Over the last few weeks I have done a good bit of reading about vegetarian diets. In doing so, I made a number of observations, none of which are very surprising. First, there are a number of "reasons" for choosing a vegetarian diet including improving health, protecting animals and supporting environmental causes. In addition, there is the whole "fad following" concept that is probably the worst reason of all. Second, there are a lot of "famous" people who have adopted various forms of a vegetarian diet including Paul McCartney, Tony LaRussa, Clint Eastwood and athletes Carl Lewis and Amby Burfoot to name a few. Other than Lewis and Burfoot both being athletes, each of these people are very different (other than being famous) yet all adhere to vegetarian diets. It is well noted in the ultra running community that Scott Jurek has achieved great athletic success while following a strict vegan diet. Rather than "follow a fad" or copy a celebrity, I would need to delve into this further to see if vegetarianism (or some form of it) was for me.
I don't think it is realistic for me to completely cut meat at this point but think I can gradually lower my intake over time. The thought being that a more gradual approach will likely be more sustainable in the long run. I began my little experiment after turkey day and have been amazed at the results so far. My two biggest concerns were feeling hungry and lacking energy, neither of which has occurred. In fact, I don't feel as "weighed" down after I eat and my energy level has remained normal. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that I haven't really missed meat all that much. In a nutshell, I just feel better.
I have started reading a book called Vegetarian Sports Nutrition by Enette Larson-Meyer, PhD(foreword written by Scott Jurek) that has been very interesting. One critical point made in the book is the need for variety in your diet. I have noticed that I have fallen into a soup and salad "trap" of sorts this week since those are easy options. For this to be sustainable in the long run, I will need to get smarter about varying my diet (that is true for non-vegetarians as well) so that I don't "burn out". I am looking forward to exploring new recipes and food combinations in a quest to capture the benefits while pleasing my palate. As an athlete a big key will be getting adequate protein to aid in recovery and to promote an overall balanced diet. Stay tuned for updates on this and as always, I would appreciate any advice or tips from others. Below are some links to sites that I came upon during my research.