Patrik Baboumian, a record breaking European strong man, once said:
The strongest animals are herbivores: gorillas, cattle, elephants and me.
Being the maverick that I am, I’ve done a bit of research on this and I understand that technically, the pound for pound strongest animal in the world is actually the dung beetle, lifting 1,141 times its own body weight.
Now if you want to go ahead and trial the culinary habits of a creature that enjoys a platter of fresh s#*t, then be my guest!.
However, I suppose I can give Patrik the benefit of the doubt because dung beetles are herbivores! Also, I have no intention of arguing with Patrik Baboumian!
As this is a food related article I’m not going to linger on the possibility of dung stew. If you’re happy to eat crap, that’s your prerogative.
Instead I will delve into the depths of Patrik Baboumian’s seemingly light hearted quote and question the often accepted notion that the consumption of meat makes human beings stronger, more powerful, more muscular and generally healthier.
It’s clear to me that as the power of social media bulges like Baboumian’s biceps, so does the profile of strong, fit, healthy plant-eaters; demonstrating that you do not need meat to be healthy.
Would going vegan be right for you?
To answer this truthfully, I suggest you consider these three questions:
- Can you eliminate meat completely and still achieve your goals?
- Will you become healthier by removing meat from your diet completely?
- Do you feel more satisfied by contributing to the wellness of animals than you do by the taste, convenience, cultural approval and possible nutritional benefits of meat?
1 – Can you eliminate meat and still achieve your goals?
Given the vast amount of examples out there, the answer to question is surely a categorical YES!
I can testify to this first-hand after holding pads for the British K-1 Heavyweight Champion, Aundre Groce (he’s vegan by the way):
The list of examples is a long one…
You want to be smart?
Srinivasa Ramanujan and Leonardo Da Vinci were both vegetarians. There are also a lot of examples of extremely smart minds who turned vegetarian in later life, maybe as they became wiser? Albert Einstein, Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison are all amongst this list.
You want to be able to endure?
Look up the two-time Canadian 50km Ultra Marathon Champion Brendan Brazier, women’s Ultraman World champion Hillary Biscay and Scott Jurek, who is considered to be the greatest ultra-marathon runner of all time.
You want to be a sports star?
Check out Martina Navratilova, the Czech-born US tennis player who won 59 Grand Slam titles and was the second player in modern tennis to win 1,000 matches; as well as former UFC Champion Nick Diaz and World Champion figure skater Meagan Duhamel.
Business Insider also provides a list of extremely successful current sports stars that have made the switch to becoming vegan in their article: “These 14 elite athletes are vegan” – some of these will surprise you!
You want to be strong?
Some of the people listed are vegetarian but most of them are vegan.
Given the vast amount of examples, there is no doubt in my mind that you can achieve simply breathtaking results and operate at the top of your game without eating meat.
What are your thoughts?
2 – Will you become healthier by cutting out meat?
Now let me give you an insight into my simple mind when answering this question…
Firstly, your body doesn’t care what you’re consuming; it only cares about what it can use to keep you alive. As long as you consume enough nutrients, in the right proportions, whilst avoiding toxins, you can chow down on a fine platter of herbivore dung for all your body cares!
Secondly, if you were stranded in a deserted jungle, eating meat (including fish) would keep you alive for longer! Fact!
Meat keeps you alive for longer! That’s me convinced! However, my simplistic mind is open to challenge (as long as it’s not a physical challenge from Patrik Baboumian or Aundre Groce)!
Our bodies are smarter and much more resourceful than we give them credit for. If we overindulge or consume substances that our bodies do not approve of, we will know about it! Pain (e.g. hangovers), lethargy (e.g. a sugar crash) or immobility (e.g. eating too much) are just a few examples of stimuli that tell you to stop! So those of you testing out the dung beetle diet – if you’re sick after a serving of dung, your body probably doesn’t want it!
Due to the reasons above, I don’t necessarily believe that you become healthier by eliminating meat from your diet; however, I am not going to pretend I am a professor in dietetics.
I bow to the better judgement of experts in our community – here’s looking at you guys. If you are a dietitian willing to put your head above the parapet and explain the verdict on cutting meat for health reasons – I challenge you my liege!
If you cut meat from your diet you’re actually going to lose some vital nutrients, vitamins and minerals; including: fats, proteins, cholesterol, potassium (depending on the meat), iron, magnesium, zinc and vitamins B2, B6, B12 and E.
If you are going to stop eating meat you need to replace those nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
Well, with today’s technology you can find the nutritional breakdown of pretty much any type of meat that you are cutting from your diet. Just some resources that will help you are:
- myfitnesspal – App that tracks your food intake through a diary, along with exercise and hydration. It breaks food down into nutritional values. You can even scan barcodes to make sure the nutritional values are accurate!
- Google search – Google provides nutritional facts and daily percentage intake values of different types of foods.
- SELFNutritionData – Website that provides nutritional facts for almost all foods.
- Nutrition Value – Another website that can be used to compare nutritional facts obtained from other sources.
It is then up to you to find foods that replace lost nutrients (you can use the same resources).
For example, avocados are about 77% fat, by calories, making them higher in fat than most animal foods. You can get 20g of protein from one cup of whole almonds (143g), which is just 10g less one chicken breast (3.5 oz).
Don’t just leave this to science; see how you feel when you play around with your nutritional intake. Do you feel more lethargic during the day if you don’t consume enough iron? Do you feel less bloated and more agile when you’ve have a salad? Are you losing muscle like a deflating balloon?
Answer these questions honestly and make sure that the answers align with the lifestyle you want to create.
One of my favourite quotes is:
I don’t diet; I just eat according to my goals.
I don’t know who said it but it’s a good one none the less!
3 – What is your ethical standpoint?
Do you feel more satisfied by contributing to the wellness of animals than you do by the taste, convenience, cultural approval and apparent nutritional benefits of meat?
Vegetarians (as opposed to vegans) don’t seem to struggle as much for convenience, taste and nutrition; although, a vegetarian’s ethical philosophy can be questioned if they eat eggs and dairy products (where calves are separated from their mothers at birth so humans can forcefully extract milk for consumption).
Take a look at here our article Modern Diets Explained .
Veganism seems to be the diet for the ethically driven consumer; however, convenience, cultural barriers and access to nutrients in vegan form are, in my opinion, the three major reasons why many people do not chose a vegan lifestyle.
I have a friend (yes a real friend!) who, after being vegetarian for many years, made the “subtle” move to becoming an entirely plant based vegan; although, the move didn’t turn out to be so subtle!
Becoming vegan in the Black Country (central England) is like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson transitioning from a wrestling icon to film superstar… In Bollywood! He could do the job but the options just aren’t available!
My friend is also a very sociable person who likes to eat out with his family. This, I believe is the toughest task of all for vegans in our locality.
Sticking with movie analogies – eating out in the Black Country is the equivalent of going to the cinemas where every movie, apart from one, is a horror film: “Honey I slaughtered the cows – Parts 1 to 9.” The movie that is not a horror, is a romance: “Honey – I love you.”
If you’re not fond of slaughter, and romance leaves a sickly taste in your mouth, you’re just going to have to sit in the corner and wait for the others to indulge – like a vegan in a Black Country restaurant!
It is also socially difficult for people turning vegan in a “tough, salt of the earth” kind of place; especially for men.
A man already has to be pretty masculine to avoid the stigma of a “feeble grass eater;” especially in an area like the Black Country where men eat from the bone and run through brick walls. Ridiculous I know, but it’s very real in some areas.
I’ve never been to Texas so I can’t speak for their culture but I get the impression that if you’re not bucking horses and visiting the steakhouse every day “ya ain’t nothin’ but a yellow-bellied, sapsucking coward” (name the film).
Hopefully some of the male icons mentioned in this article (and there are many more on the internet) will be enough to prove that there is nothing unmanly about retiring from meat! You just try holding the pads for this man!
There is no doubt that restricted options, lack of convenience and social barriers pose hard obstacles to conquer when you’re trying to go vegan in an environment which is heavily meat dependent; however, it is getting easier!
If you are serious about turning vegan you will find a way!
Firstly, if social meals are your thing, you can take charge by getting involved in our Friends and Family Feast Challenge (#FFF).
Secondly, options are available if you look hard enough! According to people who have been there and done it, all you need is a better education.
It was interesting to hear Aundre Groce’s opinion on this when we spoke to him during an episode of the Black Country Buddhas. Did you know you can even get cashew cheese now!?
So if you’re serious enough fulfilling your ethical obligations, all you need is dedication and education!
Taste and convenience can be achieved if you just know where to look!
There will always be the counter argument of: “meat helps you to achieve your goals in a quicker and more efficient way.”
Is this true?
Well, again, I’m no dietitian so I am hoping one of our members will take up the challenge – over to you again my dietitian friends!
Would going veggie be right for you?
So, what are your answers to those 3 questions?
My honest answers to the first two questions are:
- Yes, you can certainly achieve your goals without consuming meat.
- No, you won’t necessarily become healthier by cutting meat out of your diet but it will not affect your health in a negative manner if you consume nutritional alternatives.
Question number 3 is the biggie! It is the crux of this article and is a decision that is entirely yours!
There is no scientific or well-calculated analytical answer. It is one that is driven from your heart, your beliefs and your values!
I’m not trying to persuade you either way, I’m just trying to help you make your own informed decisions.
It is clear that you can achieve your goals, take care of yourself and contribute to the wellness of animals by abstaining from meat; you just have to overcome the barriers of flavour, convenience, culture and nutrition by finding suitable alternatives.