No Meat for 30 Days
I did it! I went 30 days without eating meat to see if I would feel any differently. This may be my greatest achievement – no not really – at least I hope not. My motivation behind this no meat trial came after watching two Netflix Documentaries which I will go into in more detail in another article. One was Forks Over Knives and the other was What the Health both of which promote a plant-based diet or vegan diet.
I did have one minor breakdown. I had a small cup of wedding soup at an Italian restaurant. Unbeknownst to me initially was it contained a small amount of chicken that looked like small strips of cheese. Some of it made its way into my belly. But, that was it.
Actually going no meat was not as hard as I was expecting – the actual eating of no meat I am referring to. It did take some planning figuring out what to eat given my restricted palate preferences. That was the hard part.
Avoiding meat was not hard for me because I am not a big meat eater to begin with. I have a hard time eating meat if I think too much about what I am eating. I especially have a hard time if something retains its body shape or some body part while on my plate. In other words, the meat has to pretty well mangled up or unrecognizable like ground beef or sausage, or served in small bite size pieces for me to eat meat.
For instance, during my residency training we had an awards dinner and they served cornish hen. A complete little hen laying on my plate. I looked at and said, “Don’t worry I am not going to eat you.” I ate the few pieces of asparagus and carrots and the mash potatoes surrounding it. I will eat chicken wings or a chicken leg – until I think about what I am eating. Then I have to stop. I will eat filet mignon, but it has to be cooked well (perhaps the least healthy way) because if it oozes blood then I am in trouble.
Also during this 30 days I tried to limit – not completely avoid – dairy products and eggs. Avoiding dairy was far more challenging than avoiding meat for me as cheese is ubiquitous especially if you don’t prepare your own meals …like me. But, I did a decent job eating around as much cheese as possible. My one minor dairy downfall was chocolate. I had my customary amount of milk chocolate. But, I had no intention of giving that up during the 30 day trial. As I stated in The Health Benefits of Cocoa, my last meal would be entirely made of chocolate.
I probably had the total of no more than 2 eggs during the 30 days as well. Eggs tend to be added to many things especially salads and I danced around them as best I could.
My 30 day trial ended on September 8 just in time for the September 9 meeting of the Oklahoma – Ohio State in college football game. Boy, what a disappointment that game was for Ohio State fans. The game was a complete role reversal of the 2016 meeting of both teams that I attended in Norman, Oklahoma. See Sportsmanship: Kudos the Oklahoma Sooner Fans.
Three high school friends came in town for this big game and stayed with me for two nights. They gave me a little ribbing on Friday, September 8 when I ordered a black bean burger for dinner at a local sports bar. That would be my last meatless meal of the 30 days.
When I told them what I was doing they asked, “Why in the hell would you do something like that?” One of these friends is a butcher to boot. He said, “Man, no way could I ever go without meat.”
How I Felt on No Meat
How did I feel without meat? Not much different in short. I may have had a little more consistent higher energy after eating lunch than I typically do as lunch tends to be my least clean meal of the day. Many of our lunches are brought by various vendors and sales reps and they tend to contain high glycemic carbs. I feel somewhat obligated to eat what they bring in out courtesy, but during this 30 days I ate more salads only at lunch than I typically do. As we went along our one staff member who coordinates our lunches told the reps what I was doing and many of them started to bring healthier alternatives for me which was very kind of them.
I did lose three pounds. I lost four pounds the first 10 days but then started to consume more of the starchy carbs (rice, potatoes, and pasta) than I normally would have and regained some of that weight. The 30 day no meat trial overlapped with me finally recovering from my pectoral strain and I was able to resume my normal weight training lifting my typical loads and estimated I regained two pounds of lost muscle that occurred from deconditioning as I recovered from my injury. See Don’t Be Stupid Like Dr. Joe With Your Workouts.
In the end, I estimate I lost five pounds of fat and regained two pounds of lost muscle related to deconditioning from my pectoral strain injury for a net loss of three pounds during the 30 days. I did spot check my fasting blood sugar and it ran on average 8 to 10 points lower than usual. There are studies showing dramatic improvements in both blood sugar control in diabetics and with cholesterol that occur relatively quickly from plant-based diets.
We always hear you have to eat meat to get enough protein, but I now wonder about that. I was able to regain my muscle mass and strength eating plant protein only. I did supplement with a plant based protein powder 4-5 days a week. Being able to regain muscle mass and strength on a plant-based diet was the biggest surprise for me.
Though I always knew this it occurred to me than when we eat meat for protein we are basically eating the middle man as animals do not make protein. They contain protein – but they do not make protein. Only plants make protein. Animals get their protein from the plants they eat. And, then we eat them. Plus, when you think of it, the largest and strongest animals are largely plant eaters.
So I am now convinced that one can get adequate protein from plants alone to maintain muscle mass. In my case, I regained some muscle I recently lost consuming a plant-based diet. Could I gain muscle beyond that with a plant-based diet alone?
I don’t know and won’t know until I try. So that’s the next step though for now I have resumed my former eating habits. And guess what? I have regained the three pounds I lost on the 30 day plant-based diet. I did step up my weight lifting since coming of the 30 day plant-based trial. My body fat composition has come down though suggesting the three pounds I gained is more likely muscle and not fat.
But, I will keep experimenting on myself and suggest you do the same.