Monday, February 22, 2010

Considering a switch to a vegetarian or quasi-vegetarian diet

I've wondered about this off and on. Not because I am a member of PETA, in fact I find them to be off the charts crazy. But, I still do not completely trust myself tho keep the 50 pounds off that I have lost since New Years Day 2008. I like a good grilled chicken and steak as much as the next person, but often feel iffy a couple of hours afterwards. The iffyness or whatever feeling rarely happens after eating a meal consisting of grains and vegetables. I pay more for whole grain bread because quite frankly I find it better tasting and healthier. Unless I eat too much pasta the night before a long run or race, I only feel bloated after eating meals with meat, red meat in particular.

So that makes me wonder if I should try a vegetarian diet once I clean out everything in my freezer. Over the last few years I have developed a new, strong appreciation for vegetables. Not only do they make me healthier, but I can do a lot of mixing with vegetables and come up with new surprises. On top of that, sometimes I feel more energized after eating a vegetable-based lunch or salad, not drained like my beloved steak often does to me. Especially if this will help me even more with my running and my newest weight loss goal of ten more pounds without sacrificing lean muscle, I'm thinking of jumping on at least the quasi-vegetarian train. It worked wonders for the Atlanta Falcons' Tony Gonzalez. Will it work for me? Will I even get to the train station?

My first thought is to clean the freezer contents over the next 12 days before I move, and/or grill the meats at my new place. Maybe have an impromptu cookout of sorts. All this before I even think about going through with this. My second thought is to work towards a quasi-vegetarian diet, keeping fish as a staple, or even re-allocating the meat part of my diet partially to fish, for the protein. Cut meat out gradually. Phase it out, perhaps by working my way through all the soups I have (I don't like wasting food in case you can't tell). A little less each week, with July 4 as an unofficial target date to be totally aboard.

Another variable thrown in to this mix, especially concerning energy and strength. Many have advised me that this transition is very rough at first. Tony Gonzalez alludes to this in the article I linked to. I ain't kidding myself, I'm 35, am never going pro in anything, but I would like to lose a little more weight and being able to recover from long runs more quickly. But my concern about a loss of strengh is this: I don't want to be stuck 6-8 miles from a Metro station because out of nowhere I am too weak to finish a weekend long run but can't trace it to any illness or cramping.

I am running three marathons this calendar year, in late May, early October, and mid November. I feel I'm behind on my Vermont training, but if I decide to go forward with this, I'll start the transition while I train for May's race. I want to feel more energized and healthy, so if this quasi-vegetarian thing works I'll be able to rachet up my training for Twin Cities and Richmond. If this diet will help me recover from runs more quickly, I'm sold. I don't have a problem with recovery but am always looking for ways to improve.

Has anyone out there tried to move from a carnivore/balanced diet to a mostly vegetarian one? How much or how little transition time do you recommend I take? Do I need to be concerned with crashing during a training run four weeks out from the May marathon? How many extra B-12 pills will I need to take each day to stay energized at first (right now I take one and a separate B complex)? It's already going to make me fork over more cash for additional salads, will I need more for protein bars too? What about soy milk? Well I think I can handle and enjoy that. Or do people recommend I quit meat cold turkey? I'll need to research some iron-rich foods to double up on for blood donation days.

The first step, converting my Diet to Go lunch plan from Traditional to Low Fat / Vegetarian. Wish me luck.