My Three Years as a Vegetarian

Written by Jason FerruggiaTopics: Nutrition


Fourteen months ago I ended my three year stint as a vegetarian. Here are the reasons why…

Firstly, I debated about even writing this article at all because the last thing I want is to start a whole debate about the morals and ethics of eating meat. For some reason a lot of people take it more seriously than religion and I don’t really want regular visitors to this site getting all fired up and arguing with each other about something so trivial.

But the fact of the matter is a lot of people ask me about my diet and would probably like to know what I’m doing now and why. Even though I know my explanation can’t and won’t satisfy everyone I hope you will at least understand why I did what I did and why I’m doing what I do now.

Four years ago this coming June I decided to start eliminating animal products from my diet. Friends and colleagues of mine who I have the utmost respect for, like Robert Dos Remedios and Jon Hinds had been vegan for years and they’re both jacked and in great shape, in their 40’s. At 47 Jon can dunk a basketball, walk the stairs of the Capitol building on his hands and perform various other physical feats that most mere mortals could never dream of. He’s also one of the coolest dudes I know and a big influence on me.

Becoming a vegetarian was an idea that intrigued me for a variety of reasons. As I expressed more interest in it a friend turned me onto The Food Revolution by John Robbins and told me it would change my life. If you are considering vegetarianism or on the fence about it Johns book will make the decision very easy. He makes a compelling argument and by the end of the second or third chapter I was done with meat and dairy.

At first I kept some fish and eggs in but eventually eliminated those as well. I experimented with various degrees of vegetarianism and veganism over the next three years and for the most part found it pretty enjoyable.

The Good
Within the first two weeks of eliminating meat and dairy I felt significantly better. Less inflammation and faster recovery from workouts were the two biggest positive changes. Looking back, I automatically assumed that this was from eating less meat and dairy but it could also be due to the fact that I instantly doubled or even tripled my consumption of fresh organic produce.

A lot of people make the same mistake when first switching to a vegetarian diet. They think it’s the lack of meat when in reality it might be the inclusion of all the extra greens and fruits.

I also cleaned up everything across the board and eliminated any food that wasn’t 100% organic. That right there makes a huge difference as well.

Being forced to eat so many more plant based foods brings out the need for creativity in the kitchen and Jen and I learned of countless new ways to prepare veggies, nuts and seeds into delicious meals that we still use today.

We also discovered new restaurants and plenty of foods we had never eaten before. The transition from meat eater to vegetarian was smooth and painless.

Now, for what a great majority of readers want to know…

How did being vegetarian affect my size, strength and performance?

Oddly enough, it had very little negative effect. Even I was somewhat surprised by this. I started my first day of vegetarianism at around 224 pounds. A year later I was right around the same weight. I cut my protein intake in half and it really didn’t have too much negative effect, which is what Brad Pilon talks about in How Much Protein.

But I was definitely getting a bit fatter from the extra carbs.

The Bad
After a while I loosened up the reigns and starting eating more soy and fake meat products. This was a huge mistake. I was just craving cheat foods and needed something to break the monotony.

I also started adding more and more legumes and grains to my diet. Since it’s hard to find protein sources that are vegan you’re really only left with legumes, soy and wheat protein. Those that know the problems associated with eating legumes and grains can see where this is going.

Eventually I started feeling worse. I slowly accumulated more bodyfat. My digestive health went way down hill and other issues started popping up.

The problem with legumes is that they contain lectins. Lectins are anti nutrients that can cause a lot of problems.

Here’s a brief description of lectins from Jonny Bowden’s excellent book, The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth:

“Lectins are substances contained in grains that originally evolved to fight off insect predators. But a portion of lectin can actually bind with tissues in our body and create problems. A highly respected researcher at the University of Colorado, Loren Cordain, Ph. D., published a paper in the British Journal of Nutrition detailing a theory that dairy foods, legumes, grains and yeast may be partly to blame for rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases in genetically susceptible people, due in part to the lectin molecule. According to Cordain, the lectins in food are known to increase intestinal permeability- they allow partially digested food proteins and remnants of gut bacteria to spill into the bloodstream. Cordain calls lectins “cellular Trojan horses.” They make the intestines easier to penetrate, impairing the immune system’s ability to fight off food and bacterial fragments that leak into the bloodstream.”

The whole food combining thing is big for vegans because of the deficiencies that the diet can lead to. Another huge problem for a lot of vegans is staying lean because they have to eat so many starchy carbs. Actually, let me rephrase that… they don’t necessarily have to but they do. Especially if they want to maintain their size.

Eventually I tightened the reigns back up and cut out beans, some grains and all fake or processed foods.

So at that point I was limited to just sweet potatoes, rice, quinoa, fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds. If you live across the street from Pure Food and Wine in New York or Planet Raw in Santa Monica (and can afford to eat there daily) this might be doable. But for me it started getting too hard to deal with and I was craving something else. Jon Hinds lives primarily on fruits and veggies and seemingly has no problem with it. I simply started getting burnt and would have loved a piece of salmon.

The health problems I had, while not severe or life threatening, weren’t getting much better and my testosterone took a dip as well. The funny thing is that I still felt better than 99% of the people I know my age (and plenty of people younger than me). But I always expect to feel like I’m 18 and be at the absolute pinnacle of physical health. Knowing what I know and considering what I do for a living I don’t think that’s asking too much. I like to lead from the front.

But I’m human and slipped up. Something had happened to me that needed to be fixed. I had to make some kind of change because living like that simply wasn’t worth it anymore.

Finally I decided to add back twice some fish and eggs a few times per week. It was a hell of a lot healthier than fake foods and buckets of grains so at least it was a step in the right direction.

Eventually I added back in some meat as well and my health improved. My testosterone came back up and I felt better.

Yet again, the protein intake didn’t seem to make much difference when it came to training. I had rotator cuff surgery at the end of my first year of vegetarianism that caused me to lose a ton of size and strength. Eventually I got back up to 220 plus with no animal protein. I was definitely fatter though, from my previous days at 220. So I do think that if you want to gain size eating more protein than less will, obviously keep you leaner. Especially if you have skinny-fat guy genetics like me.

As I’ve said before, I don’t think there is anything magical about proteins muscle building effects. In other words, double the protein does not equal double the gains. It simply allows you to eat more calories without getting fat. And that’s a good thing for those looking to build muscle.

Even though I added animal protein back in and cut out some of the other unhealthy foods I was eating I had, unfortunately, already done some pretty serious damage from the excessive consumption of legumes and grains. Because of the internal havoc that beans and grains can create they make you much more susceptible to parasites and fungus and a host of other digestive issues.

Robb Wolf explains a similar situation that he and many other vegetarians go through in his awesome book, The Paleo Solution and gives the steps necessary to get back to full health.

What I’ve Learned
I will never regret my three years as a vegetarian as I learned a lot and had some cool experiences from it. I even met some people I never would have otherwise. The great thing is it allows me to help any vegetarian readers or clients I have.

One thing you have to remember about your own personal diet is that what you respond best to will be largely based on what your ancestors ate hundreds of years ago. If they lived closer to the equator they ate more vegetarian foods. If they lived further away, in places where there was a winter, they obviously had to eat more animal foods to survive. That right there explains why some people do better on a vegetarian diet than others. I’m half Italian and half Scottish (where it seems like it’s always winter… kinda like San Francisco).

However, when examined closely you will find, through information packed books such as Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price that there were very, very few cultures that ever survived, and almost none that thrived on vegetarian diets.

If you choose to be a vegetarian for moral issues I completely understand and would never argue your right to do that.

Would I recommend a vegan diet to those interested in maximizing their performance and looking their best? Absolutely not. It can be done by some people but it’s tough. There are some deficiencies you will need to make up for as well. Adding in some eggs and raw dairy would make it a lot easier.

My job is to help people reach their goals as rapidly as possible so I have to use the most efficient, time tested means to do so.

I think animal protein and fat can definitely help anyone with performance or, especially physique, goals. It’s less important for strength and athletic performance than it is for body comp but it makes a difference for both.

I’ve read over a hundred books on the topic of nutrition the last four years and have talked with some of the top nutrition experts in the world. The major consensus seems to be that a lot of greens are good, pasteurized dairy is bad, grains and legumes are questionable, if not the devil (depending on who you ask) and animal protein in small to moderate quantities are healthy.

That’s where I’m at and what I’m following these days; following the Renegade Diet with tons of greens, moderate amounts of animal protein (about .8-1gm per pound of BW) and clean carbs like sweet potatoes. I usually have red meat three times per week, fish twice per week, and chicken twice per week. I believe it’s the smartest, healthiest approach to nutrition. If you want to gain a ton of size you may need a few extra meat meals per week. That’s up to you.

To any vegetarians who feel I let them down, I apologize. I hope you understand and maybe can even learn from my experiences. I had to do what was best for my own health and for my training goals. This stuff is what I do for a living so it’s important to me to be at my best.

Like you guys I’m always trying to learn more and better myself, each and every day.

Hopefully we can all continue doing so together long into the future.

Thanks for reading, my friends.



, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


63 Responses to My Three Years as a Vegetarian

  1. Koosh August 12, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    Thanks for writing this Jay. My results were similar, except that I did not have the fungus thing. I got fatter from all the starchy carbs. But I have also learned some great vegan/vegetarian ways of cooking that I still enjoy

  2. Matt August 12, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    Jason,
    As I was one very interested in your reasons for turning back to animal consumption, I appreciate your post.
    As a vegan myself I don’t judge others or force my ways upon them, because at the end of the day it’s a personal choice. I can eat animals but I choose not to…and never will for that matter.
    It’s simply disappointing to hear that some go back for whatever reasons and what is most unsettling is those (including you) who know the cruelty involved in animal consumption. Granted, I know you eat mostly grass fed etc, but it’s still a tough pill to swallow as I believe I remember moral/ethical reasons for becoming vegetarian as one of your main points.
    Being vegan, I remember when I came across some of your articles and found out you too had chosen to be one. It was great to see and I immediately started following and getting inspired by your articles etc. I added you to the list of many other great vegan strength coaches I follow including Hinds, Dos, Mahler, etc.
    As for the referral to Weston A. Price…that is also disappointing as they hold no value in my books (but that is a conversation on its own).
    Either way you made your choice and wrote about it. We all live with our choices and in the end that’s all there is.
    Thanks for posting.

    • Jason Ferruggia August 17, 2011 at 7:47 pm #

      @Matt: Sorry you’re disappointed and I understand your reasons why. At the end of the day it’s my career and what I do for a living. So if I wasn’t getting the results and looking or feeling the way I needed to I had no choice. I will freely admit that my own health and well being is more important than any other animals or persons, for that matter. You have to take care of yourself first and foremost.

      @John- It’s tough to gain size with digestive problems. Get those fixed first and try digestive enzymes, probiotics, etc.

      @Ryan- Thanks man.

      @Kevin- No doubt.

      @Pablo- Me too. I kept all the good habits I learned and am thankful for that. Thanks for the comments.

      @Tiawan- Good points.

  3. John August 12, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

    Amazing article Jason. Thank you. Have you ever trained someone with a weak digestive system (irritable bowel syndrome) and achieved size gains? Thanks in advance.

  4. Ryan August 12, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

    Great post Jay…

    and you shouldn’t have to apologize for making a choice (from vegetarian back to eating meat) that would improve your health to anyone.

    I was a vegetarian a few years ago and I had some of the same issues you did I went back to eating meat and I’ve never felt better…

    This is a great post for anyone who is curious about vegetarianism/veganism and wants a first hand account from someone who objectively gives the pros and cons of it.

    plus, soy is evil…sorry.

  5. Kevin August 12, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    Great post jay. Being transparent, as always. I love it. I would love to talk to you more about this when I come into renegade.

  6. Ben Swogger August 12, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    Thanks for posting Jason. I, along with many others, was wondering what made you switch back and this really clears it up. You gotta do what’s best for you and your health and I think it’s great that you spent time as a vegan so you could know both lifestyles and relate to both groups of people. You’re always on the front lines testing new things or ideas and then present your finding to us so we can make more informed decisions so thanks bro.

  7. Ollie Chapman August 12, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    Brilliant Article Jason, I’ve been vegan myself, not for 3 years and I could not agree more with what you have said. There are lots of ‘maybe’s around food, butI think following something such as you have described can’t be far wrong, no culture has thrived as a vegan or even been one, yet lots of people have thrived on varying intakes of meat, raw dairy and unprocessed carbohydrates.

  8. J.B. August 12, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

    I was a vegetarian for over 10 years, and my results were very similar.. it was a worthwhile experiment: I now have an understanding of food and it’s impact on my health and training that I would have never had without such a radical diet. I have perspective on food and selection: you don’t have to eat right this second, it’s ok if your choices are limited, it’s ok to do the best you can and have a real meal when you get home..
    That said, I’m bigger, leaner, stronger and happier with animal protein back in my diet.
    Good stuff.

  9. Pablo Rivera August 12, 2011 at 1:39 pm #

    Jason –

    Great post, Bro. I was a vegan for 3 years after reading and studying the works of Harvey Diamond (Fit For Life), as well as going through the Living Health program from Tony Robbins, not to mention the work of Norman Walker, Paul Bragg and others.

    Although I am not a vegan any longer, I still carry with me those aspects of that lifestyle and nutrition that I feel are worth maintaining, like juicing and eating more raw foods and veggies for their non-cooked properties (minerals, vitamins, enzymes, etc.) I don’t regret that time either cause I learned a lot and it did really clean me out and put me on a better path overall because of it.

    The reason I switched back to eating meat are almost identical to yours.

    But you can imagine the backlash from family and friends after I made the switch. What is ironic is that I never “preached” my lifestyle to anyone, ever. Yet, when I made the switch, they were all so quick to put in their 2 cents.

    So I applaud you for putting your thoughts together and sharing them on this post.

    Much appreciated.

  10. Tiawan J August 12, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    I was wondering what happened myself with your diet. I have been on and off with vegetarianism since 02′ and I finally went vegan for three months in which I was inspired by you and Mike Mahler mainly. I felt great during the time but had to eventually eat what was in the family fridge because money was tight, but I feel just as well eating meat again. Know I’m more conscious though of my veggie options and superfoods. I think everyone should try going vegan for a while if even for a week, and I plan to cycle throughout my life different diets and lifestyles. That’s one of the reason why I’m a fan of yours because at least your exploring different options and continuing to find different health benefits yourself. I think the ultimate message is to continue to grow experience trials and errors in finding what works for you in your training and diet.

  11. kohy August 12, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

    I did about 5 years veg before I decided to grow a pair and put on some muscle

  12. Chris August 12, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    Nice one there Jay,

    Quick question…where do you stand on sprouted legumes etc?

    Keep up the aweome work man!

    Chris

    • Jason Ferruggia August 17, 2011 at 7:53 pm #

      @Chris: I tend to avoid most legumes most of the time but I do eat them on occasion and don’t think they’re really that bad at all. It’s really all about how they make you feel.

      @Jeff- Good points.

      @Brady- Yes. Not a big fan of it. I’d rather smoke them hemp than drink it.

      @Jen- Seems like a lot of people have had similar experiences.

      @Sean- Not really. It took me about 4-6 months like you. Did a ton of reading and talking to people. It wasn’t an overnight decision.

      @Kyle- I said between experts that seemed to be the major consensus. If you want to eat fifty pounds of meat all day it’s fine with me. If we are truly being “evolutionary” and doing what the “paleo man” would have done that’s not really endless quantities of meat all day. Its probably one serving of meat or animal protein per day after a kill then just foraging for leaves and berries the rest of the day.

      @Will- Good point. I also dread vegetarian or vegan clients because I know how hard it’s going to be for them.

  13. Jeff August 12, 2011 at 2:06 pm #

    Hell yeah!! We didn’t evolve a stomach full of HCL (hydrochloric acid) to digest plants…it’s for protein/meat…If we were meant to be herbivorous, like a cow, we’d have 4 different stomachs like they do too…and if man had evolved on a vegetarian diet, our brains definitely wouldn’t be anywhere near as developed…read an article a long time ago from a professor that hypothesised that it’s when man went from a raw meat to a cooked meat diet (after figuring out fire) is when the human brain really became the developed brain we see today in modern man…interesting idea…I could never be a vegan/vegetarian myself because I don’t eat enough times during the day…meat gets me what I need in a quicker and smaller meal which is way more convenient for me…and as they say, to each their own…

    Great post, Jason!

    • Humane Hominid August 19, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

      @Jeff: Hey Jeff: humans did not evolve a stomach full of HCl, we simply inherited it. There is a difference. All vertebrate animals, including herbivores, produce HCl in their gastric systems; it’s an ancestral condition. Your comments about brain size are off-the-mark, too.

      As for the overall post, since I’m new here, I’ll just say hi to the blogger.

  14. Brody August 12, 2011 at 2:45 pm #

    Hey Jason,
    Did you ever try hemp protein to get your protein fix?
    If you have I would love to hear your thoughts on it.
    Great post by the way.

  15. David August 12, 2011 at 3:06 pm #

    “If we aren’t supposed to eat animals, then why are they made of meat?” I love animals… I love to watch them, play with them, pet them, eat them… they’re just so awesome.

  16. Will August 12, 2011 at 3:17 pm #

    Nice post. I was expecting this, knowing your willingness to admit your past mistakes.

    In a nutshell: animal proteins are of higher quality than grain or vegetable proteins because all the essential amino acids are present, they’re present in higher qualities, and along with essential fatty acids, they’re present in the proper proportions and ratios that mother-nature intended. If we didn’t need to eat animals, these essential nutrients wouldn’t be required for normal metabolic and hormonal functioning. Our mouths have incisors for an evolutionary reason, which is to tear flesh from the bone.

    It’s not a coincidence that vegetarians and especially vegans are small, weak and fat, apart from the ones who built their size and strength before they started retarded diets, and they rarely make any progress after switching.

    And the ‘animal rights’ argument for not eating meat? Animals don’t have rights: http://www.reading.ac.uk/dsoderberg/papers/The%20Illusion%20of%20Animal%20Rights.pdf
    Humans, however, do: that’s why we imprison parents who feed their babies vegan diets.

  17. Jen August 12, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

    Great post! This is pretty similar to what I’m experiencing as a 10+ year Vegetarian, Pescatarian for the past 2-3 years. It’s a hard line to walk; society likes to put people into boxes especially when pertaining to diets (why do we care about what other people are consuming?). Which diet holds the secret to getting thin or bulking up or curing cancer? If only it were so cut and dry.

    I’m about to make the leap because my diet isn’t cutting it anymore. It’s not adequately fueling my workouts or helping me reach my goals.

  18. Sean August 12, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

    Awesome read. Receive any backlash? Four months ago (today, on the dot, actually) I returned to eating meat after a 14 year three day journey in the wonderful world of being vegetarian (nine and a half of those years being vegan). Ironically enough, NOBODY gave me any shit for calling it a day ( and there were a few cats I was nervous about telling). People were pretty surprised, but when I broke it down, ere’body gave me their blessing. Oh yeah, how long did it take you to make up your mind? Took me four months.

    Boom!

    Sean

  19. Kyle August 12, 2011 at 5:08 pm #

    Hi Jason,

    I’ve subscribed to your blog posts for about a year and knew that you were vegetarian at one point, but never read your reasons for doing so. I rarely care why people choose to be vegetarian because it doesn’t matter all that much. I had a couple questions about your post.

    First you said, “A lot of people make the same mistake when first switching to a vegetarian diet. They think it’s the lack of meat when in reality it might be the inclusion of all the extra greens and fruits.”

    Then later you said, ” The major consensus seems to be that a lot of greens are good, pasteurized dairy is bad, grains and legumes are questionable, if not the devil (depending on who you ask) and animal protein in small to moderate quantities are healthy.”

    You did not give any reasons why animal protein should be in moderate quantities though. I was wondering why you feel this way? Given everything you’ve read and know about diet, I’d like to hear reasons for limiting meat in any kind of way? My take on diet as of now is that unlimited meat is fine.

    I don’t mean that I eat grossly above average quantities of meat, but that there is no reason for it to be limited. I also don’t see any reason to limit veggies in any amount. Fruit and starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes would be the only thing that needs to be limited for SOME people as carb tolerance seems to be very specific to different people.

    So those are my thoughts on diet. There is no reason to limit yourself in meats or vegetables, but adjust fruit and sweet potato like foods as needed. Naturally if you eat five pounds of meat a day it’ll probably be hard to get your body comp goals met, but that seems just as silly as eating five pounds of anything a day.

    Great writing, keep up the good posts. As a side note, I felt your 20 Bodyweight Exercises post a few weeks back was on of the best I’ve read on the topic.

  20. Jeremy August 12, 2011 at 7:13 pm #

    I totally agree. I would say that juicing is something that can be of huge benefit as an addition not a stand alone for healthy fat loss. Great post!

  21. Will August 12, 2011 at 7:46 pm #

    Awesome post!
    I have no real perspective on the subject, as I love eating animal products and am very comfortable with that, but it certainly seems to be a trend I’m seeing, stories like yours: Initial spike in health upon transition to vegan/vegetarianism, then a gradual but fairly consistent decline until it becomes unsustainable.
    I personally prefer not to take on vegan/vegetarian clients as I just find it makes achieving results that much more difficult. And, because I can offer no perspective, either.

    I’ll just throw out another great resource for those confused on the topic, and especially those that grapple with the moral side of the equation: Check out Lierre Kieth’s works, and her book. She was vegan for 20 years. Now she’s not, and advises others against following her mistake.

    Again, excellent post.

  22. Luke H August 12, 2011 at 8:58 pm #

    Jason great article and something I have always wondered about – what it would be like being a vegetarian. Thanks for sharing the experience I personally don’t think I will do it, but you never know what the future holds. I also have a lot of respect for the people that are vegetarian for the moral reasons.

    One of the main reasons I eat meat is the fact that meats or animal proteins contain all of the ‘essential’ amino acids. This isn’t the fact for vegetables proteins. The body uses these proteins to create its own proteins. Meat constantly in the diet ensures this process takes place. I haven’t looked into where vegetarians would gain ‘essential’ amino acids.

  23. Blake August 12, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

    Jason Ferruggia, do you believe that if you kept your weight around 190 lbs instead of shooting for above 220 lbs, then subsequently the vegetarian diet would have been much more sustainable and less problematic for you? Thanks.

    • Jason Ferruggia August 17, 2011 at 8:02 pm #

      @Blake: Definitely. And even now I’m back to eating meat but not trying to weigh as much as I used to just because it’s easier on my digestive system, joints, etc. I still would have made the switch back though, I think.

      @G. Kopal- Good stuff. Thanks for the comments.

      @Brian Smith- Yes. Good book.

      @Maureen- Thanks for sharing your experiences.

      @Abdiel- Good stuff.

      @Stephane- Thanks

      @Nathan- I used to like pooping in my pants and having my mom change me. I also used to like Chinese food and Big Macs. I enjoyed watching He-Man and GI Joe too. I used to like wearing Air Jordans. Then there was the tradition of wearing a pointy paper hat on September 3rd every year and having everyone sing Happy Birthday to me. When Bel Biv Devoe ruled the charts I actually liked R&B. Before shoulder surgery I used to like bench press. And in my twenties and early 30’s I liked going out and drinking all night til the wee hours of the morning.

      It’s kind of ironic that I don’t like any of those things anymore. A bit weird, no?

  24. Raymond August 12, 2011 at 11:37 pm #

    Yeah cool I think everybody should eat how they like for optimum health and fitness.
    Meat should be used in a balanced diet, you can’t get the same quality of proteins, amino acids, vitamins, and nutrients as from other non-animal products.
    So good on you if you need to change things to be healthier.

    Having said that I am a vegetarian for the only reason the way animals are killed (admittedly I do eat fish but I guess I can’t hear them scream under water)
    Raymond

  25. K.Gopal Rao August 13, 2011 at 3:39 am #

    Fascinating dialogue. As an Indian born and bred a vegetarian, now at 72 a confirmed meat-eater (in moderate qty by US stds) due to rationalising that it’s more efficient to take animal protein, I’m still surprised that it’s not possible, or very difficult, to maintain size and strength on the veg diet.

    The crux of the matter is probably what Jason has mentioned in passing, i.e. “One thing you have to remember about your own personal diet is that what you respond best to will be largely based on what your ancestors ate….”, and probably our constitutions are able to handle the large qty of legumes better thro’ centuries of genetic adaptation.

    We have a fair no of big-built people in India who maintain size and strength with the required quantities of veg food, and the large qty of pulses/legumes involved don’t seem to have the kind of adverse effects Jason mentioned. If there aren’t too many, it’s as much to do with living standards as anything else.

    And a thought for the morals of it all. I hv heard that the Japanese philosophy is that u should eat only that form of animal which can kill and prepare yrself. Which is why they restricted themselves to fish until Admiral Perry came along and showed them some new rules of the game. This strikes me as eminently rational and fair to the laws of creation. Any takers?

  26. Mike B August 13, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

    I also was a vegetarian for a couple years. It’s been 10 years since but during that my diet caused a bunch of problems. Started developing allergies and asthma. It may have been the result of eating lots of soy and eggs in an attempt to get protein. It took me years to get rid of asthma. I believe all medications are addictive and in a sense keep you in illness. So it was a long battle but with clean diet and hydration I have been free of asthma for two years. Now my diet is much like Jasons with fasting until lunch. In short, a diet with organic meats, produce and an avoidance of grains works best for me. Beer however is still okay in my book. Gotta have some fun.

  27. Estevan August 13, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

    I’ve been Vegan since January and I’ve experienced the same as far as pros in increased energy and strength but also the cons of legumes. I think after a year I will incorporate 5% of my diet from free-ranging animal produce and eat less of the legumes. You are absolutely right about the benefits of increased greens and fruits. Great article man

  28. Abdiel Rodriguez August 13, 2011 at 10:18 pm #

    Thanks for being honest. I am a vegetarian, not vegan (some eggs and cheese). From my experience vegetarianism is not that hard. In fact, I admit I am not that fat from so many starchy carbs. When I lower the amount of starchs by 40-50% and eat a lot more fiber I tend to brun fat quickly and I’m a skinny fat just like you. As you say legumes are not meant to be consumed in high amounts, that’s not healthy, neither nuts.

  29. brian smith August 14, 2011 at 6:53 am #

    Jason,
    Greatly appreciate the update. Have you read “Thrive” by Brendan Brazier? He talks a lot about beans/legumes and seems to be counter to what you discussed in this post. I dont know enough either way, but was just curious what your thoughts were on “Thrive”.

    Cheers

  30. maureen August 14, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    After 28 yrs as a vegan, I now eat meat. I never thought the day would come when I would be sitting down eating a NY Strip. I do and I enjoy every bite. It has made a difference in my both physical and mental health. I hate that I contribute to the mistreatment of animals but on the other hand I need to give my body what it needs to survive and thrive and for this I do not apologize.

  31. Stephane August 15, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

    Awesome article Jason. I experimented with veganism for a while, did really well, but started to develop that “hunger” you were referring to.
    Either way, I really like your articles in which you speak about something that obviously means a lot to you. These are the ones that truly influence myself and I bet you most of your readers.

  32. Nathan August 16, 2011 at 10:49 am #

    “Those that know the problems associated with eating legumes and grains can see where this is going… …The problem with legumes is that they contain lectins. Lectins are anti nutrients that can cause a lot of problems”

    I find it ironic that you make posts tipping your hat to ‘the problems associated with eating legumes and grains’ while selling a recipe book full of legumes and grains meal recommendations and promoting a protein powder made of rice… It’s a bit weird, no?

  33. Ryan August 17, 2011 at 1:38 am #

    Nathan: it’s not ironic or weird…it’s called GROWTH.

    Even if Jay is no longer a vegan, why can’t he still write a cookbook that covers the kind of dieting and nutrition he’s used in the past?

    If you look at Muscle Gaining Secrets, most if not, all of those meal plans were written with a person who ate organic meat, fish and poultry…but, if i’m not mistaken, he was a vegan when he wrote those?

    is that considered, in your eyes, to be ironic?

    I don’t think so…

    I think Jay can still be a meat eater and write a recipe book geared towards non meat eaters, etc.

    There are various individuals who’ve written recipe books for non-meat eaters who are meat eaters and vice versa, does that take away from the nutrition knowledge or goals they had in mind…which is clearly to help people who are trying to lose weight/gain muscle/eat right?

  34. Billy August 17, 2011 at 12:30 pm #

    Ryan…tryin’ to earn brownie points or something? lol
    It’s neither called ironic or growth..it’s called money. Jason is in the business of selling and as such will pimp out whatever product he can. He has pretty much all niches covered: those trying to gain size, those trying to lose weight, those vegetarian, those not…etc.
    When he became vegan he was touting it as the end all to diet/training…now he has changed his mind. Much like his training principles…he use to believe that you had to eat 5-7 times per day and now he doesn’t state that anymore, in fact the contrary. Sure, some ‘growth’ there but also simply jumping onto whatever current trends there are and riding that horse, selling products until the next trend. At the end of the day It’s selling…pure and simple. The only growth happening is in his click bank account ;)

    • Jason Ferruggia August 17, 2011 at 8:12 pm #

      @Billy: Hey buddy. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard from you. Glad to see you’re still a loyal reader and keeping up to date on everything here, including the growth of my Clickbank account. I appreciate it. Hope all is well.

      @Ry- I co-authored the plant based recipe guide with a good friend who still eats like that and deserves to make the money for the hard work he put into it, as you clearly understand. I couldn’t and wouldn’t pull it off the market when there are tons of vegetarians out there who eat like that and it’s a damn good product. Plus, a good number of recipes in there are great for meat eaters as a side dishes, desserts or whatever. I still eat most of the stuff in there. So if anyone can’t understand that please don’t let it get you upset, my friend. It’s all good, brother. And if it makes you feel any better I don’t know what the current trends are either. But I have always been proud of that.

  35. Ryan August 17, 2011 at 6:50 pm #

    no billy just giving a viewpoint..clearing you missed that trying to make a swipe. do better next time.

    money or not, cleary jason had reasons behind why he started eating meat again…that’s fine.

    that doesn’t diminish or take away from the cookbook he put out now. and anyone with common sense can modify his book to suit THEIR eating habits and needs.

    sure he’s making money…SURE, he touted that, at the time, that was the way to go FOR HIM.

    can’t people progress in life and realize that what they thought WORKED for them doesn’t?

    can’t people make changes in their life’s course, modify it, realize that maybe that wasn’t the best mode of action for them and *STILL* support and maintain that even though what was assumed to be WORKING FOR THEM at one point, doesn’t now, but STILL can work for anyone else?

    Yes and Yes.

    So, sorry my comment about GROWTH still stands.

    and what are the current trends, billy? do tell…

    so miss me with the brownie points comment and just accept that, whether or not you think he did this for money or not, he is STILL allowed the right to change.

    he could very well be adding an addendum to his diet book right now..i don’t know.

    I do know that Jay’s change doesn’t diminish the value of the cookbook he put out at all.

  36. Kevin Valluzzi August 17, 2011 at 8:10 pm #

    Touche’ to Nathan’s post!! I was waiting for your reply to him. LOL!!!

    “Never trust a big butt and a smile”.

    BBD in the mutha f*#&@* house!!!

  37. Kevin Valluzzi August 17, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

    LOL—same here brother!

    “Me and the crew used to do her”

    Brings back memories man!

    Even Tribe was down with the crew, “You got BBD all on your bedroom wall”

  38. Ryan August 18, 2011 at 12:44 am #

    @Jason Ferruggia you are right, Jay. I just have no tolerance for people who hide behind monitors and type tough but really don’t have shit to say to come up with a COUNTERPOINT to why they have a problem with something you do…I mean, he’s upset because you decided to start eating meat again? how is that hypocritical? I mean, i know common sense and linear logic are treasures, but damn, folk really need to *NOT* show their idiocy so quickly in posts like this.

    I actually need to get the cookbook myself it did have a LOT of good recipes in it…oh wait, I eat limited amounts of red meat, chicken and fish, does that make me a hypocrite because im buying the book.

    SMH-simp ass. LOL

  39. Nathan August 18, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

    Jason,

    My second post doesn’t get shown? Most of your examples of ridiculous… but, you already knew that.

    I’m done… so feel free to delete this one too.

    PS. BBD was the shit

  40. Chris Norton August 19, 2011 at 8:06 am #

    I think it’s great what you’ve done switching back to animal products. It’s clear that humans were meant to eat at least some animal products. Just reading this article and some of your comments it seems as though you are leaning toward a paleo type diet. I just wanted to say that I think that diet has negative consequences as well. Just the idea that humans somehow messed up approximately 10,000 years ago when grains were introduced isn’t really sound. Hard core paleo folks that say that’s why we have all the problems we have now and if we could only go back to hunting and foraging, are obviously ignoring the health of traditional populations that have thrived since grains were introduced. I used to have trouble with grains (and anything with starchy carbs for that matter) and other Neolithic foods but now I don’t. It wasn’t the grains that was the problem, it was me. It’s like saying someone with an allergy to cats must stay away from cats forever, that’s crazy considering the majority of people don’t have any problems with cats. Try and fix your allergy to cats before demonizing something that isn’t the root cause. That’s just my experience. Thanks for all the great content you put out Jay.

  41. Phil Nicols August 20, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

    well, I see both sides… Ive been off meat for about 7 years.. still eat eggs, very little milk and cream, only in coffee and I will eat cheese like on a veggie burger but thats it. Nothing that was had to be killed.

    What did I notice? Nothing really. I can still push 4 plates myself or 4 and “two quarters” with a spotter. its enough for me. Ive never injected myself with anything foreign substance that you see so often in the gym.

    My weight stays the same @ 200. Im 45yo and I don’t work out that much either. In fact I hate to admit it but my work keeps me in front of a computer wheeey too much! I used to do a 5 day program but now its like 2 body parts per day and 2-3 days in the gym… plus some biking and martial arts.

    If you follow Bill Pearl, he had all this figured out back in the 70s. He was winning contests (won most of the contests back then) on a vegetarian diet, including eggs and some dairy – but no “meat”. So thats what Im stickin with.

    whats funny was some 20 years ago, my wife and I visited California. We were not vegetarians then but pretty much every restaurant we stopped at was a vegetarian restaurant. I thought they were so far advanced at the time, with wind farms and they had the first viable electric car there, the EV1, they had solar farms and first in computers too.

    then we went again just last summer. Now We were the vegetarians but all the restaurants were like, Ihop, Dennys, Jack in the Box.. it was hard to find a vegetarian restaurant! the only one that was close to our hotel was always so packed, you couldn’t get seat! (right on Santa Monica Blvd)

    oddly enough, next week were going to NY and if you Google vegetarian restaurants in Manhattan, there are tons! Why the shift? I dunno.

  42. GSK September 4, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

    thank you for the article Jason it was very helpful, but i have some questions that are troubling me, I’ve been a vegetarian for about 4 years, and i stopped eating meat on and off seven years ago, and I started studying to become a registered dietitian 2 years ago, and I know I can be a vegetarian and be healthy, but ever since i stopped eating meat regularly i started gaining weight i gained about 30 pounds, and to me it doesn’t make any sense since i watch what i eat and care for my calorie intake and how many calories i burn, i eat a lot of greens and not too many carbs and try no to eat processed fake meat more than 1 a week….. so I don’t get it I’ve also had more health problems than ever before….. oh also when i became a vegetarian i also started exercising a lot more but still have more fat that before… so I’ve been trying to look for answers and i came across the blood type diet and it made sense for me because it says that since I’m O neg I should try to eat more meat and less wheat…. i need some help

  43. gus September 23, 2011 at 10:21 am #

    Great post;the conclusion is obvious,the vegetarianism is an ideology,nothing to do with the biology.

  44. concerned September 24, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

    Most people miss the big picture;

    Its much more then both biology and ideology. Somewhere along the line, we were “taught” or “programmed” to eat meat. Its not natural. The test is, if you put a baby in a room with an apple and a rabbit, chances are the baby will try to eat the apple and play with the rabbit. That’s natural.

    The Volkswagen plant in Germany has glass walls and its located in the middle of Dresden Germany. They hide nothing. Citizens walking by fan see the cars being built.

    Imagine if slaughterhouses where the same way. Located in the middle of major cities like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago etc, hiding nothing. Citizens seeing the animals being forced onto the killing floors with electric cattle prods, hoisted by their hind legs while they are bled to death. Did you know that most are still alive as they are being ripped apart and processed? Do you think a major factory is going to stop the “production line” because some of the animals are not dead yet?

    Imagine this in the centre of a major city with glass walls. Imagine the restaurant right across the street from this going on. All day every day, the trucks arriving pushing all sorts of animals onto the floors.

    Would you be eating a burger right across the street? If you still would, I will pray for you.

    Its NOT natural. That’s the humanitarian side.

    Then there is the Ecological side…. it takes 10-20 times more land to feed raise a cow than it does to feed a human directly. That’s not to say that cow gets 10-20 acres to roam around on. No. Most are confined to a small pen for their 15 months on this earth. The land is necessary to grow the corn on to make cheep feed to feed the cattle.

    Cattle are not made to eat corn and their digestive systems do not break it down property. what is not broken down creates bacteria which creates things like mad cow disease.

    To combat this, scientists have taken to cutting holes in the cows! 8 inch inspection ports so they can monitor whats going on inside the living cow’s stomachs!

    Between the aceraged needed to grow the corn, to the plants needed to “process” the animals, to the factorie needed to make and maintain the trucks and equiptment nessesary to carry out this daily ritual, to dispoal of whats left over.. it all adds up.

    it takes 58 square feet of rain forest to create enough meat by – product to make ONE QUARTER POUND HAMBURGER!

    Where as that same acreage could be used to grow crops to feed people.

    and it gets worst… the human population is going up while worlds natural resources are going down. Scientifically, there’s got to be a breaking point. Perhaps that breaking point is Dec 21 2012.

    Biologically, no one ever starved from being on a vegetarian diet and if you Google Bill Pearl, you will see that humans do quite well without eating meat.

    The only reason we eat meat is because we’ve been programmed to do so by advertising.

    Like Ghandi said, “there’s enough for every mans need but not enough for every man’s greed.”

  45. Till September 26, 2011 at 7:54 am #

    Good point… We are able to eat meat and I think it’s healthy to do so every now and then. But every paleo disciple telling me that eating meat every single day is natural must be full of ****. First, cavemen weren’t always lucky hunters. The ethical aspect, on the other hand, can’t be denied… And to see Jason quote Thrive and The China Study a few years ago and now call the paleo diet “good stuff” (check facebook) is extremely disappointing to me. I do realise that it may be a bit harder for a vegetarian to build muscle – you know what: **** it. If somebody used this as an argument against my ethical concerns, I’d just pity them because there’s clearly something wrong with their priorities in this world.

  46. Jeremy September 26, 2011 at 8:07 am #

    Lets remember nutrition is just one part of the puzzle to a long healthy life.
    1. Fitness level is more important to me personally than just living a long life
    2. A sense of purpose is crucial for long life
    3. Reduction in how a person handles stress through prayer, meditation or whatever works for you
    4. Sleep is super important
    5. Water is vital
    6. A diet high in nutrients
    7. A sense of community

    I personally have to eat protein from eggs, fish, chicken and so on. I am also aware that people should be allowed to eat how they want for religious or moral reasons.

  47. David September 26, 2011 at 3:45 pm #

    eat what you want. you’re gonna die regardless…

  48. Ian December 21, 2011 at 8:05 am #

    Hi Jay,
    So what about all those things written in ‘The China Study’??…I believe that they are true and will always be committed to eliminating as much animal protein as possible from my diet.
    Cancer’s and other diseses are a big problem for our society.I do not think that people have to stop eating animal products, but they must eat them in very small amounts.
    Politics and food,eh?…the never ending dicussion!..
    .it’s best that each one of us does what they think is best for themselves anyways….good luck to all humanity!
    Take care,
    Ian

  49. Nick May 29, 2012 at 12:19 am #

    All I have to say is try and live out in the wild (like our hunter gatherer ancestors) and see if u can survive on a vegan diet, not possible, veganism is a “luxury” of our food rich society. In survival it’s about the biggest calorie bang for your buck. “Wild edibles” is a misnomer, not to many wild plants to get all your calories from. There are no native tribes/people who have ever lived on a vegan diet, 100% of them ate meat in one form or another, for millions of years of human evolution we have lived on meat. Try it, go camp in the forest for a week without taking food and see how many veggies u find to eat. U would need like a 5 gallon bucket of berries to get enough calories. I can respect a choice to be vegan because of not wanting to harm animals, but to say it is the correct “Human Diet” or how we should all eat is rediculous, just not meant to be herbivores or we would have more than one stomach, not to mention the fact that we need cholesterol to manufacture all of our hormones, otherwise bye bye testosterone, hello schitzophrenia, something like two thirds of all schitzophrenic patients turn out to be vegans I’ve read. No serotonin from lack of cholesterol. Anyway. It’s a choice, not a biologically appropriate diet. You all should respect Jason for his choice, things always change, what we thought right years ago is sometimes different than what we think now, it happens to us all.

    • Till May 30, 2012 at 3:01 am #

      As Jay pointed out, your ancestor’s diet depended on the region they were living in; there is no such thing as one primal diet, “we were meant to eat…”. I find both vegans and paleo nuts annoying when they tell me this or that is unnatural food. Sure, certain things are unhealthy in bigger amounts; so what? BANANAS are unhealthy if you overdo them. Following that… If you’re so hellbent on eating like your ancestors and they came from northern Europe… No avocadoes for you. No Bananas. No almonds. No potatoes, no rice. No Buffalo. In the case of Scotland… mutton, barley, apples and carrots. There you go; happy?

      In no way am I trying to say what Jay did was wrong. He obviously feels better with meat in his diet and very few grains and legumes. Works for him. But saying that this is what we’re “meant” to eat? Sound like creationism to me, sorry.

  50. Vegan. July 15, 2012 at 7:22 pm #

    I am so sorry to hear that you eat animals. :(

  51. Lee October 20, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

    Hey Jason.

    I used to follow you on Facebook and went vegan a year after you (just about). I now eat fish. I used to wonder why a LOT of vegans were so cranky, mean and full of themselves. Then, I started getting cranky and short-tempered. Now, I just eat vegans! =D

    I’ve learned a lot after my juice fast and am glad I incorporated a lot of greens into my menu. That was the one of the best parts of the experience. The mean vegan crowd who thinks they are the “ultimate” people will learn the hard way. Hopefully, they will find what works best for THEM and STOP being as annoying as these “religionists” who run around preaching stupidity in the name of some imaginary “god”.

    I was depressed for a long time. The vegeatrian diet WAS great for losing weight and for re-orienting myself when it came to food….. and, my labs were coming up GREAT every time. I lacked stuff though that I needed to get from animal protein. I just am not a beef or chicken person. I still stick to a predominately vegetarian diet with a little less cheese/dairy and about 3x/week of fish. I lowered the carbs and legumes just a bit and now feel SUPERB. I felt a positive change when I first started the juice fast and became a vegetarian, but found that, in the long run, vegetarianism is really one of those on and off things for me. there comes a time when I need to purge my body and start again, but that is me. It is how MY body speaks to me re: food. Adding fish to my diet gave me back my strength and I no longer feel a victim to depression. Grats to you on your well-balanced views of things. We think a lot alike.

  52. Ryan Hogg November 29, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    Whats your take on soy protien and estrogen. It has been all that i have been hearing recently is the linkage between a high consumption of soy and high estrogen levels. Obviously this would be detrimental to any strength athlete.

    I gather from your article that you probably dont consider soy a good source of protein for vegetarians or vegans regardless , but for my own curiousity i am interested if you have heard anything about this or what your take on it is

    Thanks

  53. Stephanie Davis August 4, 2013 at 5:30 am #

    Thank you for this article.
    I am an aspiring bikini competitor and switched to a vegan diet about 2 months ago. I am torn between 2 worlds and it’s hard to find others who understand. Vegans and omnivores are both so passionate about their beliefs, they refuse to admit to flaws in their diet. My weight has remained the exact same, and my muscles are significantly smaller and softer. I feel great, yes, but I am more concerned about my upcoming competition than anything else. Your article is very tactful and well-thought. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience. I am going to give my vegan trial 1 more month ( I have to burn through all this tempeh anyways) and if I am not seeing the progress I want, I will be back to my carnivorous ways- which has always kept my body lean and hard.

    • Matt August 8, 2013 at 10:21 pm #

      Stephanie,
      good luck with your training and competition. As a vegan myself i’m always pumped up when i hear about others and hope to support them. Don’t go back to the dark side ;)
      Some names/sites to check out which may help you as a vegan competitor…
      Derek Tresize (vegan bodybuilder)
      veganmuscleandfitness . com
      Torre Washington (Tha vegan dread, bodybuilder)
      Mindy Collette (fitness model)
      Claudia Lailhacar (figure competitor)
      Tiffany Burich
      Hope these help…google them, face book them and let me know if you want more examples, help, info, anything :)
      Good luck…and kick a$$!

  54. joseph September 25, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

    dear Jason,

    if you are only eating meat 7 times a week does that mean you eat soy, beans or grains, hemp, or rice protein for your other meals?

    wouldnt it be better to eat meat with every meal to avoid the lectins and gluten?

    and are seeds like hemp full of lectins like nuts and grains? are any nuts or seeds low or free of lectins and anti-nutrients?

  55. Techlvr December 15, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    Firstly – you didn’t let anybody down because nobody can tell you what to eat.
    I loved the article. I am a vegetarian but avoid all animal products. If however I go to a pizza party, I will eat a cheese pizza.
    That’s the point you are making, I think.
    I have stayed vegetarian and borderline vegan by promising myself that I won’t restrict my diet ever! This simple affirmation has helped me avoid feeling of deprivation that causes too many new vegetarians/vegans to fall off the wagon.

    Eat fresh food and if you crave a fish, eat it AFTER you’ve had your lunch. You may not want it by then but if you do, dig in!

Leave a Reply