago when Chipotle signed on to sponsor the team then known as Garmin-Chipotle. Riders received a metal card good for one free Chipotle burrito a day – the ultimate perk.

At the time, Chipotle had no plans to expand beyond North America, so buying sponsorship for a team in the Tour de France seemed odd. But now Chipotle has a store in London and next year is planning to open one in Paris.

Chipotle has begun to sponsor an occasional triathlon, if only by providing 2-for-1 cards for race goody bags, which is a terrific thing to find when you pick up your packet. My triathlon training team meets at Chipotle for lunch on Tuesdays.

The Wall Street Journal quotes Damon Biggins, Chipotle’s lead restaurateur, as saying the company plans to host the Garmin lunch next year in Paris, presumably at the new Chipotle.

Better get the pricey wine ready.

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