I mentioned in my first blog post that I grew up eating (mostly) raw horse meat and I used to love it. So how exactly did I go vegan?
Let’s go back a little, it’s almost the end of 2013, I just came back from a BASE jumping event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and I went for a hike in the snow—we were going for a BASE jump—with two friends. Unfortunately, after approximately six hours of hiking, my left knee decided to abandon me. It simply stopped working. So I had to call REGA—the Swiss helicopter rescue—and get flown to the hospital in Locarno to check what was wrong with my knee.
For the next 2 weeks I was at home with crutches, icepacks and nothing to do.
So I decide to star experimenting some different diets. I started with a raw diet, which still included meat—horse and beef—and fish—salmon and tuna. Of course I then added tons of vegetables, salads, seeds, nuts, etc.
Since meat and fish had to be absolutely fresh or frozen below -18°C for at least 24 hours before you could eat them raw—this should already be a sign that “maybe” the human body is not really built to consume these sources of food—I kind of dropped this idea of a raw diet as it simply wasn’t practical.
Let’s pause for a second: if at that time you asked me the difference between carbs, a hot air balloon, proteins and a chair, I would stare at you for a few seconds with a Homer Simpson look on my face. I seriously knew nothing about nutrition.
Since I was only eating meat—imagine again the Homer Simpson look: if you put in front of me a piece of dead pig, dead chicken, dead cow or dead horse, I could just not tell you the difference—and very little of anything else, I decided to challenge myself by trying to remove meat completely from my diet. Nice try… I increased dramatically the consumption of cheese and eggs. We’re the only mammal on the planet that consumes milk—another animal’s milk—in adult life… we’re weird. On and off—I still ate meat or fish occasionally—I managed to stick to a vegetarian diet for a few years. What happened next? Well, I did my research and I learned what impact meat and dairy production have on the environment—all of the world’s transportation combined has a lower impact than animal agriculture, let that sink for a second—and to the billions of animals that have to pay with their lives each year just for our pleasure. On top of that, the men and women who have to do the dirty job of torturing, mistreating and killing those animals for me (and you) have a pretty shit life too.
The amount of farmers who are now finding alternatives switching from animal farming to plants is simply outstanding.
Another pretty gross point: 80% of the world’s antibiotics are produced and used for farm animals. This is causing meat eaters to become immune to antibiotics, which means that each time you will need a much stronger antibiotic when sick. This unfortunately applies to vegetables as well, since pesticides are no longer effective in most areas and antibiotics are also used there. Consider eating bio veggies and fruits when possible.
Yes, the world is a pretty fucked up place if you ask me.
Food is fuel, nothing more. I can still enjoy a great conversation over a healthy meal with friends—I simply don’t let the food be my source of entertainment. I enjoy the food I eat, but I enjoy the rest of my life, too.Joshua Fields Millburn
So, this is the ethical and environmental point of view. What about the health point of view?
Like it or not—this is science, not religion—there are enough studies to prove that dairy, eggs and meat are the most unhealthy source of macro and micronutrients possible.
I often get told:
– But humans have always eaten meat.
Nice try…, but this is partly true. Humans evolved from being nomads and going where they could find food—plants or animals to be hunted—to being more stationary when they realised they could put a fence around an animal instead of running and hunting all day long. So it became an easier way of survival. Let’s repeat this word again all together: survival. One more time: S U R V I V A L. Do we still need to survive? Nope. We have a house, heating, clothes and any possible source of healthy food available for us. Why do we consume meat and dairy? Because we’ve been brainwashed. A baby lion will try to kill a rabbit, a baby human would try to play with the rabbit.
So, we’re not built to kill and eat an animal using our bare hands and our teeth—but we have canines! Yeah, try pulling off meat with your mouth from a road kill. I’ll stick to carrots and hummus.
I ended up buying two books:
– Finding Ultra. Rich Roll
– Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness. Scott Jurek
Rich Roll and Scott Jurek are two of the best endurance athletes on the planet and they both live on a plant based diet.
Rich Roll was an overweight alcoholic until his mid thirties, then got into running, vegetarian diet, junk vegan diet and finally a healthy vegan diet.
More on his life and incredible achievements on his website.
Scott Jurek has always been an athlete and grew up like a real American kid: here’s a gun, go and kill animals. Until this day, he has no problem killing an animal—most “meat lovers” would never do that—or fish. The reason he converted to a plant based diet was very simple: he trained as hard as he could, but always arrived second. Always. He said that there was absolutely no way to train more and kept hitting his head on a wall trying to figure out a way to finally win a race. He went vegan. Guess what? He started winning and setting World Records.
More about Scott on his website.
You can also read more about Rich and Scott in their books—mentioned above—which are very interesting and also a good source of training motivation, even if you love meat.
On the other hand, there are insanely performant athletes like Ross Edgley who still consume an immense quantity of meat, dairy and eggs and still perform extremely well. At the end we’re all different.
His approach to food, training, etc. differs from most fitness “experts”. He has some super interesting stories about some remote tribes basically living on a alcohol and meat diet and still performing like no others in their sixties.
I’m currently still reading his book—The World’s Fittest Book—and it’s actually a super interesting read. I will for sure re-read it a couple of times.
What about me? Well, first of all I’m not an athlete—only on Facebook and Instagram since they still haven’t found a better noun to describe plant based couch potatoes like me—but I did take part to a couple of runs and events where a healthier diet—on top of a better training: check out my post back to the basics—would have helped for sure.
So I used myself for some experiments. I trained after a few cheat meals and I trained after a few healthy vegan meals. I did notice a significant difference in performance—especially if I also did or did not consume alcohol the night before—so from my point of view I do feel better when I stick to a plant based diet.
Some real vegan athletes? Serena Williams, Lewis Hamilton, Scott Jurek, David Meyer, Alexander Dargatz, Patrik Baboumian, Carl Lewis, Fiona Oakes, Tia Blanco, Harri Nieminem, Rob Bigwood, Ruth Heidrich and many others.
One thing they all have in common: their performances sky rocked when they switched to plant based.
So, as mentioned above, there are many elite athletes who still consume meat, but let’s break this down for a second: if all the above athletes—who were already some of the best in their sports—improved their performances dramatically when they turned vegan, can you imagine what some of the top athletes who still consume meat, dairy and eggs could achieve if they followed the same path?
I’d like to say that we will never know, but we most likely will know as the trend in the last couple of years for elite athletes seems to be in favour of switching to a plant based diet.
Only the future will tell us.
I also would like to clarify that in no way I’m trying to be pushy for you to switch to a vegan diet. I was one of those making fun of vegans all the time, but I was also one of those who would enjoy a raw horse fillet while watching Hannibal, so I kind of felt like I could actually make fun of vegans.
That said, you don’t need to go vegan, but please consider reducing the amount of animal products you consume as animal agriculture is the leading cause of climate change. If everyone would cut in half their meat consumption, we would be already on a very good path to save the only planet we’ve got.
Thanks for reading!