One concept that I have always been interested in, but unfortunately have not learnt enough about is vegetarianism. Moreover, I have always wondered how being vegetarian and fitness work together. How do the physical demands of training coupled with the absence of ‘traditional’ protein sources impact training and recovery?
To learn more I reached out to Fab Giovanetti. Fab is vegetarian and an all around bad-ass. Luckily, she has kindly answered some of my questions to help dispel traditional stereotypes…
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Hi my name is Fab, and I write about my journey as a visionary entrepreneur in the health and wellness industry, as well as a hyperactive girlfriend and adorable doofus. I am an influencer specialist, a health and wellness experimenter, and PT in training.
As a certified health coach, I offered myself as guinea pig more than once to understand better how my body reacts and interacts with food.
You can also follow Fab’s journey here:
1.. To start, it would be great to learn a little more about you. How long have you been vegetarian for and if you changed your diet later in life did you find the transition an easy one?
I have been vegetarian – again – for the last two months. I was vegetarian before for two years, and raw vegan for nine months. I always found any transition quite easy, as I would go for a very all or nothing approach – addictive personality much? It was not ideal, and ultimately not sustainable. However, if you do not facepalm on things you’ll never learn really.
This time I took a much more relaxed approach to my dietary choices:
- Firstly, it’s about balance (like I still have pizza once a week – I am Italian, so my body is probably made 10% of pizza)
- Secondly I do not restrict myself to anything else. I am yeast, wheat, dairy and egg intolerant. However, instead of eliminating all of my trigger foods, I limit them and rotate them.
Also, being vegan for ethical reasons makes it much easier to stick to it.
2.. Italy is renowned for its amazing food, do you find your Italian roots have made healthy vegetarian food choices easier or harder?
Actually being vegetarian is so much easier than being gluten and dairy free – trust me, I have been there. I have to say, Italians are 100% jumping on the vegan vagon. Yes, we are a nation of ‘all or nothing’. I have to say, vegan and vegetarian packaged foods are not really my first option anyways. I would still rather have more fruit and vegetables when home as the quality is much better anyways.
3.. You can certainly lift decent weights, bench pressing half of your body weight and squatting all of your body weight. Many think being vegetarian goes against this, so how do you ensure you get enough nutrients in your diet to support this?
Decent indeed – actually more than decent *wink*. Muscle mass is created via muscle protein synthesis – regardless of the fact of it being animal or plant-based. I have to say, for optimal MPS you’ll need a good combo of carbs and protein. This is easily achieved with a banana in your protein shake.
Generally speaking, choosing complete proteins over incomplete is a better option. For shakes it means whey (or a blend of proteins, like Sun Warrior), but a full meal of quinoa and sweet potatoes after strength training will help too. Quinoa and soy are the two complete proteins of plant-based origin.
I do indulge in fermented soy (also known as tempeh), whey (not as much, but good quality I can tolerate) and a lot of quinoa – as well as loads of good fat and I supplement with B12 and iron (this is a personal choice as I have a rare form of genetic anemia).
4.. Finally, for those looking to move over to a vegetarian diet and maintain exercise, do you have any staple rules or hints and tips to get going?
Uhm, I have to say I find it interesting people would be concerned about their exercise routine as vegetarians. What you really have to take into account is your nutrition to keep your protein intake up (guidelines in the UK are around 9/12% of your diet – but you need to tailor it to your own self) and macronutrient balance.
A few things that may happen is increased hunger, cravings and tiredness. If you are looking to move over to a vegetarian diet for health reasons, I honestly believe you can be a healthy meat-eater by making the right choices.
If you are doing it for ethical reasons – like yours truly – it’s all about adapting your body and being easy on yourself. Our body is a wonderful mechanism and it needs patient and love in order to adapt to changes in diet and lifestyle.
Make sure you keep a log of energy changes and progress in your training – ahem, like you should always do – and look for support for a nutritionist or dietitian if looking to compete as an athlete.
So there you go, a brilliant insight into how being vegetarian and fitness can work together. One key pint for me was the consumption of complete proteins! If you have any thoughts of your own please leave them in the comments below.
In addition, if you want to find out more about Fab, just visit her site!
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