The Daily Beet

18 Jan Guest post (Q&A) by Lani Muelrath!

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Lani is a regular guest contributor to the Engine 2 blog, and has helped a lot of you! If you have a question you’d like Lani to tackle, just leave it in the comments!

Question of the day:

Hi Lani,.

I am not overweight. I am 47 yrs old, 5′ 10,” and weigh 165 lbs. I am starting a workout program that you may or may not have heard about – called P90X2. I did P90X last year. It is a good all around workout program. It IS pretty intense though. You basically workout every day. The calorie drain is huge. My goal is to build muscle in addition to the other benefits of flexibility, core strength, etc.

I have yet to dial in a complete menu plan up until now. I am kinda winging it.

My question(s) to you:

1. How do I design a specific meal plan? (I understand in general terms what to eat and what not to eat, but when it comes to the specifics of what to eat for lunch today, I kinda get stuck.)

2. According to the program’s recommendations, I should be eating about 2,800 calories per day for someone of my weight. Can you prescribe a menu that I can successfully consume on a daily basis – without my jaw muscles fatiguing from all the chewing. Ha.

Thank you in advance,


Lani’s Answer:

Hi Scott,

Thanks for you great question. And yes, everything on the plant-based fitness expert blog applies to men too – women often have special concerns when it comes to body shaping and image/eating behaviors so you’ll find that there, too!

Yes, I’m aware of P90X though I have not tried it.  My familiarity extends only as far as seeing sample clips and infomercial bits. And though you didn’t ask for it, I have some commentary for you on that too.  More on that later.

1. How do I design a specific meal plan? (I understand in general terms what to eat and what not to eat, but when it comes to the specifics of what to eat for lunch today, I kinda get stuck.

Right up in the navigation bar on this page, you’ll see Tools & Support.  Click on that link or just click here:  Tools & Support.  This will take you right to a 28-day planner complete with menus and shopping lists.  This can be very helpful for giving you a good idea about how your daily eats might look.  In addition, started on page 143 in Engine 2 Diet you’ll find similar resources.

I like to keep it really simple and am happy to share with you what I do.  Breakfast is a big bowl of steamy whole grain cereal with some fruit and flaxseed.  Lunch is a big bowl of veggie and lentil or bean soup, or a big salad, with a sandwich of veggies and often hummus on some good grainy bread.  For dinner, I pile have my plate with whole grains or potatoes, winter squash, or sweet potatoes and the other half with steamed or steam-fried veggies.  I’ll often create some kind of simple sauce, or toss some beans on the top.  If we didn’t have a salad for lunch, we’ll have it at dinner.  During the course of the day I’ll eat raw veggies, a piece of fruit or two, cold baked taters, a bowl of brown rice and salsa, a chunk of grainy bread – just to give you an idea.

The principles of my approach provide you with a very simple solution.  If you like fancy recipes, there are plenty of resources for that too.

2. According to the program’s recommendations, I should be eating about 2,800 calories per day for someone of my weight. Can you prescribe a menu that I can successfully consume on a daily basis – without my jaw muscles fatiguing from all the chewing. Ha.

If you are maintaining a healthy lean weight, then you have a match.  You haven’t specifically described a problem – is there one?  If you don’t have the energy you need for your workouts, you either need to rest more between sessions or eat more or both.  The menu for you could be as I described except that you could eat more at those meals, eat more meals as I’ve described altogether, or both.  With plenty of potatoes, yams, whole grains and beans along with the veggies, you should be able to get solid calories without going into overdrive on your jaws.

If you find that you are losing too much weight, I posted some suggestions in a recent post and you’ll find them in the Q & A here:  Q & A with Lani Muelrath at Engine 2.

As for workouts, please take precautions with your workout program.  I understand the joy of being strong and fit, and completion of a workout that challenges you.  I’m also a stickler for safe exercise form and correct anatomical alignment during workouts.  For that reason I do not favor exercise techniques that have you  move rapidly in orthopedically compromising positions such that can amp up your potential for injury. This is a fancy way of saying there is great potential risk to your joints and connective tissue.

I have not purchased or watched the P90X videos, though I have seen the moves in infomercial and on sample videos.  I’ve seen enough to inspire me to invite you to take precautions during your workouts.

In watching the clips, I observe several anatomical alignment errors in evidence which can easily cause one to be orthopedically compromised.

For example, in the abdominal workout there is a move – ‘cherry bomb’ – that percusively flexes the spine in a loaded position.  This is at the point in which you rapidly pike up with an explosive finish at the top, then back down to the floor again.  Does this move overload and train the abdominal muscles to become stronger?  Yeah.  At the same time, in one quick blow forces have placed compression on the discs of the lumber spine, compromising spinal integrity and potentially resulting in acute.  Remember how we are told to keep the back upright and use our legs to lower us when picking up something from the floor?  This is so we can avoid flexing the spine against its natural lumbar curve in a loaded position.  With the  P90X ‘cherry bomb’ setup, aren’t we doing something similar, and just loading the spine from the front instead of the back as when bending over?  The spine can tolerate flexion, yet controlling and supporting such movement with other muscle activation in place creates an entirely different scenario.

I haven’t seen lab work and tests done on this particular phenomenon with this particular move.  That doesn’t mean that I can’t extrapolate potential contraindications from what I know and can observe about lumbar stress.

I also was able to find a clip of a kick-box like segment.  There is a step, a kick, and lean over and touch the floor, get back up and repeat.  Where do you think I was wincing on this one?  The same lumbar loading was happening with this move, it’s just that the load was moved to the posterior of the spine rather than the anterior as in the cherry bomb.

In all fairness, remember I haven’t seen the instructionals,  and perhaps students are cautioned to, before doing the lean forward to the floor,  1) engage their abdominals,  2)  keep mindful of knee alignment so that they don’t pop inward to the midline of the body creating knee joint stress,  and 3)  keep the lumbar in its neutral natural curved position.  From what I observe they are moving fast, using momentum and placing their bodies in all kinds of orthopedically compromising positions.  Does this build leg strength?  Of course.  Will it help you become more agile and ‘buff’?  I have no doubt.  Does the ends justify the means?  It’s your body and we’ve only got one.

This is beyond the scope of your question but I couldn’t resist the temptation to soap box a little.  Does this mean that you need to abandon P90X?  Of course not.  Yet if you apply certain principles and stay mindful of spinal integrity and safety during your workouts, you’re just playing safe.

Keep moving and enjoy what you eat!

Lani Muelrath, M.A.
the Plant-Based Fitness Expert

Thanks again Lani! If you’d like to see some of Lani’s work and check out her great fitness programs, check out her website: http://lanimuelrath.com/

Lani Muelrath is a plant-strong fitness expert! Lani is the creator of The Body Transformation Formula and Fit Quickies™ 5 Minute Workouts. She has a Master’s Degree in Physical Education and over 30 years of experience as a teacher, coach, and trainer. She has received awards for her instruction, created and starred in her own CBS TV Show, and her expertise in the area of health and fitness is called upon by examiner.com, as Fitness Expert for Dr. John McDougall’s Health and Medical Center, coach, Dr. Neal Barnard’s 21-Day Kickstart program, and Health and Fitness Lifestyle Expert for Vegan Mainstream.com. She is Certified in Plant-Based Nutrition through Cornell University.

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Engine 2 Team
Engine 2 Team

The Engine 2 Team is dedicated to helping you become plant-strong! Each of us are on the plant-strong journey right along side of you!

  • Diana Parette
    Posted at 08:41h, 18 January

    Are green smoothies with fruit good to drink for breakfast?
    I keep reading they are great, but others say the blender destroys some of the vitamins and fiber.

  • Scott M
    Posted at 11:54h, 18 January


    First, thank you Lani.

    Second, You asked if there was some problem. No problem. Just trying to stay healthy and prevent injuries as I age. I am terrible at exercising on a consistent regular basis. I am more of the hare as opposed to the tortoise.

    I have noticed as I age that my body deteriorates faster when not exercising. i.e. I lose muscle, lose flexibility, etc faster. So, I am a fan of P90X for getting me back into shape fast. The trick then, once finished, is to try to stick to a more moderate “maintenance” regime.

    The workouts do burn calories, and the last thing I want is to lose weight. The number I see on the scale is ok. But, I would like to make the measuring tape say the same thing. i.e. build muscle, and lose a bit of a middle aged spare tire.

    So would you say it is OK, during the next 90 days, to eat more higher fat plant products like peanut butter, nuts, etc. despite Dr. Esseltysyn’s recommendations to help with the calorie intake? What about plant based protein powders? (Just during the 90 days.)

    Thank you again!


    • Lani Muelrath
      Posted at 12:16h, 18 January

      Scott, ARE you losing weight? Is it a concern in actuality or you are just looking ahead?

      You can get more calories without lots of fat. And I can’t advice you about exactly how much fat to have in your diet and health considerations – that is an individual affair.

      Troubleshoot first. If you find the adjustments to eating more, more often, and more calorie dense fare still has you dropping the weight against your goals, then take a look.


  • Scott M
    Posted at 12:30h, 18 January

    No. I am not losing weight. I have not started the workout program yet. I am assuming that, based on previous experience with the workout program and NOT eating a plant based diet, that it will be difficult to maintain weight and energy levels.

    What DO you mean by “more calorie dense fare?”

    • Lani Muelrath
      Posted at 15:41h, 18 January

      Then don’t borrow trouble!

      “Calorie dense” fare means foods that are higher in calorie density. Green leafies have about 100 calories per lb. Potatoes between 450 – 500. Beans a little bit more. Bread more than that:

      Fresh Veggies are around 100 cal/lb
      Fresh Fruits around 250-300 cal/lb
      Starchy Veggies/Intact Whole Grains around 450-500 cal/lb
      Legumes around 550-600 cal/lb
      Processed Grains (even if their Whole grain) around 1200-1500 cal/lb

      This is one way to easily lower or raise the calorie content of your diet.


      • Scott M.
        Posted at 11:14h, 20 January

        Thank you.

  • Julia M
    Posted at 12:42h, 18 January

    Hi Lani,

    I’ve been reading the Engine 2 Diet after a few months of being plant-powered. I am just puzzled by one of the aspects of the diet: low oil. Was there ever a study done that had a plant-strong diet plan with more plant oils in comparison to less plant oils? I understand the science behind low animal fat consumption and no trans-fats. But I can’t find any scientific basis for the absence of oil consumption in otherwise healthy individuals who follow a plant-strong diet.
    So I guess my question is: why no olive oil?
    I would appreciate you pointing me in the right direction with this. Thank you very much!

    • Engine 2 Team
      Posted at 13:05h, 18 January

      Hey Julie – we saw your question and thought you’d be interested in some of the following resources regarding oil:


      This is from Dr. Esselstyn:
      4. Why does the diet eliminate oil entirely?

      NO OIL! Not even olive oil, which goes against a lot of other advice out there about so-called good fats. The reality is that oils are extremely low in terms of nutritive value. They contain no fiber, no minerals and are 100% fat calories. And above all they contain saturated fat which immediately injures the endothelial lining of the arteries when eaten. It doesn’t matter whether it’s olive oil, corn oil, or any other kind of oil. You should not consume any oil if you have heart disease. This is so important I have detailed oil in Chapter 10.

    • Lani Muelrath, the Plant-Based Fitness Expert
      Posted at 11:11h, 20 January

      Hey Julia, I posted several informative links yet they aren’t showing on my screen – so check your email and anyone else who wants these links, don’t hesitate to drop me a message!

  • David R. Suazo
    Posted at 13:31h, 18 January

    Greetings; My wife and I want to switch totally to the Engine2 way. However we have read some things on the internet about the “dangers of soy and soy isolates,” so I was wondering if you could perhaps clear up some of this propaganda.
    Thank you and best regards,

  • Lee
    Posted at 15:37h, 18 January

    Hey Lani,

    I had to adopt a gluten free lifestyle a few years ago and now my diet consists of corn, rice and potatoe variations. I am wanting to be animal byproduct free and am not sure how to even begin. I feel I am missing out on all of my old favorites, wheat whole grains!

    • Lani Muelrath
      Posted at 15:47h, 18 January


      If indeed you need to go gluten-free, then it means a combination of giving up some old faves along with finding some replacements. And let’s not forget embracing new levels of health!

      You might want to check out the newest gluten-free resource on the block:

      The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Gluten-free, with the plant-based dietitian Julieanna Hever – you’ll find it on Amazon.

  • Diana
    Posted at 10:43h, 19 January

    On the Dr. Oz show this week a doctor said to use safflower oil on your skin for a daily moisturizer. I know this website says not to ingest oil in one’s diet, but would it get absorbed on your skin in a unhealthy way? Is it totally safe to do daily? All of my girlfriends are questioning this !

    • Lani Muelrath
      Posted at 18:53h, 19 January


      Here is some information from my nutrition consultant Jeff Novick, R.D.

      “It seems like oil can be absorbed into the bloodstream and effect nutritional status.

      First, a study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a highly reputable journal.

      Cutaneous application of safflower oil in preventing essential fatty acid deficiency in patients on home parenteral nutrition
      American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 46, 419-423,

      Cutaneous safflower oil may improve plasma FAP but adequacy of tissue stores remains unanswered. Liver function tests need to be monitored if this treatment modality is utilized.

      Two others from another journal.

      Transcutaneous absorption of oil in preterm babies–a pilot study.
      Indian Pediatr. 2005 Mar;42(3):255-8.

      The post oil application serum sample of all the 12 babies showed the presence of marker fatty acids of Meadowfoam oil which indicates transcutaneous absorption of oil in preterm babies.

      Transcutaneous absorption of topically massaged oil in neonates.
      Indian Pediatr. 2005 Oct;42(10):998-1005

      CONCLUSIONS: This study shows that topically applied oil can be absorbed in neonates and is probably available for nutritional purposes. The fatty acid constituents of the oil can influence the changes in the fatty acid profiles of the massaged babies.

      And from the Journal of the American Dietetic Association

      Can Cutaneous Application of Vegetable Oil Prevent an Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency? Volume 107, Issue 7, Page 1262 (July 2007)

      Another option for patients not able to use the fat emulsion is to try cutaneous application of soybean or safflower oil. This may be a useful alternative since topical linoleic acid is transcutaneously absorbed directly into plasma . There is limited information regarding the amount of oil to apply. One study set the dose at 2 to 3 mg oil per kg per day. Oil application may be sufficient to normalize plasma levels of essential fatty acids but not to maintain liver and other tissue stores. Some investigators have reported favorable results using this method while others have not. Close monitoring is essential to prevent complications or essential fatty acid deficiency

      The references cited for these statements are

      Merritt R. The A.S.P.E.N. Support Practice Manual. 2nd Edition. Silver Spring, MD: American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition; 2005;.

      Miller DG, Williams SK, Palombo JD, Griffin RE, Bistrian BR, Blackburn GL. Cutaneous application of safflower oil in preventing essential fatty acid deficiency in patients on home parenteral nutrition. Am J Clin Nutr. 1987;46:419–423.

      So, according to these recent studies, it is not only possible but probable”

      In Health
      Jeff Novick, MS, RD

  • Diana
    Posted at 11:00h, 19 January

    I am so confused! Last week Dr. Oz show did a segment with Deepak Chopra and Dr. Weil telling everyone to eat ONE hard boiled egg daily. The topic was “Eat to Protect your Brain from Alzheimers.” Deepak said the egg yolks reduce inflamation in the brain.
    2/11/2011: Article, “Five Surprising Ways To Live Under A Minute”, Dr. Oz held up an egg and said to eat one a day and just one won’t effect your cholesterol.
    He said it is a good fat for our brain, as the brain is made up mostly of fat.

    • Lani Muelrath
      Posted at 18:47h, 19 January

      Gee Diana, the show sounds like a doozie on multiple fronts. I didn’t see it and this is exactly why I don’t tune into Dr. Oz very often.

      Eat more fat because our brain has fat? No mention made of all the other elements we get in the bargain with that ‘daily egg’? How did they do the research to compare an egg a day vs. not?

      Read and research the findings as you will find all over this site, in Dr. Esselstyn’s book and in any thing by Dr. John McDougall. You can read and study research for any dietary plan. Then you have to make your own decision based on longevity and concurrence of studies.

      Sorry you had such a frustrating experience.


  • Nancy
    Posted at 10:55h, 03 March

    In the engine2 diet book it talks about an entire 28-day meal planner with accompanying week-by-week grocer list. I cannot find it.

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