Any views or opinions presented in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company. This blog is a unique perspective of one persons journey into fitness. Not all clients and participants at Parsons Training undergo the same training, and each person makes his or her own decisions regarding dietary discretions.
By Steve Sharpton, Parsons Training Center, Tucson, Arizona
October 29, 2017
Today is my favorite subject….food!! Well, every day food is a love hate subject with me, but today will be different. Over the next couple weeks we will be talking about some eating philosophies and today we start with the one I always prescribe to anyone, anytime and anyplace…..plant based eating. Now, you might have heard me refer to myself as a vegan, which is the truth and can be construed as plant based as well. But I have also taken on the ethical and environmental aspect of the lifestyle, which can cause certain vegans in this world to get all hot and bothered and start acting like raging lunatics on the chat boards when you try to say that both vegan and plant based are one in the same. Anyway, before I go full vegan on you, let us start with the foundation of what we are talking about. The definition of plant based eating is pretty cut and dry…you consume no food products that contain animal based ingredients. Veganism is the ethical stance of removing ALL animal products in your life and reducing your carbon footprint as much as possible. Much like vegetarianism, you do not consume meat products (red meat, poultry and seafood) while also abstaining from dairy products, eggs and honey. Now some of you might be wondering “What do you eat?” Well, there is plenty of food to eat, such as leafy greens, grains, legumes, squash, fruits, rice, potatoes and the list just goes on and on. Now I will admit, when you accept this form of eating, it can be a challenge at first when you realize how many products you use every day that are not plant based friendly. I was a bad vegan for my first few months until I realized products like Altoids (gelatin), Taco Bell Fire Sauce (beef stock), white processed sugar (bleached with animal bone char) and certain types of coffee creamer (milk derivatives buried deep on the checklist) were not vegan friendly. It was a crushing blow to say the least, but over the past five years for me this has gotten much easier and I have strayed away from most products because I now find myself cooking a lot more these days. Truth be told, this was the most important aspect about me really switching up my diet.
Now I know what you are thinking, that it seems pretty difficult to maintain some form of health while supposedly losing all of your “nutrients” that you would obtain from meat and dairy. Truth be told, this is a pretty major myth in society, especially since just about everything you eat on the plant based spectrum has a long list of essential vitamins you need to live. The biggest issue with consuming large amounts of meat and dairy is simple…inflammation and acidity. Before we can talk about any of the true benefits of food we have to center on the worst. First and foremost, meat’s primary issue is the fact that it raises the acidic level of your body pH. Acidosis occurs in the body when you have a pH level below 7.35 (on a 14-point scale) and can lead to a bevy of issues within the body. Kidney failure and breathing problems can be two of the biggest setbacks for your body. https://www.healthline.com/health/acidosis#causes2 With the acidity building up in your body, imagine the damage the added acid will cause to your joints and muscle as well. Brings new meaning to the idea of “feeling the burn” doesn’t it? The other scary aspect of blood acidity is the link between a high pH level and cancer. Some studies indicate through research that people with a higher blood pH are more susceptible to have cancer and this has been correlated with blood tests from cancer patients. This happens because cancer cells are essentially mutated body cells, and these mutations thrive in a more acidic environment. There is some counter studies to this particular correlation, which is why Parsons Training does not focus on selling “anti-cancer diets” to clientele, rather focusing on food choices and portion control before wholesale diet changes can even be put on the table. The other half of the coin is the removal of dairy products. Now through my own journey through veganism, I ultimately discovered my issue was not with meat, but with cheese, butter, sour cream and cream cheese.
First and foremost, I hate the internet. If you search the internet, you will see both sides of the table trying to sell you the benefits of dairy and what they can do or cannot do for you. Several legitimate things have been stated over the past couple years. Dairy—especially milk—is not a good source of calcium. The other case is the fact that dairy has a natural derivative called Casein, which can activate your dopamine receptors much in the same way morphine and other drugs react to your body. Casein gets stronger as dairy is reduced from its most watered down form (milk) to its more dried (cheese). Dairy is basically turning you into a drug addict!! Now the big argument is whether dairy causes bowel inflammation in the body, affecting joints and stomach acids as well. Some people are claiming it doesn’t, many are saying it does. The fact of the matter is this though…people are becoming more savvy with the fact they are lactose intolerant. Often times we don’t know the symptoms of upset stomachs, gas and loose stool are a result of dairy. Other times people will mistake it for some other food allergy. Right now, the dairy industry is trying hard to maintain its government backed welfare program (roughly 300-400 million in subsidies yearly), funding studies most likely trying to debunk the idea of lactose intolerance and try to label it an allergy rather than the fact humans probably should not be regularly eating a product that was meant to help turn a baby cow into a one ton behemoth within a span of a year. I will tell you one thing though…when I gave up dairy I had a huge drop in weight and also had a massive change in mood. There was definitely a detox period for me, where I was moody and breaking out with acne. But after these first couple of months, I started feeling better, I recovered better from my workouts, had less gas and my skin even cleared up a little bit. I was still eating meat at this time, and when I suddenly found myself not desiring meat or heavy surgery products, I decided to go full tilt and go full plant based.
I say plant based because I really was making the change for my health, not for bigger causes. In my mind, making this change to plant based eating for your health is fine with me. My only suggestion is try this out sooner than later. Of course, the bigger question still remains—how do you get your nutrients? Simple, pretty much all plant based foods have what we need to keep the body going. Fruits can really help you with your vitamins and antioxidants while veggies can give you the bulk of your essential vitamins as well. Now before you ask where do you get your protein, let me remind you just about every plant has some form of protein. While you may not get the amount you would in a bowl of spinach versus a fat steak, most people do not need as much protein as they think they would need. The biggest key is eating “clean” protein, which is the biggest benefit of being on a plant based diet. While you can get more protein in a 10-ounce steak than a bowl of kale, the protein in the steak is roughly 29% protein and 40-50% saturated fat. People will make claims that open range meat or whatever is better for you, it is just a fancy way of labeling the same product to hoist the price, much in the same vein of people labeling something gluten free. As for that bowl of kale, that kale is 49% protein and the other 51% is other sources of vitamins you need. Not to mention, the caloric content is way less and you will not be exposed to nitrates or other additives that might be added to meat. You fill your stomach with less and also suppress your appetite better. See the difference? Now I will admit building muscle on a plant based diet is pretty tough, but there are plenty of body builders out there who have done this through ample amounts of potatoes, beans, yams and jackfruit. Heck, look at me. I’m a big guy and I have not eaten any meat or dairy in five years!!
I love being vegan, and I feel the ethical stances I have bolstered in my own life make it much easier to stay on this path for me. Don’t think for a moment that when you adopt a plant based lifestyle that you have to change everything you are, do it because you are looking to take a calculated and bold move to improve your health. Trust me, I used to say “I can’t live without meat and cheese,” but here I am living and stuff and thriving. My blood pressure is down, my cholesterol is low, my blood sugar has improved and most importantly, I have lost weight. Trust me, give it a try…or at least try plant based eating’s little cousin, The Mediterranean Diet (which cuts out tons of dairy and red meat). You have to remember, eating is a huge part of the body transformation process. I could be eating plant based friendly junk like Pic Nik Stiks and Oreos and still be considered plant based to the world….but I sure as heck would not be making gains. So please, reconsider the type of food you put into your body.
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Parsons Training is a Tucson leader in fitness and personal wellness training. Every personal trainer with this company designs and implements effective fitness programs for their clients; these programs serve as the foundation for good health, fitness, and wellness. Additional information about Parsons Training is available at http://www.parsonspersonaltraining.com
Any views or opinions presented in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company.
About Our Blog
Steve, a Parsons Training Client, went from 400 pounds to Running half-marathons, from lifting pizzas to lifting hundreds of pounds through training with us.