Commentary

Eat and exercise like Martin? Sure!

Updated: September 18, 2010, 2:40 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Goji berries? Really? Chocolate Ultramet? Mixed with peanut butter? Seriously?

"It's like chocolate cake. Freaking good, man," Mark Martin said. "Holy s--- is it good."

What have I gotten myself into?

A few weeks ago you may have read Martin turned down my proposal to go on his eating and workout plan for the final three races of the Sprint Cup's regular season, a way of me admitting to being wrong about Kasey Kahne driving the No. 5 next season. Martin's chase to the Chase and mine.

Now, after missing the Chase, Martin wants to take me up on it.

Despite being told by everybody from former Martin teammate Jeff Burton to current teammate Jeff Gordon that I am crazy, I agreed.

"I'm pulling for you, man," Burton said. "But if I were you I would make a deal with [Tony] Stewart. That would be my advice."

Unfortunately, I've been on the Smoke diet of milk shakes and cheeseburgers way too long. I'm at an all-time high of 225 pounds -- 100 more than Martin if that is worth anything -- and need a challenge.

Martin has provided it.

[+] EnlargeTony Stewart
Andrew Weber/US PresswireFollowing the Tony Stewart diet is something most Americans could get behind.

Here are the terms: I eat and work out as close as humanly possible to Martin's schedule for 21 days -- three Chase races, beginning Sunday with the opener at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. I'll keep the public updated daily with Twitter and an occasional blog post.

After three races, if Martin has compiled more points than the Chase leader, I continue until Martin loses that lead, which means this could go for as long as 10 weeks.

Hey, he has to be held accountable for something.

"Oh, wow!" Gordon said. "You've got to work really hard to get yourself in that kind of shape, especially at his age."

I interrupted, telling Gordon I will turn the same age (51) as Martin later this month.

"Then I expect you to look like him when you get done with this," Gordon said.

This is more pressure than Martin had to make the Chase, which I'm sure he would prefer to be involved in rather than this.

"I've trained with him," Burton said. "When he decided he was going to get in shape, it was a life-changing commitment. You're behind the game already. Unless you have that mindset, you can't do that."

Well, I feel encouraged.

"I saw this man eat a piece of pizza one day and took all the cheese off it," Burton added.

Perfect. When am I up for parole?

To be fair, Martin gave me every chance to back out. Convinced that wouldn't happen, he insisted in going over the entire schedule, which at first glance reads like the telemetry for his car.

Here's the simple version. Begin the day with a whey protein shake. Martin prefers chocolate. He drinks that about 30 minutes before his workout, which consists of an hour of weightlifting and another 30 or more minutes of stretching. At least three times a week he tosses in cardio.

Afterwards is what Martin calls "the real treat" of his day -- Champion Ultramet mixed with peanut butter.

I once heard NFL offensive lineman Nate Newton compare his family to a Thanksgiving meal. Hearing him talk about his mom like a turkey leg was quite disturbing.

Martin discussing Ultramet was more so.

"That stuff freaking tastes awesome," he said.

For what used to be a fried lunch for me, we will start with a handful of goji berries, which according to research are grown on an evergreen shrub found in temperate and subtropical regions in China, Mongolia and the Himalayas in Tibet.

"The best food you can get in the world," Martin said.

They're actually the highlight of the lunch. Some days Martin will have scrambled egg whites -- he likes to mix them with peanut butter, yuck -- and half a bagel or a piece of whole wheat bread. On others, he might have oatmeal mixed with vanilla protein.

"There's no way you should be hungry," Martin insisted.

Mark Martin
AP Photo/Kendall NewberryYou don't get Mark Martin's trim figure by eating cheeseburgers and drinking milk shakes.

Yeah, right.

Between 2 and 3 p.m. Martin has an organic chocolate bar he claims is "out of this world." In weak moments, and he has those, he'll eat Baked! Lay's potato chips.

"There are just times when I just can't take it," Martin said. "I want something salty. That's where I crack."

Dinner comes between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m., or about two hours earlier than I'm accustomed. It usually consists of a white fish -- roughy is his favorite -- sweet potato, squash and zucchini. No butter, a challenge for me since I have a wife who begins cooking most meals with four sticks.

Wait, there's more. Before bed I get something called casein mixed with four ounces of water that is supposed to keep me from being hungry at night.

"You'll find this is a whale of a lot of food," Martin said. "You won't spend time with your stomach growling."

It already is.

I did ask for a few concessions. Adult beverages usually aren't allowed. With a few football tailgating parties on the schedule, time off for good behavior seemed appropriate.

"Well, you can slip if you want to," said Martin, making me feel guilty for asking. "That is the worst killer in the world to a health and nutritional program. But everybody has got to do what they've got to do."

Should have known. We are talking about a man who won't eat a salad with dressing, who eats steak maybe twice a year.

"I had to eat fried chicken tenders when we went to London [this summer]," confessed Martin, trying to make me feel better, I think. "I'll break my rules before I starve to death."

Death. Wish he hadn't mentioned that.

By the way, I asked Gordon if his wine collection has a sugar-free vintage. He was still laughing as he disappeared into his hauler.

Maybe this is crazy.

Maybe the Stewart plan is the way to go.

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.

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ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter