Why Going Meatless a Few Days a Week Works For Me

Author’s Note: None of this blog entry is devoted to any sort of moral argument over whether or not the animals are cared for in an ethical way. It is ONLY based on health benefits and environmental benefits. All people are different and we choose to eat differently, and I’m not arguing that everyone should eat semi-vegetarian, just that it’s an option and may be healthier.

I’m not really the type of girl who’s interested in labels. I’m not a flexitarian, a pescetarian, or a vegetarian, and I’m most certainly NOT vegan. I like meat a lot, and will eat even some of the meats that self-proclaimed “carnivores” won’t try. But I also love vegetables a heckuva lot more than some full-fledged vegetarians I know, so I don’t fit in that category either. I just love FOOD. But there are some definite benefits to having meatless meals at times, both to health and budget!

I work out six days a week, but only three of those days are weight training days. I prefer to eat lean meats on the days I work out harder, because the high levels of protein helps my muscles heal and keep me satiated. I generally prepare vegetarian meals on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays because those are lighter workout days, and I don’t need the protein as much. So what are the benefits of eating meatless a few days a week?

20160807_121938Cost

Veggies, legumes and whole grains are much less expensive per pound than meat. Don’t believe me? Just look at this massive haul of veggies I got for $28.75. Also, veggies, legumes and whole grains are chock full of fiber, and fiber helps you feel full! The price of ground beef alone has more than doubled in the last 10 years, and thus, I’ve been eating less and less beef over the years. I consider red meat “special occasion” food, and stick to less expensive white meats such as boneless skinless chicken breast and pork sirloin chops.

beef-prices-cotdReduced Cholesterol and Triglyceride Levels

While dietary cholesterol may or may not affect blood cholesterol (it varies per person), eating a diet consisting of less animal products means you’re consuming less saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, and fat in general (assuming your vegetarian meals don’t consist entirely of french fries cooked in trans fat then covered in cheese). The soluble fiber in legumes, whole grains, and some fruits and veggies can also help lower LDL (bad) blood cholesterol.

Reduced Risk for Diabetes and Colorectal Cancer

Remember that fiber stuff I was spouting about earlier? Fiber helps clean out your digestive tract and keeps you regular, which in turn leads to a reduced risk for colorectal cancer. Who doesn’t want to avoid cancer? A 2008 Harvard Study suggests that we’re not 100% sure that red meat causes colorectal cancer, but that there are compounds known to be possible carcinogens in red meat, so reducing it definitely wouldn’t hurt. Processed meats (those containing nitrates and nitrites like lunchmeats and cured meats like sausages and hams) pose an even higher risk, so consume those only occasionally. The World Cancer Research Fund suggests that eating 500g (1.1 lbs) or less in cooked weight of red meat will help reduce your risk for colorectal cancer.

Helps Maintain a Healthy Weight

That fiber stuff again, plus the dense distribution of nutrients in non-meat sources of food, help keep you fuller longer, which helps you eat less in the long run! Vegetarian foods are more filling, less calorie dense and generally lower in fat. You can eat a higher volume of food if you eat leafy greens and veggies than if you eat just meat.

Better for the Environment?

This one is still being researched, but it may be true. Raising livestock is being shown to put a strain on the environment, due to runoff of biological material, overuse of water and the greenhouse gases produced directly by the animals. But a study by Carnegie Mellon University (as referenced by the Washington Post) suggests that some vegetables have a much higher impact on greenhouse gases than expected.

Variety

Meat and potatoes can get boring after a while! A lot of cultures around the world eat a mostly vegetarian diet, and this can be a great way to explore both reducing your meat intake and the flavors of other parts of the world. Even The Hubs, who proclaims that salad is “food that food eats”, loves a VEGAN recipe because of its Ethiopian warm spices.

So how do you ease yourself into a more flexitarian diet?

  • Start with eating meatless for just one day a week.
  • Half the amount of meat in a recipe and replace the other half with meaty veggies like mushrooms or eggplant
  • Experiment with spices: more flavor means you miss the meat less
  • Try a new meat substitute like seitan or tempeh
  • Simply eat a smaller portion of meat at dinner and replace it with cooked legumes
  • Treat veggies like meat: grill or broil them to add a little char, which makes them feel like a more primal food

What do you think? Do you prefer to eat less meat, or will you plan to eat less for  your health in the future? Let me know in the comments!

Resources:

MayoClinic.org

EatRight.org

SparkPeople.com

MeatlessMonday.com

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Andrea Wonders: What the heck are Aminos? Part II – Non-Essentials

In Part I – Essentials, I told you all about essential amino acids and why supplementing them just isn’t necessary for your average Joe or Jody.

Non-Essential Amino Acids

Non-essential amino acids aren’t quite as present as essential amino acids in food, so these non-essentials may be more beneficial to supplement. Even so, intake should be limited to times when your body’s reserve is at risk of being used for less useful purposes, such as when you train hard. Magazines will have you believe that you should take these supplements all the time, regardless of need, but sometimes those magazines are owned by the same companies as the supplements they’re pushing.

  • Glutamine – already in the body in large amounts and passes easily through the blood-brain barrier to aid memory recall and concentration. Converts to glutamic acid once inside the brain which is essential for brain function and mental activities. Helps regular nitrogen in the body and is one of the main genetic building blocks. Helps reduce lactic acid, which is important for athletes. But the body is already FULL of it, so unless you’re in a competition-level cut phase, it’s simply not necessary. Found in all high-protein foods.
  • Arginine – used as an addition to many supplements for aiding nitrogen-retention, thus facilitating muscle protein synthesis. AKA, it helps build muscle. It boosts the immune system and the activity of the thymus gland, which produces T-cells, which makes it a good supplement choice for anyone recovering from a major injury or for those with HIV. Helps muscle mass gain while limiting fat storage, so great for those trying to bulk. Found naturally in whole-wheat, nuts and seeds, rice, chocolate, raisins, soy.
  • Carnitine – not technically an amino acid, but thrown in because it has similar structure. Not involved in protein synthesis, unlike other aminos, but instead transports long-chain fatty acids. Improves the antioxidizing effect of vitamins C and E. Can aid in staying lean by minimizing fat buildup around the muscle. Found in fish, chicken, red meat and milk.
  • Cysteine – contains sulfur, which makes it a favorite as an antioxidant. Required for healthy skin and the production of collagen. Manufactures taurine, a component of glutathione which protects the brain and liver from harmful substances such as drugs, alcohol and other harmful substances. Metabolizes B-vitamins and potentiates insulin. Can protect the body from damaging effects of other supplements. Found in poultry, wheat, broccoli, eggs, garlic, onion, and peppers.
  • HMB (Beta-Hydroxy Beta-Methyl Butyrate) – made from the BCAA leucine to help carry out some of its functions. Increases the rate of protein usage which means less fat storage. Minimizes protein breakdown and prevents the protein stored in the cell from being used for alternate means in times of glucose-deprivation by strengthening cell membrances. Beneficial only in high doses, which can be costly. Present in many foods but found in the highest quantities in catfish, grapefruit and alfalfa.

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Conclusion

Just like my previous entry on Essential Amino Acids, the facts remain the same: unless you’re a competition-level bodybuilder who’s overtraining or on a strict cut phase, you don’t need to supplement aminos except for maybe BCAAs. Since my last entry, I decided to purchase some BCAA supplements. I take half a serving only on the days I do my harder kettlebell workouts. I’ve only used it twice, but I think I have noticed a decrease in soreness and an easier recovery afterward. We’ll see how that goes over time!

References:

  1. http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/catamino.htm
  2. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002222.htm
  3. https://www.uic.edu/classes/phar/phar332/Clinical_Cases/aa%20metab%20cases/PKU%20Cases/essential-nonessential.htm

I hope some of this information is useful to you and will make you think twice before trying something just because you saw it in a magazine or at a health food store. Keep on truckin’, readers!

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Andrea Wonders: What the heck are Aminos? Part I – Essentials

I adore strength training, I do, but when I walk into a store like Vitamin Shoppe and I’m flabbergasted by all of the supplements available. I’ve been hearing about pre-workout and post-workout supplements, BCAA, protein and aminos. So much information! So I went on a research quest to find out just what the heck aminos are!

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The word ‘Aminos’ on that supplement bottle is short for amino acids. Remember those from high school biology? For athletic purposes, supplement makers supply a blend of amino acids that are helpful in reaching specific goals, such as building muscle. I’m going to give you a quick and dirty summary of the amino acids that are relevant to athletes and their uses to athletes, then provide you some links where you can read more.

Essential Amino Acids

  • Histidine – only really helps improve digestion. Found in dairy, meat, poultry, fish, rice, wheat and rye. You probably get enough of this in your diet and don’t need to supplement.
  • Lysine – maintenance and manufacture of muscle protein, combats fatigue and overtraining, maintains a positive nitrogen balance which creates an anabolic environment in the body. Found in cheese, eggs, milk, yeast, potatoes and lima beans.
  • Phenylalaline – allows for maximum contraction and relaxation of the muscles and helps the body convert UV rays to vitamin D. Found in dairy, almonds, avocados, nuts and seeds. You probably get enough from a healthy diet.
  • Methionine – fat metabolization, better digestion, anti-oxidation properties. Found in meat, fish, eggs, beans, garlic, lentils, onions, yogurt and seeds.

Subcategory: BCAAs/Branched Chain Amino Acids

  • Leucine – regulation of blood sugar, growth and repair of tissues in skin, bone and skeletal muscle. Found in nearly all protein sources, including brown rice, beans, nuts and whole wheat. You probably get enough in your diet.
  • Isoleucine – Similar to Leucine, and important as part of the BCAA stack. Found in chicken, cashews, fish, almonds, eggs, liver, lentils, meat.
  • Valine – repair and growth of muscle tissue, maintains nitrogen balance and preserves the use of glucose. Found in dairy, meat, grain, mushrooms, soy, peanuts.
  • Threonine – the only amino acid you don’t produce in the body. Helps form collagen and elastin and essential to maintaining proper protein balance. Helps you absorb protein and boosts immunity. Found only in animal sources: meat, dairy, eggs.

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What I Learned

The truth is, unless you’re a competition bodybuilder or you over-train, the only amino acids you might want to supplement are BCAAs. Even so, if you eat a healthy balanced diet, you probably don’t need to supplement at all, and if you’re serious about muscle building, you should already be adjusting your diet to a healthy balance for results.

References:

  1. http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/catamino.htm
  2. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002222.htm
  3. https://www.uic.edu/classes/phar/phar332/Clinical_Cases/aa%20metab%20cases/PKU%20Cases/essential-nonessential.htm

Stay tuned for Part II – Non-Essential Amino Acids!

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