This year has turned out to be one filled with lifestyle experiments. I tried Project 333 - Living more with less, did my first ever detox and in the past few weeks I have tested out a plant based diet.
There has been a lot of talk recently about plant based diets (thanks Netflix) and I decided I might give it a go to see how a vegetarian diet worked for me. There is nothing like experimenting and actually doing it for yourself right?
I will start off by saying I never ever thought I would be a vegetarian or ever thought I would even contemplate eating vegetarian. I always thought it would be too hard and I wouldn't enjoy it at all. Turns out I was wrong.
I decided I would eat a plant based diet for 2 weeks and see how it went. I planned to keep my macros the same 250C/60F/140P and just eat plant based foods. I ate a plant based diet but I wasn't following a vegan diet! Given where I came from I thought vegan would be a step too far and so I kept eating eat eggs and dairy.
The Easy Parts
I found eating as a vegetarian surprisingly easy. I thought I would miss meat. I thought it would be hard to find things to eat but I was wrong. It was actually pretty easy to substitute foods in the 2 meals a day that I typically at some type of meat.
I did alter my cooking and tried out a few new recipes that were easy to do and very tasty.
The two weeks went by very quickly and I honestly didn't feel like I was missing out on anything nor did I feel deprived at all. It caught me by suprise how easy it was!
However it wasn't all smooth sailing and I did encounter some challenges.
The single biggest challenge for me was hitting my protein number without blowing out my other macros. Now you can get adequate protein from plant based foods but it usually comes along with high carbs and/or fats. I did find it hard to find high protein foods that were low carb and low fat. Looking back at my macros over the 2 weeks the majority of my days were significantly under in protein (30g+) and sometimes over in carbs or fat.
I normally have a casein based protein pudding every night and the only way I could hit my protein macros consistently was to have another protein shake during the day. While there is nothing wrong with shakes, I did not want to regularly have 2 shake based meals a day. I prefer to eat real food.
Now maybe I could have fixed the protein issue with a little more planning and with some bigger changes in what I was eating but hitting a high protein number only eating food did not come easy.
The big question: Did I feel any different?
Not really! I should preface that comment by saying I had a pretty good quality diet before starting this experiment. I ate out at most once a week and prepare every other meal myself. I already ate a reasonably good volume of vegetables and fruits (although that could also be improved).
Overall I can't say I felt dramatically different to normal. However, I did feel more sore from training and I wonder if this had something to do with me having difficulty hitting my protein numbers. It is hard to say 100% that this was the reason because training varies and it may have just been the training cycle I was on but I think the diet had something to do with it. When I first noticed these issues I decided to add in a 2nd protein shake and once I did that I started to feel better.
Did I have more energy on a plant based diet? Not that I noticed.
Did I sleep better? No noticeable change.
Was I able to train harder or did I have better recovery? Again, no noticeable change!
For me, a fit, strong and generally healthy person who watches what they eats and had a previously good diet, eating plant based just didn't produce any noticeable changes.
Vegetarian options at restaurants are great. Normally I wouldn't even read the vegetarian option on a menu but this experiment forced me to not only read but choose the vegetarian options at restaurants and they were usually delicious! This was a huge surprise and an eye opener for me! Going forward I am going to always consider these choices not because they are vegetarian but because they are great food!
I love Veggie Burgers more than Beef Burgers. Who knew!?!? Going forward I am going to buy plant based burgers for me to eat instead of the beef burgers I usually make and eat for the family.
So where to from here?
I am really glad I decided to give the plant based diet a go. It challenged me to try new things and I discovered some new foods that I now love.
I have since added meat back into my diet as that is the easiest way for me to get the protein intake I need each day.
You will find me ordering a vegetarian meal at a restaurant now and again and I will incorporate vegetarian options more regularly into my diet. I will have the odd vegetarian day here and there but In the end I discovered that a diet can be high quality with or without animal products and what I have been doing to date works pretty well for me.
What about you? Have you tried a plant based diet? Are you willing to give it a try just to see what happens?