by DI Guest
This weeks blog is quite an interesting one for me as I have been contemplating for a while the fact that I have never attempted a vegetarian or vegan diet.
I like to believe that I am a person that practises what I preach and honestly whilst I do like eating meat I have always been interested to know how I would perform, look and feel if I radically changed my diet and didn’t eat animal protein.
I have trained vegetarians and vegans in my gym as well at fitMK but I can’t offer the best possible advice with regards to this nutrition practise as I have never experienced it!
Actually; that’s not true as when I was in the Himalayas I had a two week stint being vegetarian as meat was very rare in the mountains and the one bit of chicken I did eat when I first got there; led to some very frequent toilet trips!
So this was 'forced' rather than a 'choice' and I didn’t really track anything as a iresult of eatying this way as I was focused on climbing and hiking.
While I was pretty tired all the time and didn't feel normal; it is fair to say that the enviroment with lack of oxygen could have been more to do with it rather than what i ate ... oh and the 8 hours of walking uphill all day ;-)
I would like to know that everything I eat is the best quality and the animal has had the best possible life before coming onto my plate however it would foolish to think that restaurants or supermarkets will have the same 'food choice' standards that I have.
I got chatting to fitMK members Denn and Lisa Foley about their journey at the Redway Runners expo I was very interested to hear of their transition. Denn offered to put some of what we spoke about into words - I was very excited that I could share our conversation with a wider audience.
I have seen The Game Changers programme that Denn mentions - and I know that the movie makes it very easy to believe that plant based is not only the best but the right lifestyle choice however I do believe that there will be pros and cons to whatever eating plan or diet you decide to follow and as always you have to do what is best for you.
Once you have read this I would love to know any thoughts you have and to share if it has made you think of making any changes.
Drop me a line on simon@fitMK.com
Personally; I am keen to find out more so will look at what changes I can make - even if it is one "meat free" day a week ... when I know more - I’ll report back with my findings!
But for now over to Denn!
Our vegan fit MK journey
January and ‘Veganuary’ is the month that we are all encouraged to eat less meat and dairy. Did you try it? We’re just coming up to our three years of plant based vegan eating and although we don’t know the exact date that we started being vegan, we do know that our first session with fitMK was in March 2017 and we do know that we were vegan then.
All of the time we’ve been training with fitMK we’ve been vegan eating and we’ve had to make sure that we are sustaining our training with a plant based diet. Actually, that’s really easy and delicious.
After training pastas, green vegetables, sweet potatoes, curries. Veggies little known secret ingredient is protein, so the last thing that you have to worry about is where are you going to get your protein from. Check out what Arnold Schwarzenegger says about that on the Netflix documentary ‘Game Changers’.
So, how did it all start. Our fitMK journey was couch potato to fit MK. After getting off the couch and starting to run, we found ourselves getting a bit fitter and finding that we liked being that bit healthier. We were looking for something more than just running and after a bit of fit MK Facebook stalking, we went to our first session in the park.
But just going back a step; as we had started to get a bit fitter and interested in healthy eating, I had gotten very interested in food and in particular, what goes in our food, on the impacts of factory farming on our diet (don’t even think about it) and on what our food does for us. Gluten causing anxiety, for example. I read Michael Pollan’s book ‘In Defence of Food’ and we started following his mantra - ‘Eat food, mainly leaves, not too much’.
The ‘Eat food’ bit means, eat food that your grandparents would recognise. If you look at the ingredients in your food and there’s a huge list of ingredients or if all the words are huge and you don’t recognise what any of them mean, don’t eat that stuff.
Although the ‘Eat food, mainly plants’ mantra isn't about being veggie, we realised after a while that we’d stopped eating meat and just did that for a few more days and then a few more days. The very last bit of meat that I ate was off a charcuterie sharing board when we hadn’t quite come out as veggies to friends and family.
We weren’t vegetarian very long though when we decided to take the step to try and be mostly vegan. Our starting thought was that it wouldn’t be possible to be 100% vegan, but we’d aim for 80% or 90%. Actually, what we found was that it was easier than we had expected and we just became full vegan. We gave ourselves a bit of time, but it wasn’t hard.
Why did we make the jump from just being veggie to being full plant based eaters? How did we think that we could ever give up cheese?
I started thinking one day that cows don’t naturally produce milk, despite what milk marketing adverts tell us. Cows produce milk to feed their young. That means that someone has to get them pregnant and keep them pregnant. They don’t get to keep their calves at the end of that pregnancy, we want their milk. As I thought about that, it just felt like abuse and once I had that thought in my mind, I didn’t want to eat dairy again.
For us, the path to vegan eating was all about finding substitutions. If you drink milk in tea or coffee, almond, soy, or even better oat does just the same thing as cow’s milk. There are easy substitutions that you can make in your cooking to take out dairy. The internet is a brilliant resource to find those substitutions.
The challenge comes in groceries. There is a period of time that you need to check what your eating - and you’ll be amazed what food and drink can have milk products in it. White wine? Check it. Protein bars? Most have whey milk protein rather than plant protein. Gummy sweets, that’s animal gelatine. Crisps, check for milk. Once you find your substitutions though, then it’s really easy.
What are the downside to following a plant based diet? You lose some convenience. You can’t just go in any restaurant and always find good food options. On the flip side though, we’ve found that we eat in amazing quirky coffee shops and restaurants and lately high street chains are getting on board with more and more plant based choices.
If you’ve heard about Veganuary or you think that you want to cut down on your meat and dairy consumption, where should you start? We’d say, start small. Someone told me recently they were being vegan at home, but not in restaurants. That’s a great start. Maybe have a few meatless Mondays. Start finding a few dairy replacements. Next time you’re in your favourite coffee shop, try oat or other plant based milks in your frothy coffee, you’ll be surprised how good they are. You might be surprised to find out how much of what you eat already is vegan. Orio biscuits - vegan ????.
Just start making a few small changes and add to them as you go along.
ps Want to know more about how a plant based diet might help your training - I just had this video pop up on my You Tube