The benefits of giving up meat and going vegetarian for a week

I've been a meat eater for forever. I grew up in Dad's restaurant in Chicago, and until I was 21 I ordered one of two things: bbq baby back pork ribs or a massive steak. Post-university, my taste buds changed, and I learned to mix in our slippery friends from the ocean.

In 2018, I've seesawed and chosen to eat more fish, less meat – that's been my choice, and it works for my body. Tomorrow, the seesaw tilts again, as I've decided to go full vegetarian.

For a few reasons.

The why

We certainly live in a world that needs less meat and bacon consumption, replaced with more fruit and vegetable intake. Per Roy Morgan Research "between 2012 and 2016, the number of Australian adults whose diet is all or almost all vegetarian has risen from 1.7 million people (or 9.7 per cent of the population) to almost 2.1 million (11.2 per cent)."

That means every week, 2000 Aussies are deciding to make the green switch. A slight trend? Nah, it's a growing, worldwide movement.

Is it healthy

Yes. Studies show that plant-based dieters are less obese and are more likely to avoid the chronic illnesses that complement belly chub. The common misconception is "no meat? I'll be starving." Yet fruit and vegetables are full of fibre – making one feel fuller for longer. Most Australians don't receive as much fibre as they should, approximated at a 25 per cent shortfall daily.

The fitness

Food is energy, and if I go without protein I worry a tad about energy deficiencies. My plan is not to deviate from last week's meat-exercise plan. I'll run with my clients on the road and up the stairs, and for my home workouts I'll perform HIIT sessions that combine cardio elements with weight bearing movements.

Concerning performance and obtaining a solid workout, vegetarians need not worry. Numerous studies have been performed that conclude a vegetarian diet does not decrease performance. And I'm not a professional athlete, so there's no stress in thinking I'll drop the ball at the try line, it's just some exercise for body composition and weight maintenance.

The protein

Going meat free, I'll up the intake of lentils, quinoa, chia seeds, nuts, chickpeas and other beans, oats, along with that ghost-meat substance called tofu. I'm on the hunt for pea protein so I can guarantee my daily protein needs are met.


The nutrients

Quick research shows that vegetarians need zinc (boosts the immune system) and iron (component of haemoglobin – substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body). Legumes, nuts, and seeds will definitely be in my shopping cart to make sure these nutrients are plentiful.

The risks

The risk is missing a succulent, luscious steak and crispy skinned salmon. The risk is replacing it with junk. Ever see an overweight vegetarian and think "Huh? How can that be?" Well, it's possible because vegetarians can still load up on cheese, pasta, potato chips, fizzy drinks, and sweets that are full of sugar. Add poor portion control, and weight can stack on like any carnivore-omnivore.

My trial

I start tomorrow, and I'll go a full week as a vegetarian. It doesn't sound like much, but for my existence and upbringing, this is huge, overnight lifestyle change. I refuse to go full-Bondi-yoga-barre while walking around half the day in active wear sipping a kale smoothie. I'm simply experimenting with an altered menu with the same fitness regime.

It's peculiar how we've shaped a polarising world where a caveman steak eater is frowned upon by veggie eating plant lover and vice versa. Memes galore poke fun at greenies with gems like "becoming vegetarian is a big missed steak." Yet somebody smarter than all of us (Einstein) once penned "nothing will benefit health or increase chances of survival on earth as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."

Goodbye cow and pig, my trusted friends, you're about to be replaced with broccoli fillet and hummus. I start tomorrow, and you can check out this column next week to see the results. If you see me later this week in Sydney's CBD in the breakfast roll queue, you'll know the main reason I couldn't stay vegetarian was the smell of bacon. Pure and simple.

Passion for lifestyle change is the cornerstone for everything Michael Jarosky does. A Sydney-based personal trainer, he cajoled thousands of Executive Style readers to undertake his "Cut The BS" diet, and champions a charity weight-loss event, Droptober.

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