- 7 Jun 2011
I’ve been a meat-eater my whole life. Red meat? Bring it on! I loved huge juicy steaks, and when I was traveling in Argentina, arguably the steak capital of the world, I had steak in some form for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
But a couple of months ago, I started seeing more articles and studies done on the fitness benefits of eating a vegetarian diet. A vegetarian diet has always been associated with better health and lower rates of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, adult onset diabetes, osteoporosis, and some forms of cancer.
However, it was only fairly recently that I came across these studies that suggested athletic performance can actually be improved with a vegetarian diet, which was surprising, since it’s usually easier to associate vegetarian with “weak and frail”. That being said, it’s not hard to find examples to the contrary—six time world Ironman Triathlon champion Dave Scott is a vegetarian, just to name one.
For the past two months, I’ve gradually switched over to a vegetarian diet as an “experiment”, and I’m beginning to be a convert to this theory. Last weekend, I ran an 8km road event and did just under 35 minutes, and I’ve never felt stronger. I now stand corrected. The good news is, it’s surprisingly easy to eat a good vegetarian diet, and here is a list of items that I always have in my fridge now:
This has got to be the absolute vegetarian protein staple. It’s great plant protein with very little fat and lowers bad cholesterol levels. It also takes on flavours in soups and stir-fry really well. While most “mock-meats” are made from some form of soy base, I would avoid these as they tend to be extremely processed and contain a ton of additives and sodium.
BEANS AND LEGUMES
These include chickpeas, lima beans, kidney beans, etc. etc. Most supermarkets sell ready-cooked canned versions, but I prefer to buy them uncooked in bulk, so I’m not eating tons of canned preservatives. Beans pack tons of fibre and are muscle-building and some studies have shown that they help burn fat too.
Oatmeal provides good complex carbohydrates and helps regulate blood-sugar levels. It’s also full of fibre so you feel satisfied longer and won’t be tempted to overeat.
SPINACH AND BROCCOLI
These veggies have loads of iron, as well as essential vitamins like A and D, as well as calcium. They also taste really great raw in salads.
Peanut butter boosts testosterone for muscle-building, and has loads of protein, magnesium and vitamin E. If possible, avoid the sugary versions and look out for all-natural, unsweetened peanut butter.
Whole-grains in the form of brown rice and whole-wheat bread and pasta can actually help prevent your body from storing fat, as opposed to the waistline-busting, overly processed forms of carbs like cakes and pastries that give carbs a bad name.
Eggs have the highest “biological value” of protein, a measure of how well it supports the body’s protein needs. This means that the protein in eggs is more efficient at building lean muscle than any other form of animal protein. If you’re concerned about cholesterol levels, you can simply cut out the yolks to make a great egg-white omelette.
Plain, nonfat Greek yogurt has long been the darling of fitness and nutrition. It also has a nice creamier texture than regular yogurt because the liquid whey has been strained out. Greek yogurt has almost twice the protein compared to regular yogurt, but with less fat, so the next time you’re making a smoothie, consider using Greek yogurt in the mix.
About the author:
Everest Girl is Jane Lee, who is seldom found stationary. She is an accomplished mountain-climber, having recently reached the summit of the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest. When she is not climbing her way around the world, Jane devotes an inordinate amount of time to training for her next climb, marathon, or adventure sport.
A serious endorphin addict, Jane ranks trail running high on her list of loves, and has pounded mud, sand, gravel and rocks on trails in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, and her staple favourite, MacRitchie Reservoir. Her favourite motto? “If you’re still standing, then you’re not done yet.”
For more of Jane’s articles, check out her Expert Profile page. http://www.insing.com/profiles/jane-lee/id-79b80000?page=1