I turned to a vegetarian lifestyle 5 years ago for medical reasons. I lost over 50 pounds and dramatically improved my health markers.
I also started a workout plan of weights and cardio around the same time (doctor prescribed) and I’ve seen results but I’m not where I want to be.
Do you think that I can reach my goals of being ‘lean and mean’ eating a Vegetarian diet? I’d even settle for toned up at this point. I’m strong but I’m still ‘soft’ and can’t seem to lose more weight?
Any ideas? Suggestion?
Hey Michelle! Wow congratulations on your weight loss and for taking responsibility of your health and fitness. I really wish more people would follow in your footsteps.
Ok so let’s talk about vegetarianism. There are conflicting thoughts on whether or not someone who subscribes to this lifestyle will ever look like those who include meat. Notice I said look like, not be ‘as healthy as” – there’s an important distinction to be made. I’ve read many of the health benefits that eating a plan -based diet provides and they seem valid and accurate. I personally could never go strictly meat-less because I enjoy fish, chicken, turkey and occasional red meat too much. But I will say that I have cut back on my protein portions considerably and eat half of what I used to. I think the fitness industry overstates the amount of protein exercising individuals actually need and there are many different schools of thought. Some say you need to consume 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body weight to gain muscle – others say DOUBLE that!
Here’s my two cents. I won’t get into whether or not I think vegetarianism is the right way to go – that’s a personal choice that each individual must decide based on their own beliefs. What I will share with you is what I’ve seen in my years as a trainer and nutrition consultant. What I believe to be the biggest downfall in most plant-based diets is actually the same culprit that ruins more traditional diets – carbs and sugar. In my experience, Vegetarians that I know over consume fruit, rice, potatoes and other starchy foods. I can think of 4 friends right now who are overweight (and gaining) who can’t understand why they gain weight while excluding meat. Well, they eat platefuls of beans, all kinds of rice, bowls of fruit, etc. So not only is their diet predominantly carbohydrates, but I’m sure they’re eating more than they need on a daily basis. And I think this is true of many people who follow a vegetarian lifestyle. You need to remember that just because a food is ‘healthy’, doesn’t mean it’s conducive to weight loss.
I just wrote a post on counting calories and how I think that when eating a Paleo type plan it’s not necessary since you’re eating no processed foods. I believe if you were to follow a Paleo / vegetarian plan you’d lose more body fat. I hate to keep saying this but ‘white’ products in our food supply are the main reason for our countries weight issues. You’ll find many athletes who are vegetarian or even vegan and they have had great success with this lifestyle. So it is possible but I think it takes a bit more work. Whenever a food group is completely excluded it always makes it a bit harder to make better choices and stay focused. With that said, it’s absolutely possible and totally doable. Just take a look around at many of the professional athletes that are vegetarian or vegan. Sure there are fewer than those who eat meat, but they still prove it can be done.
I think what needs to be addressed here is that what you’re looking for is vanity driven, the “look” – and that’s okay. We all want to feel and look great. You’ve already said you’ve lost weight and improved your markers for health. So in my book that’s a big WIN! I will say that people who eat meat generally carry more muscle than those who don’t – again this is in my personal experience. In fact Bob Harper tried being a vegan for some time and reported that he felt weak, soft and eventually went back to meat (mostly fish). He’s now strong as a bull and packed on some serious muscle. These types of accounts are commonplace with those who are very active, vigorously weight train and try a meat-less diet. You could try supplementing with pea or hemp protein powders and see if that helps. But I truly believe that if you limit those starchy foods and go with more vegetables, quinoa, tofu and other high protein foods you’ll be golden. And if your diet allows, you can always use eggs in your cooking and as a source of awesome protein.
So Michelle, I think you can achieve the look you want if you reduce the starch in your diet and perhaps add in a little bit of protein supplementation. It may take some time to figure out and see what works best, but with due diligence you can make it work. Good luck and congratulations again!
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