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My Vegetarian Experiment

So for everyone that knows me, will probably know that for the past year I have been a vegetarian. It started because I was getting very ill whenever I was eating meat to the point I wouldn’t want to eat, looking back at it that may be because I had a different underlying issue with my health which has since passed but we will never know.

When I first became a veggie, I lost a fair amount of weight. I went from around 78kg to about 69kg within a matter of two to three months. Now, this may be because I was generally eating healthier but it may be because I wasn’t tracking my food and/or I was in fact ill. Once I hit around the 69kg mark I decided to start tracking food with an app called MyFitnessPal. This is an app where you input any food you eat and it will keep track of your calories and macronutrients for the day. So I tracked religiously for 5-6 months and it was very hard some days to eat the right amount of calories. I believe the highest I got was 3500 calories which for me is a big amount. My breakfasts were totalling in around 1200 calories!

Protein

My main source of protein was eggs and quorn products. At the time, my dairy intake was very low so cheese was out of the question. As I went on I found my health was getting better and better and so I started to add dairy back in without any problems, this helped massively with my protein intake. However, some days getting the right amount of protein (around 150g) was a struggle. Because of this, around December time I started to take a vegan protein shake and do you know what? It tasted and felt like sand. I definitely am not a fan of them due to the texture and the look of them, however, that being said they did help to get my total protein intake up.

Quorn was great and even now once I’ve added meat back into my diet I am continuing to eat. The mince I actually prefer to normal mince especially the day after if you’re having to reheat it (less coagulated fat sits on top). Definitely, give them a try if you want to start playing around with some vegetarian meals.

Fats

This was another struggle to get in. As with most vegetarian and vegan diets, they are low fat, high carb. I’m definitely not a fan of this approach as I feel much better and my joints feel much better when I have a higher fat diet. So, I added a lot of peanut butter, eggs were still there, oils, nuts and eventually dairy to ensure my fat content and my calories were still high.

Fibre

This section will have a bit of TMI so if you’re squeamish, skip it.

There were some days when I was tracking with MyFitnessPal that I was racking up over 100g of Fibre a day. 100g! This is a huge amount the average American has around 15g a day. This did lead to some… interesting side effects though. I was pooing… a lot. On an average day, it was 2-3 times and they were fairly consistent too. It’s great if you have access to a toilet but sometimes if you’re busy for the day it can be quite stressful.

Training

Throughout the year, my training changed quite a lot. During the first initial few months of becoming a vegetarian I ventured more into callisthenics and bodyweight workouts, so naturally, my strength with weights did decrease which I was perfectly happy with and able to accept.

During my training for the first few months also I found my joints felt better, my head was clearer during training and I felt faster when I moved (this may be because I lost 9kg). This I attribute to increased vegetable intake and the potential side effects of a sub-par diet before being a vegetarian where I would eat a lot of crap. It can be a mixture of lots of things but I definitely feel like the diet was a contributing factor. After the first 6-7 months, however, I found I plateaued a little bit. I started to get more inflamed joints and it was getting harder and harder to progress in the gym. Admittedly, my diet did fail a little bit here and I started to increase my sugar intake, protein became less of a priority as I prioritised more calories to ensure I was getting my energy balance right.

Hormones

This is an important one for everyone to consider. At first, I definitely had more energy, again, this is most likely due to just eating more vegetables. However, this did drop off as my diet did. Since I have reintroduced meat I have found my energy levels have increased slightly and I sleep a lot better (increased zinc and magnesium intake could do it).

My sex drive has slightly increased since eating meat again but being in my early twenties it has always been fairly high anyway…

Body Composition/Training

Since I’ve increased my protein intake by eating meat, I feel like there has been a positive effect on my body composition. I feel tighter in all areas and I think my body confidence has increased. Lately, also, my strength has seemed to increase more and my joints seem to feel better.

Mood

I think it’s hard to comment about my mood as there were several other factors in play during the time, such as stress. That being said, my increased intake in Omega-3’s has seemed to play a part in me feeling better and my focus has seemed to increase, this can be done with a veggie diet but you will need to supplement.

Final Thoughts

Being a vegetarian was great. It made me more conscious about what I was eating, what I was going to eat and how to prepare more varied food. I will be continuing to eat veggie meals often but my meat intake will be limited to 2-3 times a week.

I think it is perfectly possible to live a healthy life on a veggie diet but you will need to be prepared to add in supplementation to account for lost minerals and micronutrients. Be especially careful of the fact most vegan and veggie diets promote a high carb/low-fat diet. This can be a blessing or a curse depending on your type of training and your ability to digest and use certain nutrients.

One thing I failed to mention during this article was the fact I was very conscious of my environmental footprint during all of this. Eating excessive meat is a way to increase the total greenhouse gas consumption of the planet, but if I sit there and refuse to eat some meat that my parents have cooked because I’m too worried about that, will that make a difference? Personally I will try to cook myself vegetarian meals when I am food prepping but if someone else cooks for me I will not be opposed to eating it and reducing my total waste.

 

 

If you have any questions at all please do not hesitate to contact me!

 

Have a healthy week,

Duncan

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