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Healthful diet is the fuel that drives Bob Tasca III

With his sport timed in hundredths of a second, drag racer Bob Tasca III needs to be in top physical condition.

“I run at a pretty fast pace, so I have to take care of myself,” said Tasca, who, in addition to racing and raising four young boys with his wife, is a vice president at Tasca Automotive Group’s growing network of dealerships.


While he works out three times a week at the company gym, what he eats is the most important factor to his staying in top form.

“My diet is the biggest deal in keeping fit — 80 percent,” said Tasca, a vegan. “No meat, no dairy, a lot of vegetables and pasta,” he said, adding that he’s really a “chegan” because he does cheat by eating fish once a week — but only wild-caught varieties.

Tasca drastically changed his eating habits about 2 1/2 years ago after becoming very ill. He was having difficulty breathing after eating. “It was scary,” he said. “I did not know what was wrong with me.” His doctor, Albert Puerini, sent him to undergo an endoscopy. “It turned out my small intestine was digesting food and it’s not supposed to,” he said. Tasca was diagnosed with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), a condition in which excessive bacteria disrupt normal gut functions. “SIBO is rare and hard to diagnose and is only caused by food,” he said.

“I used to eat healthy, but I ate meat every day and processed food.”

“I’m not going to tell you how to live your life,” he said his doctor told him. “Just go and understand what happened to you.” He concluded that while he always exercised and ate and drank moderately, living on the road had resulted in a poor diet. “Not junk food, but fast food,” he said. And fast food is processed food.

After that, “I really studied food,” he said. This included watching “Forks Over Knives,” a 2011 documentary that critiques animal-based and processed foods and advocates a low-fat, whole-food, plant-based diet as a means of combating diseases. And he read “The China Study” by nutritional biochemist T. Colin Campbell and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals” by Michael Pollan, which examines the impact of the wide range of food choices in the modern diet.

He said he felt “lousy” for about six weeks after changing his diet. “It was shock treatment,” he said.

Tasca said he initially thought the move away from processed foods would be just a short-term remedy for SIBO. “I did not know how long it would last, said Tasca, who still follows the diet today. “But I do not miss meat or dairy and I feel really, really good.”

“My cholesterol used to be 200, and it’s 130 now,” said Tasca, who is 6 feet tall and weighs 153 pounds.

“It’s been unbelievable,” Tasca, 39, said of his diet, which along with his workouts, keeps him in top shape. “I always exercised, but I do more regularly now and have never felt better,” he said. “Knock on wood, there has been no relapse of the SIBO. You can’t out-exercise bad eating.”

His gym workout includes 25 to 30 minutes of cardio and weights, “60-second bursts of each exercise with 15-second breaks.” He cited lunges, curls, shoulder lifts and dumbbells, varying his focus on his legs, arms, chest and back. He follows the workout with 35 to 40 minutes on the elliptical. “I’m no Johnny Atlas, but I’m a regular [exerciser],” he said.

Now, Tasca only occasionally drinks a beer or a glass of wine. And he does not drink coffee because it makes him jittery. And being jittery is the last thing he needs when he drag races his 12,000-horsepower Ford Shelby Mustang Funny Car from a standing start to 320 mph in 3.988 seconds.

“The negative Gs are much worse than the positive Gs,” he said, referring to the positive five Gs, or five times the force of gravity, felt during acceleration and negative seven G force during braking — when he feels like his eyes are coming out his head. “Detached retinas are a big injury in our sport,” he said.

Tasca recently announced that he will race his Ford Shelby Mustang for a limited schedule this year with a yet-to-be-named sponsor. Ford, which has sponsored Tasca over the past seven years, said a few months ago that it was pulling out of drag racing.

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