Get creative with a no meat lifestyle!
Get creative with a no meat lifestyle!
By Myprotein Writer Timothy Mobbs
For nearly twenty-four years I was a proud carnivore and, like most, fully believed that vegetarianism equated to fainting in the supermarket or having the physique that could be best described as “lacking.”
…And this was even before I developed a passion for strength training. You can only imagine how I felt after immersing myself in the world of bodybuilding.
We tend to think of meat and protein as two inseparables and, while I don’t dispute it’s nutritional value and its reputation as the classic staple of a bodybuilding diet, it isn’t your only option.
You only need to look at vegan bodybuilders like Robert Cheeke or 78-year-old Vegan bodybuilder Jim Morris to realise that being meat (and dairy) free doesn’t mean you are condemned to having no muscle.
Abstaining from meat was initially supposed to be a way of forcing myself to be creative in the kitchen and to eat a more varied diet.
What I was really craving, though, was salt and – above all – convenience.
The laziness in me manifested itself in the form of spaghetti bolognaise, burgers and pepperoni pizza in an endless cycle – now I make my own nutritious, less-fattening versions that are still incredibly tasty!
Becoming disciplined, preparing my meals in advance and overcoming my psychological dependence gave my diet and overall well being a much needed boost.
Mind over matter, as they say.
I, like the vast majority of people, feel uncomfortable with the idea of animal cruelty, and yet I was alarmingly adept at placing what I perceived to be my nutritional “need” above the grim reality of factory farming.
However, my ethics aren’t necessarily relevant to the point I’m trying to make here, so I’ll save the eco-warrior spiel.
My “needs” were – as most lifestyle choices are – simply “wants”.
Every smoker “needs” nicotine and every alcoholic “needs” a nip of whiskey to get out of bed in the morning. I wasn’t addicted to meat, really, but to salt and convenience.
Whether you eat meat or not, your diet doesn’t have to be restrictive or repetitive. I was willing to experiment, put the time in and cut myself off from temptation and routine and, as a result, I became a much better cook, a stronger athlete and a more responsible and stable person.
Certain dietary requirements are associated with strength training, like getting enough protein – so it is indisputably less straightforward for me to hit my daily goals.
But then that challenge is what makes it fun for me.
Protein is the main talk in the fitness world – and I get plenty from foods like soy, beans, quinoa and nuts, to name a few!
Some people also forget that on top of no-meat protein foods, vegetarians can still consume protein powders, supplements, meal replacements, etc! Even if you’re a Vegan there are Vegan protein powders available – Blends, Soy protein, Pea protein, Hemp protein, Rice protein etc!
If you’re still not sure I’ll happily make you some vegan protein balls for some handy, healthy snacks – it will most definitely win you over.
I do still love the taste of meat, but I feel like we as a society don’t even consider it to be a luxury any more. That is, considering the rate that we are using animals, an unsustainable mentality.
It is a luxury that we should respect if we partake, and I consider the fleeting pleasure of how a cheeseburger tastes akin to taking a drag on a cigarette.
It’s ultimately far less satisfying than achieving long term goals, or even something as tangible as the euphoric afterglow of a good workout.
That’s not to say the food I eat now is joyless, which is a popular misconception about going meat free.
My plate is packed with colourful and fresh produce and my energy levels have never been better. You don’t even have to search far and wide to get the right foods:
Products from Quorn and Alpro are readily available in supermarkets. It didn’t take a lot of work but it helped me shift about 30 pounds of excess chub.
Vegetarian meal prep
Just like any other meal prep – I get an incredible sense of pride from weighing, preparing and keeping track of my food, usually the night before.
Since becoming meat-free I have made more of a conscious effort to prep my meals as the majority of pre-packed food choice contains meat. It may seem like too much effort – but it is beneficial to say the least.
It led me to experiment with foods I’d never tried before which are incredibly tasty and particularly healthy! No-meat protein foods, healthy snacks etc…
While it might appear to border on obsessive, I really do not miss the feeling of being late for work, quickly devouring some insubstantial cereal and then having to pick up a nutritionally void meal deal from the supermarket for lunch.
Being organised to the letter has arguably been the biggest improvement to my lifestyle in the last six months (even more than learning how to squat properly!)
Where I previously thought that I simply didn’t have the time, I am always surprised to find that being prepared with healthy meals and healthy snacks seems to provide me with more freedom.
Exercise and food diary
As with any diet, keeping a diary and tracking workouts and meals works well and makes my decisions to eat vegetarian meals and vegetarian snacks more accountable – it’s just something I wanted to add in!
I don’t want to have to look at yesterday’s entry, for example, and feel like a chump for eating three Mars bars.
There’s no need to be a monk about it (that’ll only send you running back to the drive through faster) but once you’ve made that leap you’ll be surprised by how easy it is once you get going.
Most importantly, you’ll enjoy it!
You’ll probably really notice then when you inevitably get dragged along somewhere with family or friends where you have to cheat. Nothing demonstrates those positive changes like realising that your old favourite protein foods taste like a wedge of cardboard to you now.
Take home message
Substitute meat with any kind of lifestyle choice, or even something more abstract such as spending your time more productively – and the lesson is universal.
I would never look back from going meat free but everyone requires a different approach if they want to achieve their goals in the long term – moving in a positive direction will ultimately provide you with the mental fuel to make those changes stick and, best of all, it will never feel like a compromise!