Lately, I've been contemplating going back to a vegetarian diet. *GASP!*
I was a month-long vegetarian a few years back. While everyone has their own reason for turning into a herbivore, I did it out of curiosity and was spurred on by nothing more than a promise to try it out for 30 days. The most salient reason I did it back then was out of respect for living creatures. Either I stopped respecting them soon enough or I never really believed in what I said because I was munching on greasy burgers after four weeks. Nonetheless, that experience proved to be an eye-opener for me--I discovered beans, lentils, legumes and ways of cooking vegetables which completely erased my impression that vegetarians ate nothing but salads. However, I just could not find a reason to stick with the diet. Instead, I found witty justifications for being a carnivore; my favorite being "Humans did not evolve and fight their way to the top of the food chain to eat leaves."
Then I started running, which made me start reading about running, and eventually discovering the fact that Scott Jurek, arguably the best ultramarathon runner in the world and one of the greatest runners of all time, fuels his body on a vegan diet. Not just vegetarian.
In the book Born to Run, the author shared that on a stop during a trail run with Jurek in the Copper Canyons, Scott shared some pita and hummus with the group, prompting someone to ask "You don't use goos?" As a sponsored athlete, Jurek could choose any of the energy gels and powerbars in the world to give him a boost while running, but says that he likes real food, which is just as portable and gives real calories instead of just a fast burn. And this guy knows about real food: an interview with Runner's World states he spends a couple hours a day grinding whole-wheat flour and juicing fruits and vegetables, some of which he grows himself.
Research will show you that where there are endurance athletes, there are vegetarians. From Marathon Monks in Japan who ran an ultramarathon every day for seven years on nothing but miso soup, tofu and vegetables to Cliff Young, the 63-year-old farmer who stunned Australia in 1983 by beating the best ultrarunners in the country in a 507-mile race from Sydney to Melbourne on a diet of beans, beer, and oatmeal.
While I can't say that I'm a proper vegetarian (I still eat fish, and some meat from time to time), my diet has changed dramatically. My primary choice when eating out is vegetarian fare, and at home our chiller is filled with bright veggies complemented by cans of legumes stacked inside our cupboards. Since making the switch, I've felt lighter, faster, and more energetic. I've also noticed that it takes less time for me to recover and to convert whatever I've eaten to usable energy. No more of the lethargy that comes with eating a full meal.
And tonight, this was dinner:
Chick peas, carrots, and beans on a bed of grilled eggplant with olive oil and cheese. You know it's fancy stuff when the phrase "on a bed" is used to describe food, or anything outside the chorus of a Bon Jovi song. It was a brilliant dish if I may say so myself.