well what can I say? Yes, I totally ditched meat and most animal products. Most of my friends think I am crazy for doing so especially given the lifestyle that I lived up until I ditched the meat (I was the stereotypical “bro”). I ate a ton of protein, took a bunch of supplements, and spent more time in the gym than I did my home. So why the huge change in lifestyle?
…Injuries and research.
I mentioned in a past blog post about the absurd injuries that seem to happen all at once to my back, neck and shoulders. My back injury was a pretty standard injury to those in the lifting community. I had a bulge disc in L5 and a protruded disc in L4 (it still pains me to discuss today). My neck injury occurred randomly non-lifting related and my shoulder injuries occurred because I stopped lifting to heal my back and because I didn’t exercise for months my shoulders got weaker and I developed some atrophy (what a mess).
These all happened sporadically over the past 18 months and during my initial back injury I started looking at ways to heal the body naturally (because pharmaceuticals don’t HEAL THE PROBLEM they simply mask the problem). Upon my research I came across a “plant based diet”. I watched documentaries on this lifestyle, I did loads of research, talked to numerous people who have already adopted this plant based lifestyle and finally decided this lifestyle was best for me (and the planet if anyone still cares about that).
so why would a typical “bro” give up his beloved chicken, red meat, turkey burgers etc. etc.? Easy. Meat and other animal products are highly processed foods. To keep it simple the more processed foods you put inside your body the more acidic your body becomes (your body works hard to keep a balance of alkaline vs. acidity). Most processed animal products will increase the acidity levels in your body. The more acidic your body is there is an increased risk of inflammation. Animal products have the ability to “wear down” our gut and intestinal health. Our gut helps remove toxins and only fully digested food can pass through however if the gut is damaged more “gunk” can get through and it becomes harder to filter out. If the body cannot filter out “gunk” effectively then that puts us at an increased risk for auto-immune disorders (which are attributed to leaky gut syndrome i.e. damaged intestines/gut through toxins, diet, stress etc). There are a slew of auto immune disorders, these disorders are essentially your immune system turning on itself and attacking the body from the inside. After realizing my diet consisted of mostly animal products, well forever, I figured my susceptibility to all sorts of health problems down the road were greater. I also wanted to do whatever I could to heal my injuries faster so I could get back to doing what I loved (working out) and I realized I would have to make some large changes both to my workouts and my diet to help prevent future injuries down the line…and just live a healthier life. Therefore I adopted a diet that is mostly plant based (soon I hope I can say fully).
That is just a minor glimpse into theories on animal products…however in the early stages of my injury I was probably consuming 6-8 chicken breasts a week, 4 turkey burgers a week, and 5 or 6 pieces of fish per week. I was highly skeptical about this plant based diet. I was raised on meat! How would I build muscle and get stronger without it? Meat and bodybuilding the terms are synonymous–my world was indeed shaken.
It took me several months after my injury to make the switch. I watched documentaries like Food Inc and saw how bad the quality of our chicken really is. I watched without bias other documentaries on plant based nutrition such as “Forks over Knives” and I read documents on the Gerson method (curing disease, specifically cancer with proper diet) and other documents on plant based nutrition by T. Colin Campbell* (who is probably the most widely recognized and respected figure in the evidence based medicine community on plant based nutrition). I finally made up my mind, I cut animal products in an attempt to heal my body faster in the present moment and protect my body in the future.
Most people ask me, what about protein? I get plenty of protein, vitamins and minerals via a plant based diet. The key is to just find out other types of foods that can accommodate your protein needs. For example, lentils, a type of bean usually pack around 10 grams of protein per 1/4 cup serving. Now, I don’t just sit and eat lentils all day there are a variety of foods that can give you a ton of protein on a plant based diet, you just have to get creative and expand your boundaries.
Since switching to a plant based diet my recovery time from my workouts has increased dramatically compared to when I was eating mostly animal products. I also have all day energy, rarely do I feel run down by 3pm anymore. The whites of my eyes have really cleared up (a cool trick to see if your body’s PH levels are off is to look at the whites of your eyes, if they always look red there is a good chance you are more acidic than alkaline…although if you wear contacts it might be hard to decipher if you find your contacts are always irritating your eyes). Most importantly since switching to a mostly plant based diet in April my injuries have healed so much faster and my body feels so much better in the 4 months I have been practicing this lifestyle than in the previous 14 months when I was injured and was not practicing this lifestyle.
is it easy? absolutely not. Change is never easy especially when it revolves around ones diet. I have my days where I ask myself why I am doing this? However never once have I had the slightest thought or temptation about giving it up. I am working out just fine on a plant based diet and it is not impossible to build muscle or make gains on this diet. The point is you can still reach whatever goals you have on this diet (and diet in the sense of way of eating, not the “calorie restricted” association that many people confuse the term diet with). Many athletes and professional bodybuilders have already adopted this plant based lifestyle to improve their performance. Check some out here.
Right now the only animal products I eat are cage free eggs and wild salmon. Eventually I will stop consuming those products when I get a bit more comfortable into plant based meals and lifestyle. I am still in the early stages of adopting this lifestyle but as I previously mentioned am already seeing a large difference.
Going plant based also helps the environment out tremendously by reducing our carbon footprint.
No matter what type of diet you choose, choose it because you want to and for nobody else. I never thought in my lifetime that I would give up meat and other animal products. I did it to help heal from an injury. After all the research and questions answered by people who have already adopted this type of lifestyle, I made my decision and it just seemed right, for me. This post is not meant to degrade those who eat animal products (I still eat salmon and eggs once a week when I am in a pinch). The point of this post is to give people an option if they are looking for a diet change or are looking for a way to recover faster. This lifestyle has helped me tremendously and I hope it makes readers curious enough to do some research and decide for themselves on what diet is right for them. Eat what you want–just make sure you know why you are doing it and are happy doing it. That’s all that matters.
*Also I should mention this is what I am currently doing, five years ago I couldn’t imagine giving up meat and I did, five years from now I cant imagine giving up plant based nutrition but I also cant predict the future. This is a personal decision I made and I don’t see it changing but who knows, life is interesting. The point? Just do what makes you happy but always research and be curious and not close-minded.
For more info on plant based nutrition check out:
- T. Colin Campbell (respected and cited in all fields of medicine)
- The China Study
- Robert Cheeke (vegan bodybuilder)
- Brandon Brazier (triathlete)
- Forks Over Knives (documentary)
- The Gerson Method