Matt Bertrand - Vegan runner and fitness enthusiast
In summary, a world population consuming a primarily meat based diet is not the healthiest option, nor is it sustainable. "For more than 40 years, humanity’s demand has exceeded the planet’s biocapacity – the amount of biologically productive land and sea area that is available to regenerate these resources. This continuing overshoot is making it more and more difficult to meet the needs of a growing global human population" (Living Planet Report).
Switching to a plant based diet has exponential positive effects on your life, your health, the environment, and future generations. Dean Ornish was correct when he said "what you gain is so much more than what you give up."
Without a doubt, our behaviors, practices, and habits affect our planet. Global warming is real. Mankind's preference for meat has a profound impact on our environment. There are a plethora of studies and websites that note the environmentally destructive elements to a meat based diet. Downtoearth.org provides information on the environmental reasons to adopt a plant based diet. By adopting, even partially, a plant based diet, the production of methane and nitrous oxide is reduced, therefore contributing to the reduction of global warming. Water overuse is a huge issue affecting many in the world with the potential to affect us all. "Estimates of the water required to produce a kilo of beef vary, from 13,000 liters up to 100,000 liters. Whichever figure you use, the damage is plain when you consider that the water required to produce a kilo of wheat is somewhere between 1,000-2,000 litres" (Downtoearth.org). According to the Water Footprint Network, "[w]hilst population has risen fourfold in the last century, the water footprint has increased sevenfold." Click on the Living Planet Report 2016 for a comprehensive study on the overuse of water and the ramifications.
When the research and information are combined with personal experiences, a plant based diet seems the most logical and beneficial diet. Throw in a little scientific research supporting the benefits of a plant based diet and the choice seems to make itself. The article Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets informs physicians of how to present plant-based diets to their patients. There are several notable quotes I enjoyed. In reference to my earlier frustration on the clichéd question about protein: "Generally, patients on a plant-based diet are not at risk for protein deficiency . . . [and] a well-balanced, plant-based diet will provide adequate amounts of essential amino acids and prevent protein deficiency." Dean Ornish states "[a] study published last March found a 75 percent increase in premature deaths from all causes, and a 400 percent increase in deaths from cancer and Type 2 diabetes, among heavy consumers of animal protein under the age of 65 — those who got 20 percent or more of their calories from animal protein" (Ornish, 2015). A plant based diet can reverse coronary heart disease and slow the progression of prostate cancer.
There are many ethical concerns with eating animals and animal products. Primarily, we are concerned with the suffering inflicted on animals so mankind can eat an unnecessary food source.
Earthlings is a documentary that really hits you over the head with the unacceptably cruel treatment of animals! WARNING: It is graphic!
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. - Hippocrates.
Be the change that you wish to see in the world. - Mahatma Ghandi
Why do I chose a plant based diet? How does it benefit me? First, I will not be trying to brainwash you into joining my vegan cult (please feel free to join of your own accord) and there is no negative judgment because of how you eat. Quite simply, I encourage a healthy and active lifestyle that is environmentally responsible and ethical. For me, that means running and eating a lot of fruit, vegetables, beans, and grains and no animal products. A plant based diet and vegan diet are synonymous terms. Basically, it refers to not consuming animal products.
There are many factors that go into why people eat the way we do. Social, cultural, and economic factors play enormous roles; they condition us to eat particular foods and expect certain benefits from them. The quickest example that comes to mind is the erroneous belief that protein is only available from animal products. Protein is available from many many plant sources. Click here to see 10 plant based proteins listed on nutritionstripped.com.
Being a runner and having a competitive mindset I am influenced by elite plant based athletes such as Scott Jurek, Rob Krar, Rich Roll, and Brendan Brazier, to name a few (click here to see more). They provide motivation and anecdotal evidence that a plant based diet has reliable performance benefits. The video below shows Scott Jurek at the 2014 Seed Expo explaining his vegan diet. I particularly like Jurek's reasoning when people tell him they don't have energy when they eat plant based. His response: you're not eating enough! Plant based foods are not as calorie dense as animal products. This is a good thing; you can eat more! From a weight loss perspective, the low caloric density means you can eat more and still lose weight! In this article in The Guardian, Jurek admits a vegan diet probably does not make him faster but it does keep him focused. If you can maintain focus on your training, you will improve!