I am a vegetarian. I eat mostly vegan but I am not a hardcore selective vegan that consciously chooses to eat that way. Therefore, I am able to eat some cheese or eggs every now and again without remorse. I once went completely vegan for about 6 months, about 5 years ago but I could not stay away from cheese. I love cheese. After going back and forth on the decision, in 2010 I gave in and became what is known as a lacto-ovo vegetarian. This of course means the only animal protein I eat is from eggs and dairy.
That being said, I still do not drink dairy milk. I grew to prefer milk alternatives, my current favorite being cashew milk. It is delicious, go try some… go ahead, I will wait…. Ok, so you tried it and it is amazing right? I digress. So after all that, for the five years I have been a vegan who eats some eggs and cheese.
The funny thing about all of this is that I am a 250 pound weightlifter and marathon runner. You read that correctly, I weigh about as much as 2 nutrition students put together. I pick up heavy objects, put them back down and then repeat said action over-and-over. I also go outside and run for very long periods of time, often up to 26 miles. And I do all of this, at my size, as a vegetarian, with no issues (aside from knee pain which stems from a career in the US Marine Corps).
This semester my Sports Performance class requires that I do a research paper on a nutrition topic chosen from a given list, I felt it was a no-brainer that I select vegan eating for athletes. My research paper will focus on whether or not vegan athletes can get enough essential amino acids from their diet to support existing muscle mass and encourage new muscle growth. I plan to share the research through a series of blog posts, this being part one: the background and hypothesis. Part two will be an in-depth look at the research and a general review on how the process is coming along. In the third part I will discuss my findings and conclusion. I will also discuss how I plan to apply the results to my own nutrition as I move forward in my half marathon training.
The hypothesis that I settled on is; “Without animal based protein sources, vegan athletes will be able to attain muscle building protein synthesis through careful planning and utilization of plant based proteins and the pairing complementary proteins together throughout the day. ”My logic, in forming the hypothesis comes not from research or experiments, but simply by evaluating past experience in my own life. As I mentioned, this arena is one that I have dabbled in for about 5 years now, so I feel confident that the research will support my hypothesis.
So, the ago old battle rages on- omnivore vs. herbivores (a.k.a. plant-heads, like me). The argument from many omnivores is that there is no way a vegetarian or vegan could ever get enough quality protein in their diet to live, none the less to perform at a high athletic level. I am excited to provide a counter argument, from a unique perspective of having lived the lifestyle of both. Ultimately, through some research, a little science, hopefully a dash of humor mixed in to keep you awake after reading a bunch of science, and of course a little backstory every so often to show my relation to the topic in a real world setting, I may shed some light on what it takes to be a vegan/vegetarian in general. Of course, going into this, I have my biases but at the end of the day, I am going to let the research lead me wherever it is going to lead me and share that process with you as transparently as I can.