So this month (November 2015) I have decided on an experiment, something I have wanted to do for a long time but either the time hasn’t been right or I just haven’t been bothered.
As a person who enjoys cooking/creating meals etc and enjoys eating them even more – I have become more and more aware that there is so much focus on the meat part of the dish, yet this appears to be the least varied area. While obviously you can do a lot to meat to keep it interesting etc etc, it still remains that the muscle* part of an animal becomes what a meal is based around, and the reason for this generally (especially from a male point of view) is that’s where we get protein from!
I have become increasingly bored with using the same chicken breasts, steaks, and pork chops in some way or another.
*I’m well aware that offal eg liver is massively nutritious and cheap, but I’m also aware that it tastes bloody horrible, don’t pretend it doesn’t. For the purposes of this experiment I will obviously be avoiding this too.
My experiment/hypothesis is that as there are much, much more varied sources of proteins from very nutritious and massively varied sources, to expand my culinary creativity and expand my range of foods, for November I will not be eating meat! Vegetarians around the world rejoice! Lets do this!
Note: I know that I already have a fantastic title, but I am also open to further suggestions (Novembeef? No, don’t be thick).
This will be an official experiment so prepare yourself for clever science words. I’ve already used ‘hypothesis’ so let’s see what else I’ve got.
- Body composition stats & expectations – I’m hoping (obviously) that body fat might reduce a little, muscle mass will increase and overall weight will drop. I’ll measure my body composition every Monday to check effects. Energy levels-wise I’m hoping to feel generally lighter and more energised when it comes to exercise and training.
- That might happen to me.
- If I get malnourished, feel like I’m dying or generally feel worse for it I’ll pull the plug, although if I do then I think that will have said more about my efforts than an actual meat-free diet.
- I’m tempted to count Chorizo as a vegetable.
- I’m not going to be mental about it ie. I won’t be avoiding animal products all together or anything like that although you never know what might happen. This is purely a nutritional experiment not an ethical thing although I do expect to feel very smug throughout.
Body Fat: 5.1%
Muscle Mass: 48.1%
Ok so the weight & body fat is lower than I expected it to be and the lowest it’s been in a while – will be very interesting to see the effect here…
After one final meaty meal (beef joint roast dinner) on Saturday night, Sunday got me straight into vegetarian eating – I thought I’d start strongly with a twist on a classic (a classic which I hate) – beans on toast.
Body Fat: 7.8%
Muscle Mass: 47.5%
Not too fussed about the exact stats – still in an ok range & my scales tend to have around a 2% differential each time so not looking too much into that! Happy the weight has lowered a bit though (which I suppose would fit in with the other stats).
I should probably point out that I supplement creatine – I have always taken 1 tablet per day (which is a very small amount really) but seeing as creatine is one of the only proven supplements to actually work and is quite hard to get a lot of, I take a tablet. Since becoming vegetarian I have upped it to 2 tablets (steady on, I know), simply because it is very very hard to get this important protein through a vegetarian diet. I don’t cycle it or anything because that’s pointless, but everyone should be taking creatine – it has many benefits, it’s not just for muscle building.
My leg is still bad so not running – focusing on swimming, gym work, cross-trainering etc which is annoying. However, on the flip side of this I had 2 races booked in this week – a night trail race in the Forest of Dean and the UK OCR Championships…
The night race went ok all things considered – I could feel a bit of an ache warming up but when I was running I felt fine – full of energy and could have pushed harder but I had eaten a pretty big mushroom, rocket & chilli pizza a couple of hours ago so felt a bit sick. Ended up in 2nd place which was a surprise!
The UK Champs went better than expected too – breakfast consisted of cold overnight porridge with chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and flax seeds (you must try overnight oats they are so convenient) with a black coffee and a banana. My energy levels felt just right throughout, I took a gel with me and had it just over halfway in but didn’t really feel like I needed it, I took it to cover me just in case.
The fact that my energy was at a level that meant I could push hard and (I think) finish in a respectable place against the top UK obstacle racers (results haven’t been published yet) is great news for how this has been going. As a side note, the cold did drain me a bit, and I could certainly feel late in the race where my running endurance has waned since my leg has been bad – but still had enough in me to push as hard as possible the whole way.
Generally though I am still having fun with the meals I make – no signs of boredom or being too hungry yet. A funny moment happened after the night race when we got back to the host pub for complimentary sausage, onions, and chips. I had no choice but to choose the vegetarian sausage of which I ate about half (to be fair I was still very full from the aforementioned pizza):
So I am definitely experiencing both sides of the coin here…!
Body Fat: 5.1%
Muscle Mass: 48.1%
OK so I’ve figured out why my stats were out last week – I was entering my height wrong on my scales so wasn’t measuring me correctly! Disregard my excuses from last week – back on track!!
It’s interesting that my body fat % has remained low considering I haven’t been running – before I needed to rest my leg I was putting in a lot of mileage over hills etc and putting in a lot of intense running – so without that I have still been able to maintain my stats! Win there for vegetarianism.
Food this week has been extra fun – I’ve found myself with a bit more time a couple of days so on Wednesday I decided to go Greek – I made falafel, tzatziki, flavoured sweet potato wedges, and had pitta bread although didn’t really need that as had loads on the plate. All of it was incredibly easy to make and enjoyable to try out something different. I say it was all easy to make, but I tried to make the falafel into balls, then into mini burger-type things but it just would not stay together. It ended up as one giant falafel pancake which I chopped up when it was cooked. Annoying but whatever, it did the job.
Saturday night was the real party – I had the day free so we decided on a 3 course meal (because when does anyone normally have 3 courses at home?).
Starter – curried carrot & parsnip soup:
Main – homemade pesto on various mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and gnocchi:
Dessert – avocado brownie/cake:
Sunday night at work brought a pizza…
So y’know… a bit large and bread-heavy but loaded with good stuff and I’ve had an active day so shut your face.
The interesting thing I noted this week is that clearly these are things that I could have easily made and would have thoroughly enjoyed before this experiment, I just never would have bothered. For example instead of making all the Greek foods I would have probably just done steak & potatoes or stuffed chicken breast etc – I would have been looking where to put the meat. Also when it comes to the gnocchi I would have probably had that same amount, but had chicken mixed in too – clearly far too much and more than I need! I think I have mentioned before that this seems to be calming me down from over-eating. Another win for vegetarianism!
Body Fat: ?%
Muscle Mass: ?%
My scales aren’t playing ball and are refusing to record my results, instead coming up with an error message. Interestingly this error message displays when the results go below a readable level (5% on these apparently…) so I’m taking that as a body fat loss (win).
OK so with this week leading to the end of the month I guess it’s time to some up how this has gone. As somebody who has eaten meat with pretty much every single meal throughout his life, with a meal not quite feeling ‘complete’ without some kind of animal protein as part of it, I thought that I would find this very hard and very strange.
The strangest thing about the whole process is how normal it has felt to eat like this. From the novelty of looking for vegetarian restaurants/cafes at the beginning of the month, to looking up vegetarian meal ideas, it quickly emerged that I was doing neither and was just creating meals & recipes that I enjoyed eating and happened to contain no meat.
I’m not sure if I’m describing it quite correctly, – I was expecting to be so tempted by meat options that are available, yet weirdly I haven’t been attracted to anything like that even when it’s been right in front of my nose, and the only other option is plain salad or jacket potato & cheese. I haven’t been tempted to just eat the meat option I’ve gone and eaten somewhere better.
Written by me: Keith Fairburn
Personal Trainer, Sports Therapist, S&C Coach.
Ninja Warrior Semi-Finalist, Obstacle Racer, Salming Running Ambassador.
If you have any questions about anything I’ve written in this post or want to get in touch, contact me.