Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Vegan Experiment

Here is what I know...If you don't eat meat I can't help you. In fact, not only should you eat should eat a ton of meat! I don't think you'll get any worthwhile results by eating a vegan or a vegetarian diet.

Here is what I know...wait...I don't know a damn thing! Have I ever cut meat out of my diet? Have I ever relied on vegetables alone to fuel my body? Have I ever really experienced any of these things I am preaching to my clients about not eating meat? How could I be so certain that not eating meat is so bad for you?

I have literally said it all: You cannot get stronger as a vegan. You will not be able to lean out. Your performance in the gym won't improve. You just can't really build muscle without meat!

Well, it finally happened. I finally realized that I was speaking out of pure ignorance. I know that eating meat has value. For my entire life I have built up my body by eating animal protein. What I didn't know was what would happen to me if I gave it up! So, I began my first journey as a vegan! Yes, that's right...I temporarily gave up eating my beloved and sole necessity in life. No beef, chicken or bison. Pork and fish were out too! What the hell was going to happen to me?!?!

This whole journey started without intention. In early November, I committed to do a cleanse with a couple of my clients once I made it back from a trip I was taking. Knowing this, I went on a bit of a binge. I was frequently indulging in the wondrous flavors of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream and enjoying one of my most memorable childhood addictions: Dublin Dr Pepper (RIP!). I even had the privilege of attending the now infamous Texas Monthly BBQ Festival just 2 days before I left! It was UNBELIEVABLE! (I will never miss this event!) It almost goes without saying that I literally ate myself into a meat coma!

Sure enough, the day before I flew to LA I came down with a head cold. Not for one second did I wonder why this happened. I knew that I had made myself sick! In the past 16 years I have only gotten sick when I have done things like this. Like weekends of little sleep and bad eating choices. And the over consumption of alcohol, which is an obvious one. I know that we each have control over our mental and physical health, either for good or for bad!

Understanding all this, I still didn't anticipate what would happen next. The flight to LA really got my head jacked up. I spent my entire week there trying to kick this head cold. I have never dealt with any illness for as long as this was keeping me off track. I had had enough.

I couldn't have asked for a better final day during the trip. You see, I was attending Anthony Robbins' Unleash The Power Within seminar, and the final day was all about nutrition. As much as I knew about this topic already I was blown away by the amount of information I learned. I was ready to come back and take on my cleanse! I was ready to be free from a body filled with acids and ready to eat more vegetables in just 10 days than I had eaten in months.

Well, by day 7, I felt so amazing that I decided that I wanted to be a vegan indefinitely. Against the most valuable opinions of everyone I knew who were saying I should not do it...I had to take it on! I had to see for myself if I would grow weak and lose size. I wanted to know if I was truly going to be a suffering CrossFitter and if my health would just deteriorate.

For the next 6 weeks my diet consisted only of these foods:
- boatloads of veggies (brussels sprouts, zucchini, squash, kale, collard greens, bok choy, watercress, swiss chard, broccoli, sweet potatoes, spinach, mixed greens, mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, asparagus, etc.)

- moderate amounts of fruit (blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, mandarin oranges, grapes, apples, bananas)
- nuts and nut butters (almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans)
- herbal tea and water

Here is what I saw: My mind and body went into rapid acceleration! The first thing I noticed was I didn't get tired anymore. All of a sudden I could wake up laser-focused at 4:30 a.m. and not feel the need for any rest until 10 p.m. Before this, I would have never really believed this was truly possible. This was quite different than what I typically experienced. I was used to having a foggy mind and a complete shutdown of my focus at least once a day.

Physically, I experienced something completely unimaginable with my training. I was pushing my body to lift heavier than I had in quite a while. I got back on a regimen of training 4 times a week with the CrossFit Central coaches as well as an additional workout on my own. I did yoga 3 to 4 times a week. I regained all the strength I had lost since Regionals last year. People thought I looked smaller but my weight didn't change one pound. It occurred to me that without all the acids in my body, my body could not be inflamed. In the minds of others this makes you "skinny." I actually starting seeing everybody else in a way I never noticed. People seemed to start looking puffy and tired to me.

All this gave me an entirely new perspective. Everything I thought I knew about being a vegan was bull. My conscious mind will never allow me to speak about anything with ignorance for the rest of my life. If I don't know the answer about how to help somebody, I will ensure that I find somebody else who can.

The plain and simple fact is that I don't know everything, and I will never again pretend like I do. What I know is valuable but it is only a very small amount relative to all there is to know and experience from what this world has to offer. Now when I think about vegetarians I think of one of the most fierce and powerful primates on earth...the Gorilla! Fitting, huh?

So, if you are still reading this, one of the questions you might be wondering is if I plan to stay a vegan for the long haul. Here is my answer...Hell No! I personally just love meat way too much to give it up entirely! I will say that now I will only consume it in small amounts so that my body will maintain optimal alkaline levels. Creating an environment of low acidity is the only way I believe my body and mind can function at their peak! However you decide to eat isn't of the least bit of importance to me but whatever you do...Happy Eating!


Lion Heart said...

love it!

Wendy Moore said...

This is so inspiring! Thanks for sharing your experience!

Wendy Moore said...

This is so inspiring! Thanks for sharing your experience!

dru said...

good stuff coach!

VickiB said...

Thanks so much for sharing that!

Alyson @ Nourished Fitness said...

Thank you for this! I did CrossFit for a couple months (actually there) and although there was a lot I loved about it, what I really didn't like was all the preaching about paleo. I strongly believe that there is no one right diet; everyone is different and find what works for you. Frankly the non-stop trash talking vegetarian/vegan diets is one of the things that led to me move on. Oh I should mention I'm not even vegetarian. Thanks again.. I know I'll be back to CrossFit at some point :-)

transformingtamara said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE IT!!!!! Spread the word!!!! (& I'll spread this post)!
Tamara of You.Naturally

sarah said...

I am so curious to learn more about your vegan experiment and continuing lifestyle. Are you eating any walnut or olive or avocado oils? Any legumes or rice? The reason I ask is because I'm curious how much you need to eat to feel satisfied if what you are eating is mostly veggies, fruits, and nuts.

What I have learned over the past year of experimenting with my own diet and exercise is that what worked for me 15 years ago does not work for me now, and hasn't been working for me since after giving birth to kids.

And against the advice of other very strong, healthy people, I am exercising less and eating more starchy carbs (root vegetables and wild rices), and I've lost a ton of weight and feel wonderful.

I am eagerly awaiting to hear how you feel six months from now, and even a year from now, as you continue to experiment with your nutrition.

sarah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mindy said...

A lot of people wouldn't bother trying this - they'd just keep on preaching what they've always preached, regardless of if they know it to be true, so I admire that you decided to put it to the test. And I am not surprised to find that you felt so great. I've been vegan for 4 years, and started CrossFit a few months ago. I haven't told anyone there that I'm vegan because I don't want to deal with any misconceptions...but I will say that I am one of the stronger women there, and am routinely asked how I can lift so much. :-) One of these days I might just "come out" as vegan. :-)

Diz Rivera said...

I found this article through a FB group for CrossFit Vegetarians and Vegans. (Mindy, you don't have to hide!)

Man, MG, I think your experiement was brave and enlightened. There is something about the evolving mind of humankind to shed ignorance that is completely inspiring to me. It speaks volumes about your character.

I've been vegan 9 years and CF'ing a year and a half. I've never hid it and my gym respects it. I just wrote an article for Breaking Muscle about how a lot of my gym mates secretly come to me for a more veggie diet. Haha. They're intersted in how it's done - and why do I always feel so fcking good when they don't!

Anyway, awesome post. Thanks so much for that.

Miyoko Schinner said...

So proud of your honesty! I want to share this with my box. I've been vegan for over 20 years and really believe this is the way to go for longevity (I'm in my mid-fifties). I really doubt you can gorge on meat and live a long, healthy life. I wish others in the CF community could have your level of honesty about what they know and don't know.

Chef Amber Shea said...

GOOD FOR YOU for giving veganism a truly fair shot! That's great that you've decided in the end to cut out a lot of the meat you were eating and load up on veggies instead, and that you've learned so much about alkalinity, energy, etc. in the process. Glad to hear it's made you feel so good! Keep up the great work.

FitRyan said...

Great for you Mike! I was a Paleo dieter,crossfitter, and bodybuilder. Meat was always my staple until I went on a Raw whole foods vegan cleanse...then I experienced everything you did. I am a convert now...whole food plant based. I don't eat bread and have very little grains. I check my pH everyday with pH strips from pHion.

William said...

It isn't accurate to classify a gorilla as a vegetarian. It has been known for a long time that gorillas eat the bugs and insects that are found on the vegetation. More recently, it has also been discovered that gorillas may in fact eat monkeys and other small animals on occasion ( Granted, the don't eat a lot of animal products, but that goes a long way in explaining their small brains compared to that of their cousin the chimpanzee and us humans. Animal fat for the win!

Miyoko Schinner said...

Small brain size...if animal protein computes to increased brain size, why aren't felines the smartest on the planet? Just wondering...

Unknown said...

Awesome Michael! Im Javier from Argentina and I have recently started CrossFit...I have been vegan for 5 years and when I asked if i was going to be able to do this training, everybody in CrossFit center laughed at me, even the HeadCoach said I was not going to generate any muscles and blablabla. And everyone says the same three firsts paragraphs you mention in this note. I have gone only one month, 20 classes...and I have to mention that some coaches are impressed by my performance giving my conditions. I hope people can open their mind, stop being ignorants and learn that vegan people can live and train (and as a personal opinion, better than they do, lol)
Thank you so much for sharing! I also practice yoga, stretching time during training its my favorite lol.

no one said...

Any chance you could post some sample menus?

Tatum Rebelle said...

Awesome! I have been struggling to make the switch. I appreciate you sharing your story. It's inspiring!