Let me start off by saying that I did not stop eating meat because of ethical reasons. I made a decision to eliminate meat from my diet because I felt it would provide an improvement in my running performance, strength training, and body composition. I have witnessed several transformations that showed success when making this dietary change as well as read about several successful athletes. The purpose of this post is not to dispute the ethical premise of a vegan or meat eating diet.
January 2013 I decided to eliminate most animal and dairy products from my diet. I did not go completely vegan, as I would add in eggs and fish as desired. I found myself trying a lot of new recipes and bringing loads of dark leafy greens and other veggies into my diet. One thing I couldn’t include – soy products. They just don’t agree with my body. I really enjoyed the salads I was preparing topped with an array of colorful vegetables. My body was feeling pretty good. I found my recovery time to be less than it had been historically, and my runs were going well. In addition to this change, in 2014 I decided I needed to clean up my diet a little more. I removed artificial sweeteners and most prepackaged foods from my regular diet. Picture this – I used to chew a pack of gum practically every other day. I sweetened my dishes with artificial syrups. I ate crackers with loads of saturated fats. I drank flavored waters with more artificial sweeteners. What happened? When I removed these from my food intake, my GI issues while running improved, and I continued to feel good.
So if I was feeling so good, why would I make the decision to add lean, organic meat back into my diet? Simply put, looking at the big picture, it wasn’t working for me. While many issues were improved or resolved, new ones were created and some existing ones exacerbated.
Let’s talk about my protein intake. I know many vegans/vegetarians would argue this with me, but I just wasn’t getting enough protein each day. Not being able to include soy protein makes this very difficult, and I just haven’t found a plant based protein powder that I really like yet. I also believe the extremely low protein intake was causing some monster cravings. I’ve always had a sweet tooth, but the past year has been a more than desirable test of my willpower. I resorted to old behaviors to satisfy these cravings, except the fix was only temporary. In addition, I was eating enough vegetables for probably 2-3 people, way more than I need. I was filling my belly with all of these really good for me foods, but I was not ever satisfied. I struggled with feeling stuffed, but hungry at the same time. My body was telling me it needed something more than I was giving it, but I read that signal as needing more vegetables. I couldn’t have been more wrong!!
The past year I upped the intensity of my workouts and number of miles I ran, but found my body shape to be changing in a less the desirable way, despite all of my efforts. I was seeing a slow and steady increase in my weight as well as my body fat percentage. I’ve seen an increase in my body fat from a lean 15% to now 25%, with most of that change being in the last 3 months. My clothes are no longer loose; they’ve become tight and uncomfortable. I sat down and compared pictures of myself last weekend and it’s undeniable when it’s in black and white.
I guess there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing”. My body has been screaming for more protein to help rebuild the muscles from all of the work I put it through, but I just continued to feed it more carrots or make bigger salads. These are my reasons for adding meat back to my diet. As I look back to the past year or so, I know I’ve made some good changes, and I’ve learned from the others that didn’t work. I will continue to eat a whole food diet free from artificial sweeteners, preservatives and saturated fats and I will still enjoy many of the vegan dishes I’ve come to love, just in lesser quantity. Each of us needs to figure out what works for us. It truly is an experiment of one.
I would love to hear your thoughts if you’ve made similar changes and how they went for you.