Now, most of you probably turn your nose up at vegetarians and think they are some sort of hippie refusing to eat meat, and honestly I was probably a little biased and of that opinion as well. Hence, my experimental week as a vegetarian. After a little bit of motivation from Keegan Smith, founder of REALmovement Project, I decided to give it a go as I am not able to comment on a topic or pass on advice if I have not experienced something for myself.
I had some reservations about going vegetarian and thought I would struggle going a whole week without meat. During this week I also completely reduced my coffee/caffeine consumption to zero.
However, the results were rather astounding!
My reservations and concerns were:
What do you plan your meal around when you don't have meat?
Will I be able to consume enough protein on a completely vegetarian diet?
How will my recovery from heavy gym and trampoline sessions differ?
Day 1 - Day 2 (The rough patch)
Woke up feeling fresh and ready to tackle the challenge ahead, kicked off the day with a high protein and good fat packed breakfast to keep me feeling fuller for longer!
It was around mid-day on day one that I began to develop a stinging headache, and I was ready for that caffeine kick to get me through! However, I persisted with the headache and refused to take to coffee to solve the problem.
I awoke on day two, still with a stinging headache, but again, refused to boil the kettle and make that ritualistic coffee to kickstart the day!
Day 3 - Day 7 (Clarity and Vitality)
By day three the headache had cleared, I was no longer feeling dependent on coffee to get me through the day! By this point I was feeling clearer than ever, I was handling the training load and recovering without too many aches and niggles, due to the nutrient dense foods I was exposing my body to on a more regular basis.
If you are uncomfortable reading about toilet habits then now is the time to stop reading. However, I feel it is necessary to share all aspects and changes I experienced through my week. Due to eating a plant based diet, high in fibre, my bathroom movements were much more consistent and regular.
Dealing with the reservations
What do you plan your meal around without meat?
Simple, nothing! The possibilities were endless when meat was taken out of the equation! Pack as much nutrient dense foods as you can onto your plate, be creative and have fun!
How do you consume enough protein on a vegetarian diet?
Again, this was reasonably simple. If you have a basic understanding of your food groups and the breakdown of foods there is no reason you cannot consume enough protein on a vegetarian diet.
I used protein sources such as dairy, legumes and eggs for sources of protein. Combined with nutrient dense foods, and sources of good fats I was getting by on three square meals a day, plus light snacks such as fruit and nuts between meals.
How does recovery differ on a vegetarian diet?
By ensuring I was getting sufficient amounts of protein through my vegetarian diet I found recovery was not an issue. If anything, due to eating greater amounts of nutrient dense and nutrient rich foods I found my recovery was better than previously.
Red meat, is it killing you?
There have been claims in the past that red meat carries an increased risk of cancer. However, a 450,000 person study carried out in Europe could find no link betwen red meat and the risk of cancer. There have also been studies showing that a sensible consumption of red meat can decrease the risk of heart disease (Clegg, B. (2016). Science for life: A manual for better living. S.l.: Icon.)
Vegetarians don't consume enough protein, iron and other essential vitamins/minerals
As stated within my own experience of vegetarianism, this was one of my concerns. However, a well planned and vast vegetarian diet ensures sufficient amounts of protein, iron, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and fibre (Vegetarian Diets. (2011, November 1). Retrieved January 20, 2016, from http://www.nutritionaustralia.org/national/frequently-asked-questions/vegetarian-diets)
I highly recommend giving a vegetarian diet a go for at least one week, don't be one of those people who just assumes vegetarians are hippies and don't know what they are mising out on! Perhaps it is you missing out on the benefits!
Now is a great time of year to have a go, with the abundance of fruit and vegetables available through Summer. If you are unsure of where to start or would like some more information, post your queries in the comments and we will get back to you as soon as possible!