25 Nov 7 Diets In 7 Weeks – Becoming a Vegetarian
Week 2 : Vegetarian
The case for vegetarianism has divided public opinion for generations. Advocates arguing the ethical and sustainability benefits of a meat-free diet are well-matched against those who insist that the human body is genetically conditioned to require animal protein for strength, development and endurance.
This week I put down my steak knife and ventured into the world of vegetarianism, embracing tofu and a big basket of fresh fruit and veggies to find out what would happen when I went a week without eating meat.
I myself eat meat and LOVE IT, so eliminating it from my diet for an entire week was always going to be challenging. Although I wasn’t prepared to go vegan (no animal products whatsoever including eggs, dairy and gelatin) I completely avoided red, white and fish meat and tried to keep animal products to an absolute minimum.
Pros and Cons
Within one day I was already feeling the benefits of increasing my intake of fruits and vegetables. The nutrients and natural fibre found in plant-based foods meant my digestive system was operating at optimum capacity and I had energy to burn! I also lost that heavy, ‘full’ feeling that can really slow you down after a big protein-based meal.
Unfortunately by Day 3, my craving for meat had superseded my newfound energy and the lack of protein in my diet was beginning to become an issue. I should point out that I have a physically demanding job and workout 3-6 times per week. As protein is a major macronutrient required for muscle recovery, my body was not recovering as quickly as it usually would and my performance at the gym was starting to suffer. I felt weak, sluggish and slow, and was taking a day longer than normal to recover from a gym session.
While protein supplements or vegetable proteins like tofu and soy could have helped with my muscle recovery, I felt like my body was just screaming for a lean steak or chicken breast.
Even though I’m a big meat eater and love a good steak, I will be the first to admit I really enjoyed this week and the variety that a vegetarian diet can bring to your meals. My wife and I made some delicious dishes including yummy vegetable lasagna and an amazing sweet chili, tofu and cous cous salad (pictured).
Another BIG upside to cutting out meat was the reduction in our weekly grocery bill. My wife and I would usually spend around the $180-$200 at the supermarket each week but this week we spent just $90. Based on this, sticking with a vegetarian diet for a year could save us around $4000!
While it’s certainly possible to get all of our necessary nutrients from a vegetarian diet, compensating for the quick, easy protein hit we get from meat requires a good deal of additional planning and preparation. If not done properly, a strict vegetarian diet could leave you feeling decidedly lackluster.
Overall I think most of us would benefit from reducing the amount of meat in our diet and experimenting with vegetarian dishes that are equally delicious, more economical, heart-healthier and more sustainable. However if you are looking to try a vegetarian diet, I recommend first attempting 2 -3 vegetarian days a week and seeing how your body responds.