Talking about diets in terms of their macronutrient ratios is very popular. It’s also popular in scientific studies. I can’t tell you how many diet studies I read where they list the macro ratios of the diets in their methods, but tell you NOTHING about the type of food that made up those diets! Without that information these studies are worthless, because trust me — you can design diets of all different types of macro ratios that are healthy and unhealthy. Macro ratio is worthless! Focus on the QUALITY of those foods, and make your diet mostly plants!
Let’s do a quick thought experiment.
Why do two different products have different prices? What determines the price of a thing?
How about we make it more specific. Take chocolate.
You may have noticed that there is a difference between a Hershey Bar and that $4 artisanal bar of organic fair trade dark chocolate that supports Amazon Rainforest protection.
Not only is there a difference in quality, but there is a BIG difference in price. That Hershey Bar is made in a factory, in an industrial process that has used every modern tool to create efficiencies and reduce costs. The least amount of resources are used to maximize profit.
That artisanal $4 bar was likely made my hand in a much more traditional, lower tech way. It was less efficient to produce and thus costs waaaay more.
What does this have to do with cows?
Well there is this notion that many environmentalists have that grass-fed beef is somehow better for the environment than industrial beef.
Now before I go any further let me be clear: I am not saying anything about the ethical or nutrient differences between the two products. Those can be discussed in later posts.
Why was industrial animal agriculture created? Why has it done so well to the point where 99% of animals raised for food in the United States are raised on industrial farms?
If it’s one thing industrial agriculture does well it’s efficiency.
It treats the farm like a factory.
That certainly leads to some pretty nasty unintended consequences (this is where the ethical conversation applies), but treating animals like inputs and outputs in a factory has created a very efficient system.
Meat can be delivered for cheap.
That’s why you get 12 nuggets for $0.99 or two burgers for $1.49.
Use pasture raised chickens and grass-fed beef for those items and you’d be paying 5-10 times as much for your lunch!
So what does this have to do with the environment?
In terms of the environment efficiency is usually a good thing. A more fuel-efficient car saves you money and also emits fewer greenhouse gases per mile on the road.
A more efficient air-conditioner does the same, just like a more efficient thermostat, heater, laptop, or refrigerator.
Well from a greenhouse gas perspective cows are no different, and in this analogy believe it or not, industrial cows are the hybrids.
They use fewer inputs (energy) to produce the same output as a grass-fed cow.
That’s why it’s cheaper.
Grass-fed cows also need far more land than industrial corn-fed cows. It’s another inefficiency of grass-fed cattle, and another reason why their meat costs more.
This means that most people cannot afford grass-fed meat, making it a less viable solution for meeting current demand for meat. There’s no question that switching to only grass-fed animals would have some benefits, but one outcome would be far reduced meat consumption.
Don’t get me wrong — neither are a good way of feeding 8 billion humans and growing. Cows are inherently inefficient converters of solar energy. Solar energy converted to plant energy can feed billions of humans.
In fact, the food fed to the world’s cattle would feed an additional 8.7 billion humans if we fed people directly instead of through a cow first.
But at least when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, the grass-fed cow is more like the Cadillac than the Prius.
Can you picture it? A vegan world? When will it come?
A lot of people ask me this when they find out that I am vegan.
“Do you really think all human beings will give up meat??”
“How will you convince everyone to give up meat?
I think I have an answer:
Make meat unappealing.
Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably thinking that’s kind of obvious, and you’re probably thinking I mean increase the awareness over the animal rights, environmental and health disaster that is animal agriculture.
And while I do think all three of those things are incredibly important to educate people about, that’s not what I mean.
Maybe I’ll put it differently: make alternatives the appealing choice.
Yes, I’m talking about fake meat.
Here’s the deal — meat from animals is inefficient. You pretty much can’t argue this. It’s just physics. It’s ecology. Eating higher on the food chain is inherently inefficient. Eating lower on the food chain will always be more efficient.
Why? Because things higher on the food chain require more inputs (water, food, fertilizer, antiobiotics, etc). Those inputs cost money and resources and are thusly inefficient.
Plants are lower on the food chain and are more efficient, both from a resource perspective and a cost perspective.
So alternatives (yes, I mean fake meat) outperform meat from animals in cost and environmental efficiency. They also obviously outperform meat from animals from an ethical standpoint. No dead cows means a more ethical burger.
The remaining question: taste.
Well if you haven’t tried fake meat in awhile, they are damn good. I’ve fooled many meat-loving peers of mine with fake meat products. I’ve served them without telling them what it was and they’ve been floored. I’ve asked them “if fake meat tasted identical or better to the real thing would you eat it?” I’ve never had a friend answer anything other than “yes.”
Then there’s this: a vegan burger just won Best Burger in the World.
Note: that didn’t say “Best Veggie Burger in the World.” Meat burgers were in the running, but one made from plants won the day.
So if plants can be cheaper, better for the environment, more humane, more nutritious and tastier???
We may not have to convince anyone to go vegan, we merely have to continue to work to make alternatives win in all these categories. If it’s cheaper and tastes just as good, this will be the end of meat and no one will miss it.
For more meat-free products check out Gardein, Beyond Meat, Tofurky, and many others. If you live in the Minneapolis area you can check out the world’s first Vegan Butcher for artisanal vegan meats and cheeses at The Herbivorous Butcher.
*That burger is 100% vegan. It won Best Burger
I get it. As a meat-eater, going vegan just sounds impossible. If you’re even remotely interested in the first place, it just sounds daunting. (It isn’t as bad as you think, but not the purpose of this post).
So I don’t want to talk to you about going vegan right now. Cutting out ALL animal products might sound like I’m proposing you just stop eating.
I don’t want that, and neither do you.
So here’s my story. On Sunday, I was over at a friend’s house to watch football. Just me and a few other guys (all meat-eaters).
My buddy who was hosting was roasting a 10-pound ham. So you could say it was a relatively hostile environment for the vegan message. And of course, I didn’t preach.
I just did my thing.
I made guacamole, brought refried beans and salsa, and had a nice spread. And, I figured it was a good chance to expose these guys to some meatless stuff as well, so I brought a package of Gardein Crispy Chick’n Tenders.
As the ham roasted in the oven, right next to it were my Gardein meatless chicken fingers, cooking away.
Nice and crispy, I pulled them out of the oven and onto a plate with some ketchup and barbecue sauce. To the untrained, or even trained-eye, it looked like any plate you’d find in any home in America on Football Sunday.
Without solicitation I had several friends come up and pop one in their mouths and then proclaim that they were “good.”
When they found out they were meatless they said, “you could fool anyone with those.” Another friend, who works at an elementary school said, “they should serve these at lunch, the kids would love ’em.”
Meatless As Good As Meat
And that’s what I am here to ask you to do. I don’t have to convince you of why you should be vegan. You can browse my other posts for that.
Just switch some of your meat meals to Gardein (or any other meatless product, though I tend to think they are the best out there).
That’s it. Easy switch. The stuff literally fools unsuspecting meat-eaters all the time. You WON’T notice the difference, I guarantee it.
My younger brother watched Cowspiracy (now on Netflix!) with us as a family, and overnight he and his girlfriend switched to using only Gardein for their “meat-based” meals. It was that easy. They didn’t go vegan and yet that one switch is making a HUGE difference.
Sure these meatless products aren’t “whole foods plant-based” approved. But is it healthier than actual chicken? Chicken that is full of antibiotics, industrial toxins, e. coli and salmonella and MRSA, and fecal matter? Pumped full of sodium as filler? Loaded with artery-clogging saturated fat and cholesterol?
Yes, yes it is healthier than that.
It’s an easy swap. I challenge you, the next time you are at the grocery store, hit up the frozen section and pick up some Gardein for the week. You won’t regret it, and any reduction in meat is an increase in health for you, the environment, and the animals. Win–Win–Win.
For the past 3+ years I have been working out at home with resistance bands. I spent a good while trying to find a workout system that worked for me.
In my early and mid-twenties I joined and stopped going to countless gyms.
It always worked the same way. I’d get inspired to get in better shape, find a good local gym, and sign-up with enthusiasm.
For the first couple weeks I’d go religiously, and start to feel better, seeing progress in my workouts.
Then, something would happen.
The process got stale and time consuming. I hated the fact that if I did an hour workout in the gym, it really took like 2 hours — an hour to workout, 30 minutes getting to and from, 15 minutes to shower, 15 minutes to get ready and cool down.
Can you guess what the single most cited reason is for not exercising?
Lack of time.
So this just always felt unsustainable to me.
That’s when I finally found Bodylastics and LiveExercise. Both changed my life. I finally found a workout system that worked for me! I could do a new workout broadcast live every day and do it all in my bedroom in like 45 minutes — no commute necessary.
But another story has gone hand in hand with this experience: what to have post-workout.
After a good strength workout, your muscles need protein to recover. Let me be quick to point out that they don’t need 50 grams administered intravenously within seconds of dropping the last weight.
The amount needed is likely way overblown, mostly by people selling protein supplements (think about who wrote and/or paid for the next protein article you read).
But the fact remains that you do need some nutrition after a workout to help your muscles recover well and grow — the whole point of the workout in the first place!
Vegan Protein Powders
If you are interested, they do make vegan/plant-based protein powders, and they are something I used for quite awhile.
Periodically I’d read an article about one that was recommended and I’d go with that for awhile (remember who pays for protein articles!).
It was soy at first, hemp for awhile, then pea protein, they a blend of several that was not cheap.
But the whole time it felt a little disingenuous. Here I was trying to follow (and promote) a whole foods plant-based diet and yet after every workout I was downing isolated protein powders — definitely not a whole food.
Isolated macronutrients are never good for you
Think about it — isolated carbohydrates are pure white sugar, isolated fats are butter, margarine, and oil, and both are not health foods. Can they be used in some recipes, sure, but they are not whole foods and they are not healthy.
Why are we so forgiving to isolated protein? Anytime you strip a nutrient from the whole food you lose nearly all of what made it worth eating.
A year and a half ago I finally swore off protein powders for good. It wasn’t worth the nearly $50 per tub I was paying for a food that I didn’t need and was arguably not good for me.
And it’s been a year and a half of tweaking, but I finally have found my entirely whole foods, vegan, plant-based protein smoothie of choice.
1 Cup Frozen Peas
1 Cup Frozen Spinach
1-2 TBSP Ground Flax Seed
Pinch of Amla
Water to cover
Nutrition Facts: 400 calories, 14 grams of protein, 88 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fat, 19 grams fiber
That’s it, just blend and enjoy! An entirely whole-foods protein smoothie! No need for expensive protein powders! No need to pay someone to isolate the protein from the green peas when you can just eat them whole, where you’ll get the fiber and antioxidants you’d otherwise miss!
If you’re interested in learning more about building muscle on a vegan and plant-based diet I can’t recommend any higher the work of Robert Cheeke and his community at http://www.veganbodybuilding.com/
Also the guy who runs Bodylastics and LiveExercise happens to be vegan as well 🙂
They say you should never meet your heroes because you will just be disappointed. I can say this is not true.
Last Saturday I had the privilege of meeting two of the giants in the whole foods plant-based/vegan movement: Mr. Rich Roll and Mr. David Carter.
Each are vegan/plant-based athletes that have inspired my way of thinking in a big way. Rich proved that running on nothing but plants not only isn’t a hindrance to performance, but is a boon in a big way. Rich has defied more odds as an athlete than just about anyone I can think of in the endurance world. And his podcast (The Rich Roll Podcast) is transformative and life changing. Add it to your list NOW.
David Carter has done the same, but in the opposite world — the National Football League, as an offensive lineman. He has proved you can build serious muscle eating nothing but plants.
I recently told a friend about David Carter being 300 pounds and all vegan muscle and he said immediately “where does he get his protein??”
To which I responded, as I always do: food.
But I am not here to rehash what I’ve already said. Instead, I am here to talk about the vegan and plant-based movement.
On Saturday I attended the DC Veg Fest in the cold, blustery rain that was supposed to be Hurricane Joaquin. And despite the dreary weather, it was impossible to tell if the festival was any less busy because of it. It was packed. And it was awesome.
Both Rich and David spoke, along with Farm Sanctuary founder Gene Baur. And one audience member had a question for Rich that really got me thinking.
She asked if he felt like we are at a tipping point as a movement, that our numbers are increasing as more and more people everyday are awakened to the realities of animal agriculture. She asked about the theory that once you hit 3.5% of the population that any movement takes on its own momentum and grows exponentially greater.
And Rich answered the exact same way I would have:
Of course he was more effusive on the subject, but a simple answer is appropriate.
Yes, yes it does feel like there is real momentum behind vegan and plant-based eating. It has never been easier to find great tasting and healthy vegan options at restaurants and in grocery stores. That’s a sign that consumer demand is growing.
The Millenial Generation (talkin about my generation) is said to be significantly more prone to vegan and vegetarian eating. Another sign.
The internet has made it much easier for the truth to get out. We see this in all realms of life, not just eating. Think Ferguson and the issue of police brutality. Has this all of a sudden become an issue? No of course not! It’s been happening for decades, but the ubiquity of smartphones and YouTube makes it easier to shine the light on a dark piece of human behavior.
Animal agriculture is a huge dark spot on the landscape of human behavior. One that is so big and so pervasive that it is relatively easy to shine a light on it.
Which brings me to why I started Plantiful Health
(I’ll get back to how I met Rich and David in a second).
The truth is that I had just finished graduate school and was living at home while job searching and waiting for grants to fund potential projects. After a few months of this I realized that I was helping no one by just sitting on my parents’ couch.
I had just been given a world class education and my head was full of ideas about how to make health, food, and environment better, and yet I was doing nothing.
The internet gave me a voice.
I want to help people improve their lives through their plates, and in the process improve the planet as well. This venture of mine may never generate a single dollar in profit but that’s not the point. That’s not why I got in the game.
Here are some stats that keep me going. Most of my blog posts get between 50-100 reads. In the landscape that is the internet that might sound like small potatoes. But that’s 50-100 people I wasn’t reaching by sitting on the couch doing nothing.
Most of my YouTube videos average around 100 views, with my highest three videos currently at 2,157 views, 5,071 views, and 6,239 views! To date my channel has amassed 20,752 views.
That’s over 20,000 sets of eyeballs I have reached that I wouldn’t have had I just sat here and done nothing.
Which leads me to another thought…
Why most vegans are activists.
It is an unfortunate stereotype that vegans are annoying. We like to talk about being vegan and we aren’t afraid to share that with others. And while I will fully admit that there are many annoying vegans who don’t know when and where to share the message (read: tact), one thing cannot be denied: we are a passionate bunch.
And I think that’s a great thing to be a part of. When you think of it, the fact that most people who go vegan seem to also want others to go vegan, it must mean there is some inherent benefit in this lifestyle, something that we all feel needs to be shared with others. Sure we are passionate about the outside benefits to the environment and the animals.
But for all of you reading this who think “oh man I just could never give up meat, dairy, and eggs” realize that millions of us have AND we think it’s important enough that we encourage others to do the same. Are we really sitting around longing for animal products? Are we just trying to trick you, and once you go vegan we can say “gotcha!!”
Not in the slightest.
This movement is growing in a big way. And meeting Rich and David was inspiration for me to keep going, to keep spreading this life saving, animal saving, planet saving message.
All voices count. If you are passionate about something, sing it from the rooftops. The internet has given you a voice. Use it.
Thanks for reading.
David Carter, an NFL Defensive Lineman, is stronger than you. Way stronger. And at 310 pounds, he is all vegan muscle.
Just signed by the Chicago Bears, Carter is a force to be reckoned with. This guy is for real.
I think the story of Carter, or his avatar “The 300-lb Vegan” is worth sharing for several reasons.
First, he completely crushes the myth that you can’t get enough protein on a vegan, plant-based diet. In fact, let’s see how he crushed that myth.
Carter was following a typical Western diet when he entered the league. As a linebacker, this meant doubling down on that diet. Loads of eggs, meat, milk, whey protein, cheese, etc. Lots of high-calorie, animal protein foods.
Muscle needs meat…
Every nutritionist and team doctor he ever spoke to told him this was the only way for him to grow muscle and be big and strong, ready to compete at the highest level.
So when his wife went vegan 5 years ago, he initially declined joining her. Do you blame him? His career allegedly hung in the balance. There were no vegan defensive lineman… These are the biggest guys on the field — he needed to be big.
Then something changed.
After a night of binge-watching every food related documentary on Netflix, he and his wife landed on Forks Over Knives, the documentary that has turned countless people toward a vegan, whole-foods plant-based diet. Something clicked. Carter went vegan overnight, on Valentine’s Day, 2014. He didn’t have a plan. Didn’t know how it would affect his performance on the field.
But he was thinking beyond that. The stats on former-NFL players are not great. Life expectancy is mid-fifties. Diet is a big reason why. Carter wanted to wrack up his career stats, but this was one he did not want to become.
Over the course of the next couple months, he lost 40 pounds. Normally this is a fantastic result, welcomed by those switching to a plant-based diet. But remember, his career depended on him being big.
You Can Build Serious Muscle on Plants
Training in the offseason, and focusing only on whole plant foods (Read: No Protein Supplements), Carter was able to gain back the 40 pounds he lost and gain an additional 10, putting him at 310 pounds. Of nearly pure muscle. Built with nothing but plants.
Carter immediately began to notice incredible benefits to training on his diet — he had more energy, increased stamina, improved strength, and reduced recovery time. The last one is key. It is sometimes said that the benefits of exercise are not in the activity itself but the recovery. The recovery is when you build your new body. And with quicker recovery times, you can increase the frequency and intensity of the work you do, leading to more muscle building.
Carter has yet to prove himself
On the eve of the 2014 season, Carter suffered a season-ending injury during a preseason game. Every player’s worse nightmare. So over the last year on the sidelines he has been recovering, building strength, and waiting to prove himself.
On July 28, 2015, the Chicago Bears signed Carter to a 1-year deal. This season will be the first full season for a fully vegan defensive lineman in the NFL. I can’t wait to see what he does.
David Carter, the 300-lb vegan, proves that to be manly, to be strong, to be an athlete, to build muscle, you don’t need meat. In fact, he is proving that a plant-based diet is optimal for athletes in all sports, not just endurance athletes.