He urges parents to get kids off carbs, which create a sugar spike followed by a crash and only leave kids hungry for more, "like they're chasing the dragon all day," he says. "I'm not telling parents they can't give their kids a sandwich," but carb-loading sets them up for "a lifetime of misery."
Think moderation, not diets – he doesn't believe in them – though he notes that he has as many vegan fans as paleos. "Those two are religions at this point," he says, explaining that his eating style hews closest to the Mediterranean diet.
The approach to nutrition he recommends is one he says anyone can easily follow. Go for eggs and bacon at breakfast, a salad with protein for lunch or dinner and pack snacks like olives or avocado; make use of prepackaged fruits and vegetables, precook some fish, chicken or red meat to have on hand, and, if you can't get home for dinner, find an Italian or Jewish deli for soup, salad or meat, and ditch the bread, or at least half of it. Planning and preparing your meals is a matter of waking up 10 minutes early, he says. "If you can't devote 10 minutes to your health, well, you've got other problems."
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The not-so-subtle subtext reflects his life story, one that comprises the bulk of his book – how, through grit and will, he overcame his upbringing, the physical challenges of ultra sports races and even a rare form of lymphoma (Tortorich endured multiple bone marrow biopsies without anesthesia).
"I wanted to get out of the swamps and see the rest of the world," he says, describing himself as a "middle-class Italian kid living in Cajun country."
"Somehow that kid made it to Tulane, that kid graduated with honors at Tulane and then that kid found his way not only to Beverly Hills and to Hollywood," but "found himself being the sought-after guy" in fitness, Tortorich says. "In life, you have to have a big, giant engine. You have to have a motor. You have to have push. You have to have drive."
Corrected on 08/30/2013: A previous version of this story misstated Vinnie Tortorich’s age. He is 50.