WAYNE CREED: 96% Vegan, 2% Vegetarian, 2% Cheater
By WAYNE CREED
Cape Charles Wave Columnist
June 8, 2015
May was International Respect for Chickens Month, a short time when, I hoped, maybe a few would stop and see chickens (actually all animals) as someone, not something. Unfortunately, it seemed that everywhere I looked, there was some kind of poultry sale going on, from Food Lion to KFC to Popeyes, and Burger King even went big with its “chicken fries” campaign. It also seemed some of the foodie sites and magazines were abnormally meat heavy. My good buddy Karen Gay of the Wave’s “Alternative Table” even ran a story May 4 (Respect Chicken Day) promoting eating animals as a way to lose weight and be “healthy.”
Of course, people are free to make their own choices and eat what they want. This is America, and with Memorial Day and picnics and grilling season and all that, I guess this was to be expected.
That said, what kind of rubs many vegans the wrong way is that the subtext of this “meat-eater”-centric narrative implies that those who choose a plant power based lifestyle are somehow this odd group of stringy haired, Birkenstock wearing weaklings (adorned in unfashionable socks that hide neglected toenails), lost waifs, emaciated, and vulnerable wisps, wasting away and ready to be blown away by the wind. Truth: not only can you succeed athletically on a plant-based diet, it is the way to clean out, balance, and increase performance in every part of your of life.
Ultraman Race top finisher Rich Roll (Ultraman is a 10 K open ocean swim, a 261.4 mile cross-country bike ride, and a 52.4 mile ultra-marathon), Triathletes Brendan Brazier, Hillary Biscay, and Scott Jurek (Ultramarathoner) have proven that vegans can compete at the top levels of endurance sport. MMA/UFC fighters like Mac Danzig and Jake Shields are also athletes that use a plant based diet. This tennis season, take a few moments to watch the Wimbledon, French, or US Opens, and see how well the beautiful Serena Williams performs (arguably the most dominant athlete in her sport). After injuries, illness, fatigue, and trouble with muscle recovery, both Williams sisters switched to a plant based diet. (Venus went plant based after being diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome.) Serena, after going vegan, won her fifth US Open title.
CONTINUED FROM FIRST PAGE
I do not want to go into the complex nature of plant based nutrition, and why a nutrient rich, plant based diet is optimal for normal energy, endurance, and mental clarity; Brenda Brazier’s book Thrive covers this topic in detail. But I would like to address some of the biggest nutrition myths — mainly that meat and dairy is the best way to obtain dietary protein, and that it is necessary for a healthy, happy, body. Much of this misinformation comes from lobbyists that push animal products or from proponents of fad, “get rich quick” diets — say it enough times and it becomes truth. Protein is indeed critical, necessary for building muscle, repairing stressed muscles, and other things. The question is, does it matter whether you get it from a cow or chicken, or from a plant based diet? Moreover, how much is really enough:
• Adult men need about 56 grams of protein a day.
• Adult women need about 46 grams a day (more if pregnant).
According to AminoAcid-study.com, “Twenty percent of the human body is made up of protein. Protein plays a crucial role in almost all biological processes and amino acids are the building blocks of it. A large proportion of our cells, muscles and tissue is made up of amino acids, meaning they carry out many important bodily functions, such as giving cells their structure. They also play a key role in the transport and the storage of nutrients. Amino acids have an influence on the function of organs, glands, tendons and arteries. They are furthermore essential for healing wounds and repairing tissue, especially in the muscles, bones, skin and hair as well as for the removal of all kinds of waste deposits produced in connection with the metabolism.” Protein is made up of 20 amino acids — 11 can be synthesized by the body; the last nine (essential amino acids) must be obtained from food.
Even if you get these last nine essential amino acids from meat, they are actually synthesized by plants first, and eventually make it into meat and dairy products after animals have eaten those plants. Plant protein is, however, absorbed by the body differently than meat protein. As such, a whole food centric vegan diet made up of nuts, seeds, vegetables, legumes (black bean, fava, black-eyed peas, etc.) and grains (sprouted) will provide all the protein most bodies need while avoiding saturated fat and higher levels of casein.
There is nothing to indicate that a person that ingests higher levels of protein (more than the RDA-advised 10 percent of daily calories) will obtain leaner muscle growth, or even have improvements in muscle repair. Overdoing it with animal protein to achieve those goals may even wind up being detrimental, as excess can wind up stored as fat cells. The vegan saying, “Don’t ask me about my protein and I won’t ask about your cholesterol” rings true here.
Vitamin B-12 is the one thing the vegan diet can never provide, since it is synthesized in the body via the consumption of animal products. This vitamin is critical to the health of red blood cells, circulatory, immune, and central nervous systems, and helps the body convert food into energy. Without it, pernicious anemia can occur. So, how does a person on a plant based diet avoid this deficiency? Enter Methylcobalamin, a form of vitamin B12, which is used as a supplement to treat people with B-12 deficiencies. Most people, no matter what they eat, generally don’t get enough B-12. The good news is Methylcobalamin is readily available in pill form, and also in sprays. Sprays are the recommended delivery method, allowing the vitamin B12 to enter the bloodstream more efficiently.
B-12 tip: delicious products such as nutritional yeast, as well as fermented vegetables, are packed with B-12. Nutritional yeast is also an excellent protein source.
Going back to my athletic days, I have always been a big believer in supplements, and even now (96% vegan, 2% vegetarian, 2% cheater), some of the shakes and multi-vitamins I take along with my regular diet are, without promoting specific brands, fantastic.
Also, as Rich Roll likes to remind us, the elephant, rhino, hippo, and gorilla, some of the strongest and fiercest animals in the world, are all plant based. A mature gray back gorilla will certainly provide you with a thorough butt whipping anytime you desire one. (However, a plant based diet does not guarantee a happy go lucky outlook, as 2,900 people a year are killed by those moody hippos.)
Although a major benefit of the vegan diet is a clean, healthy lifestyle, the optimal way to lose fat and build lean muscle, as well as adding strength and clarity, at its core it is about abandoning an animal-centric diet and no longer being party to the cruelty and abuse that is woven into the fabric of all animal production. Some will try to draw a dichotomy between industrialized CAFOs and the family farm, but I believe this is another myth created by the proponents of supposed “organic” or “humane”- labeled boutique products from “family farms.” There is no humane way to slaughter an animal for food. The cruelty and horror is the same whether the animal lives in a pasture or a pen.
While there may be some egg laying hens living on small farms, at the hatchery their brothers were brutally murdered (the egg laying business doesn’t have much use for “unproductive” male chicks). Although many may want to romanticize these smaller egg laying operations, in many cases the film Chicken Run is closer to the reality.
Not only is eating meat making Americans unhealthy, overweight, and unhappy, the industry (all levels) is stressing the environment — polluting streams and ground water, ravaging forested lands, filling the atmosphere with methane gases.
As was noted by Malorie Macklan of “One Green Planet,” the global population is estimated to reach 9 billion by 2050; the overall demand will put increased pressure on the environment “to provide enough water, space, plant nutrients, and ideal climate to produce more food.”
Animal agriculture still dominates the world food market. Over 50% of land is either dedicated to livestock, or for growing grain to feed livestock. With close to 70% of freshwater resources being directed to agriculture, one third of this is used for growing feed.
With the population pressing forward, increasing animal production to meet those needs will be putting extreme pressure on the environment, and inherent limitations render this scenario utterly unsustainable. However, according to “One Green Planet'” on one acre of land needed to produce 250 pounds of beef, we could grow 50,000 pounds of tomatoes, 53,000 pounds of potatoes, or 30,000 pounds of carrots. By adopting a plant based diet, a person could save 100,000 gallons of water and reduce their carbon footprint by half. Grain production, if redirected, could feed over 1 billion people.
With summer here, the ritual of burgers on the backyard grill is a hard thing to give up. I get that. I’m not much of fan of soy or pea based fake meat (it kind of grosses me out), but if you must grill, I guess that’s an option. Or, just start the fire, and instead of steak maybe grill some corn from Schockley farms, a sweet potato, have a colorful salad and a pagan bowl of beans (black, fava, and lentils), hemp seeds, spirulina, and spinach all on a cool bed of quinoa. Okay, it may never truly replace Ruth’s Chris, but nobody ever said saving the planet (and yourself) would be easy.