I’ve been voluntarily vegetarian (and mostly vegan) for two weeks now. Let me say right off the bat that I welcome any compelling info regarding canivory, veganism, nutrition, etc. I generally try to base decisions on first principles. But there is so much conflicting information on diet and exercise out there (and all of it so convincing! except maybe this one) that it’s basically impossible to separate signal from noise. I’ve tried ‘em all: Paleo, Zone, Keto. Was even tempted by GoMaD at one point. I do time-restricted eating, aka Intermittent Fasting. And I’ve been curious about plant-based diets (PBDs) for years now. I had concluded that a PBD is probably optimal if your top goal is longevity. But I had assumed the cost of those extra years was athletic performance, lean muscle mass, etc. Now, I’m no elite athlete – far from it. But I do like to push my limits. And I figured I could always make the switch to a PBD later in life when being active and pushing myself wasn’t as important to me.
What finally got me off the fence was the movie Gamechangers, a documentary hosted by UFC fighter, James Wilks. I’m a sucker for documentaries anyway. But this one really got me. Where other veg-docs have stressed the environmental or general health benefits of PBDs (Cowspiracy, for example), Gamechangers addresses athletic performance head-on. I nearly wrote it off in the first 5 minutes, as it started off featuring a sinewy ultra-marathoner (400m is plenty, thanks). But then it featured a world-record strongman, an olympic weightlifter, and a bodybuilder – folks with more than enough lean muscle mass supposedly packed on through hard work and vegetables. The film highlights plenty of pro-veg science. But then again, the meat industry has plenty of pro-meat science too. Still, the film made me PDB-curious enough that I decided to seek some first principles the only way I can in this case: to self-experiment.
At two weeks, it’s obviously way too early to call. But I can confidently report the following:
1. I have plenty of energy. Truthfully, I feel especially energetic. But I’m going to tip my hat to the placebo effect and say no more than that I have noticed no decrease in energy levels.
2. My bodyweight workouts (pushups, pullups, airsquats, etc.) have not suffered. The empiric evidence is that my performance has actually improved. But again, there are other factors in play: I might weigh less from a likely calorie deficit, making bodyweight workouts easier. And/or, I could just be improving naturally from doing workouts on the regular. So I’ll simply say that I have not noticed any reduction in strength.
3. The food has been delicious. Our staples are rice, lentils, baked potatoes, pasta marinara, salad, fruit, and nuts. I do still find the smell of grilling meat appetizing (and there’s plenty of that here, in the land of carne asado). But I haven’t craved meat like I thought I would, and I haven’t gotten bored with our mostly-vegan fare.
I imagine a behavioral change as big is this would be very difficult if those around me were still eating meat. Luckily, Dallas led the charge, followed by Julia, and finally Dana and me. We are encouraging each other remotely, although none of us has really needed much encouragement. I keep reminding myself that this doesn’t have to be forever, nor does it have to be all-or-nothing, as most diet advocates would have me believe. But as long as I continue to feel good and don’t detect any drop in strength or energy, this experiment might just become something a little more permanent.