Paleo Vegetarian – Finally Found Something That Works
Paleo Vegetarian – The Best Term I’ve Come Up With
Let me start this off by saying something I don’t usually say – I don’t care if you disagree with me. I am certainly open to feedback on my Paleo Vegetarian “lifestyle” but am not open to ignorance, bs, criticism or the like. This amalgamation of a diet has taken me a long time to assemble. It works for me, so please respect that. Also, I’m not a doctor or registered nutritionist. This is simply what works for me. If you follow the Paleo vegetarian principles I lay out here, it’s at your own risk and responsibility.
I went vegetarian about a year and a half ago. Early November of 2010, I think it was. This came after many years of ignoring my heart. I loved to eat meat. In fact, even at that point, I subsisted primarily on meat, fruit and vegetables – I was eating a Paleo diet and didn’t even realize it. (More on what Paleo is later for those unaware). Once I decided to take out the meat, and at that time eggs, things went downhill fast.
I didn’t consciously consider how to compensate for the loss of meat. Sure, I upped my protein intake, mostly in the form of dairy, but I ate more than that. I found myself consuming carbs in a way I never had before. Within a couple of months I had no energy and I was getting fat. I couldn’t make it through my CrossFit workouts. Mind you, I wasn’t just recording bad times, I literally got so dizzy and exhausted that I couldn’t finish. It was embarrassing. I tried sleeping more, but that didn’t make any difference.
Paleo + vegetarian = Paleo vegetarian
Once I realized what was going on – that I wasn’t just “more tired than usual” or “not eating enough,” as many suggested it – I knew it had to be my change in diet. This was around 9 months after my move to vegetarianism. I started looking at the way my fellow CrossFit participants ate. They were embracing this Paleo, or Paleolithic, diet. I looked at it, and it resonated with me. The idea that we should eat as our ancestors ate 10,000 years ago made sense. After all, our “developments” in food had come far faster than our body could evolve to handle them. The Paleo diet of meat, vegetables and fruit seemed to fit my body, but not my heart. I wrestled, painfully, with my decision to give up meat. I was genuinely depressed in a deep, deep way.
I talked to a few people about my feelings and they encouraged me to keep researching. I searched the internet to see if anyone else had found an intersection between Paleo and being vegetarian – a Paleo vegetarian if you will. I found little, except for this post on being Paleo vegetarian by Matt Frazier. After reading it several times, I decided to reincorporate eggs into my diet. It was a difficult thing for me to do, as I had considered eggs to be in the camp of meat. But, I felt compromise and my health were important so I started eating eggs. I worked up to having two eggs with both breakfast and lunch, the latter usually as hard-boiled eggs. This did help, though not tremendously.
The next step was cutting out carbs, and that was hard. At the same time I cut back on my dairy intake, dramatically. In one fell swoop I had removed my main meals from my post-meat diet – Mexican food. I’ve always loved nachos and the like, but without meat, they became my core. I’d eat nachos 3 or 4 times a week, sometimes twice a day. While I still believe corn to be superior to wheat, it had to go.
Thus I had a diet consisting of eggs, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds. I’d throw in a greek yogurt or small piece of cheese on occasion. Sometimes I’d cheat on the carbs part, especially if I was at a restaurant. I was feeling better at this point, getting through my CrossFit workouts, though certainly not with the energy I had before my Paleo vegetarian experiment.
With Thanks to Mr. Brazier
After a few months of this a friend introduced me to the writings and products from Brendan Brazier. He wrote a book, The Thrive Diet, and has some nutritional supplements under the brand name Vega. Loads of people had written reviews on the Vega products, mostly at Amazon. I found a common thread among the people who thought highly of it – they were long-term vegetarians and had suffered from a lack of energy. I bought the book and a tub of the “health optimizer” product; I think it was berry flavored. It worked out to around $3 per serving, which was far more than I was used to paying for protein powder.
I started by having one scoop a day, mostly because I’m stingy. Sometimes I’d mix in a scoop of my girlfriend’s Shakeology (from Beachbody, the folks that do the P90x workouts). The flavors were similar so it worked out well. And it worked. I did have more energy. Not dramatically so, but by a noticeable level.
So Long, Coffee
After a couple of months I was disappointed that I hadn’t progressed further. I’d tried many variations but still had this fog in my head, much like the feeling I have when taking daytime cold medicine. Then, one day as I had my second cup of coffee, I felt the fog wash over me. That was the last caffeinated beverage I had, and it made a BIG difference. I’ll write more about caffeine in a later post.
Further Down the Rabbit Hole
As I started to get further into Brendan Brazier’s book, I found a concept popped up that seems to escape most people eating a Paleo diet – the notion of raw foods. Not only did our ancestors eat a certain diet, they didn’t spend a lot of time preparing it. There are enzymes in our food that are good for us, and cooking the food kills them. I now only cook my eggs and the occasional veggie burger or fake sausage patty. (I know, they’re not Paleo, but they’re tasty!)
I’ve also started taking the pre-workout energizer from Vega, and I am doing better in all my athletic endeavors. It pumps me up without caffeine or other unnatural things. In fact, even after a workout, I usually find myself so amped up and focused that I stay up late working!
Paleo Vegetarian in a Nutshell
Here’s what I started and stopped doing that I think is core to a Paleo vegetarian diet.
- I stopped eating most of the breads, beans and other grains I had been.
- I started eating a lot more fruits and vegetables.
- I stopped cooking food unnecessarily.
- I stopped my intake of caffeine.
Conclusions on Paleo Vegetarian
I am happy with my new Paleo vegetarian lifestyle. I’m not preachy about the vegetarian aspects, as I feel that’s an immensely personal decision. I am, however, very passionate about the Paleo aspects of being a Paleo vegetarian. I truly believe that we could solve the majority of our health problems if we took a step back and looked at our diets. I welcome your feedback in the comments below.