Need meat to meet your needs ?
We live in a meat-eating society, where a steak dinner or a juicy burger are favorite meals to be had. Burger joints are popping up around Toronto like Starbucks, and organic butchers are selling their slabs at every outdoor market and fine food store. With all the meat on the streets, however, there is a growing group of people who choose to avoid meat, for a multitude of reasons – ethical, economical, and nutritional.
Protein’s perk is its amino acid content; providing a complete source of all the essential amino acids. These building blocks do the repair and maintenance on that calorie-burning machine you inhabit. The more wear and tear you put on your body, the more critical a role protein plays. Athletes, in particular, require higher amounts to allow for quick recovery and adaptation. Aside from keeping tissue (muscle, skin, brain, organs) in tip-top shape, amino acids also provide a very useable form of energy for your brain. While carbohydrates are a quick energy source, protein provides a longer lasting, hormone-stabilizing form of fuel. To cut meat out of one’s diet can lead to a deficiency in repair, recovery, and energy, if not done correctly.
Scott Jurek, an ultra marathoner consumes between 5000 and 8000 calories per day, as Alex Hutchinson mentions in this morning’s Globe and Mail. To give you a calorie counting comparison, that’s about 4 times what an average (inactive) woman would eat in a day. It’s a LOT of food. Where protein would normally contribute about a third of those calories, Scott follows a vegan diet, making the majority of his calories carbohydrates and fat. The question is…how can someone as active as Scott be obtaining enough recovery fuel without eating any meat or fish??
Combining partial proteins is what vegans must do to obtain (close to) a complete protein. Examples of this are lentils and rice, chickpeas and barley…all very, very carbohydrate dense sources of partial protein. This may work for Scott who is running a few carbohydrate-burning marathons a week, but for most folks, it simply wouldn’t cut it, and you’ll be fattened and fatigued in no time. Deficiencies in iron, B-12, Zinc, and the Omega-3 DHA are common in vegans, as Hutchinson explains, because they are ONLY found in animal products. Marrying your ethical interests with your body’s energy interests can be trying at times. Before you abandon all animal sources, contemplate having some dairy every day to get your essential dose of amino acids.
Guzzling milk is not what I am referring to here…but cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, and whey protein can certainly contribute ample amounts of amino acids for those who choose not to have meat. Through these foods, you can get enough of the vitamins and minerals I mentioned above. Lack of iron will make you feel fatigued and lethargic, and an iron supplement can be difficult to digest.
And then don’t forget your greens (yet again, here come the greens) will also provide some of the iron and B vitamins that are important for energy production. Kale, collards, and beet greens are best bets for bitters, and will help with the recovery process by balancing the acidic load of lactic acid in muscles and blood.
Simply put If you remove your meat, boost up your dairy and your greens. Think about why you are avoiding meat and then ponder what you need to fill in its place. It can indeed be done well, but you must take the time to organize your fridge and your food to meet your needs without your meat.