I received this question from Zack the other day after my post about my blood work. I thought it was good enough to answer for everyone.
“I’ve heard a lot of information about vegetarian and vegan diets for athletes, could you point me in the direction of a reputable source to help me become a vegan athlete? Thank you for your time.”
This question brings up several topics worth answering.
1) Why should a person be vegetarian, vegan or not?
2) Who can you look to that have done it?
3) Why everyone can learn from this?
To be Vegan or Not to be?
There are some that want everyone in the world to become vegan. The militant vegan who would sooner murder you for eating a hamburger, then the cow. Luckily these people are few and far between. The majority allow you to make your own food choices.
Here is what everyone needs to realize. Any diet only works for a select portion of the population. What would make one person healthy could kill another.
Some people may need to consume meat in order to be healthy.
Others can get by without meat but would fall apart in the long run without dairy or eggs. This is known as a lacto-ovo vegetarian.
There’s also some who consider eating fish or chicken still vegetarian but I don’t. And a vegan is someone who consumes no animal products at all.
A couple decades ago lots of information came out that painted all animal food in a bad light. Just like the myth that cholesterol is bad for you and is going to cause you heart disease. While the factory farming and hormone pumped up cattle are obviously not healthy, animal products are not as a whole unhealthy.
And some people choose not to consume them for spiritual or ethical reasons. I have no qualms with you for doing that. But to say its all unhealthy is not true.
Like the simple fact that there is no real vegetarian source of long chain omega 3 fatty acids, and many people can’t efficiently convert the short chain versions found in foods like flax, hemp and chia seeds. But some can.
There are many who seemingly thrive on a vegan diet. There is also a whole bunch of people whose health fell apart in the long run and had to go back to an omnivorous diet.
What it comes down to is you’re going to have to experiment and find what works for you whether vegan, vegetarian or not.
Vegan Athlete Role Models?
So that answers question number one. Number two is pretty easy.
Two top people in the strength and fitness world that I have personally met and are testaments to doing it right are Mike Mahler and Jon Hinds. Also if you want to go a step beyond into raw food eating I would look at Peter Ragnar. (I’m sure there are many more notable people, but these came to mind right away.)
You can find plenty of information on their sites and also in this interview series that includes all three of them and about the specifics of what they eat.
Study what they do and use it as the starting point for what you’re trying to achieve. Don’t blindly follow what they say but observe, learn and experiment with it.
The Great Experiment
And now onto question three. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it would be worthwhile for almost everyone to experiment with being vegetarian or vegan for a time.
Even if you have no plans of becoming a life long vegan or vegetarian you can get benefit out of doing this. Without falling back on meat or dairy products you’re going to have to explore new possibilities.
Some people are afraid they can’t get enough protein without these sources. Actually there are plenty of vegan options but you’re to have to try out new things.
I was vegetarian for about 6 months. By doing this experiment you’ll start trying new foods and often a bunch more variety. And when you go back, if you go back, you can take your new options with you.
Before this experiment I ate meat at almost every meal. Nowadays its usually once a day. That works well for me.
You can also find if you feel better or worse when doing this. Now be warned you may feel much better for a period of time, even several years, but then you realize you’re deficient in something that animal foods may provide. Common ones are B12, Omega 3’s, and cholesterol.
Also you may feel worse by being thrown into detox, which is temporary, but will improve your health in the long run.
So I would say this is an experiment worth doing for what you can get out of it.
Have you gone vegan or vegetarian? What are your thoughts? Post your comments below.
P.S. I have some exciting projects on the horizon. Stay tuned for an incredible deal coming soon.