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WIAW – Plant-Based Works For Me

 

I surprised myself and ran six colorful miles yesterday morning.

pro compression socks

I guess I  was shocked to have felt like running again.

I know I run a whole lot but a race is just different. The adrenaline combined with keeping up a quick pace for over 13 miles is taxing.

Even with Monday’s easy shake out run, I sort of expected some soreness to set in but it just hasn’t.

Over time you build up your ability and your body learns to adjust and recover quicker but I gave it some thought and decided that my fast recovery has more to do with what I choose to eat on a regular basis in order to keep on running.

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At The Cheesecake Factory the other night, my son did what he does best which is make fun of me.

The Cheesecake Factory BBG Ranch Salad

I have been ordering this salad for a good 14 years straight but ask the waiter to leave off the chicken and replace it with extra of everything else – as in more black beans, corn, avocado and onion rings. The onion rings tie the flavors of this bowl together.

My son enjoys mocking my vegetarian diet and I always feel the need to explain myself to him.

I didn’t become a vegetarian because I felt bad for the chickens and turkeys and cows. To be perfectly honest, I never gave much thought to it – I grew up eating chicken. And turkey. And steak.

Sure, if you stop to think more about it, you can get all ethically upset and angry but that wasn’t what made me a convert.

I became a vegetarian because a diet rich in plant-based foods, high in antioxidants, complex carbs, protein from beans and occasional fish/dairy products enriched my life in so many positive ways that I never even could have imagined.

All by accident after a stomach virus, the sudden increase in eating sweet potatoes, extra servings of various fruits and vegetables along with seeking out replacement forms of protein for my plate gave me so much more instant energy.

The increase in these foods combined with a reduction in animal protein also eliminated my seasonal allergies, reduced PMS and painful cramps and also eliminated the pain associated with having the shingles virus which often left my right arm in tingling pain.

Too much protein from animal sources can be very stressful on the body, especially mine. Some people are more sensitive to it than others and I have learned I am one of those people.

I can’t help but think about what I was eating only two years ago prior to becoming a vegetarian. While I was thin, it isn’t any wonder to me now why I couldn’t run very much, couldn’t pick up the pace and certainly couldn’t build on my mileage or feel recovered the day after a workout.

How you eat is not just about what you want to weigh or how you want to look.

Not everything is defined by calorie counts and pounds gained or lost. Not every diet plan is followed just to slim yourself into your jeans.

Before my random change in diet, I lived on protein and vegetables. Aside from the morning bowl of oatmeal or English muffin with peanut butter, the rest of the day was just so….protein heavy.

oatmeal with berries

Still loving oatmeal, especially with the fresh berries I bought on sale a few days ago!

Anyone who knows me knows that I do not preach about diets and nutrition. In fact, I stay out of the conversations. If you ask for my opinion, I will certainly give it but I won’t ever tell you that you must eat the way I do or give up your favorite steaks and chicken cutlets.

What I will recommend to anyone though is to consider adding more plant-based nutrient-dense foods to your diet.

Extra fruit and vegetables on your plate, complex carbohydrates such as potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, whole grain breads or my favorite, Ezekiel Bread.

avocado toast

I am still beyond obsessed by the way with the chickpea/avocado mash on Ezekiel toast. This picture actually shows the avocado mashed with a quinoa/lentil mix.

The flavors and textures are amazing and when you finished eating, I swear you feel energized. There is truth to labeling such foods as “Power Meals” when plant-based proteins/carbs and avocado are involved.

I remember when I was a nursing mom. I didn’t pump many bottles, but I do remember that it was necessary to date your bottles for the freezer because they needed to be used within a certain time frame.

Not so much because they were going to go bad quickly, more so because the milk produced one day contained certain nutrients at certain times depending upon what the baby needs.

Fascinating, isn’t it? I mean, think about it – my body was producing milk that contained different nutrients at different times all dictated by what my growing baby needed at each stage of his nursing life.

This tells us a few things.

It explains that our bodies are truly fascinating and rather intelligent works of art, as well as tells us that at different times in our lives, we require different nutrition.

It’s a shame that beyond the infant stage, we must rely on ourselves to determine our needs since so many of us ignore the cravings, hunger signals and nutrients we consciously and/or subconsciously know we need.

I know I need pre-and-post workout meals, snacks during the day and balanced plates of complex carbs, proteins and fat.

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This bite of cinnamon raisin bread with peanut butter and blueberries certainly does the trick every time.

If you are going to run, or at least want to run well, you need to fuel properly. If you are going to exercise at all, or basically function beyond laying in bed all day, you need energy.

I understand that we can teach our bodies to run on high protein/low carb and burn the fat as fuel but my experiences have shown me that I am much healthier, happier and leaner incorporating many more carbs into my daily diet.

We really need to stay in tune with ourselves, constantly make those adjustments and modify our meals and choices. Run more tomorrow? You need to eat more. Have a race coming up? Add in extras of your quality fuel sources such as bananas, potatoes, whole grains and hydrating fruits.

Race recovery? Hydrate and fuel up on carbs and protein….and salt.

I craved salt three hours after Sunday’s race like nobody’s business. If you know me, I never want anything salty. I had already finished eating and suddenly needed salt in the worst way.

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I salted, buttered then mashed avocado on a really toasted english muffin (half I devoured while making this plate) along side a salted up salad with anything I could find in the refrigerator. It hit the spot in an emergency situation.

If you make any change to your diet based upon reading my post, I hope the change you make is that you will listen to your body more often and give it what it asks for. It may ask for cake, which is just fine but if you pay close enough attention, it will also ask for the important nutrients you need to thrive.

Geez, I have been so busy racing, running and eating that I forgot to share with you the link to my Sunday food prep feature over at The Lean Green Bean.

Lindsay is a registered dietitian with terrific recipes and tips so be sure to peruse the rest of her blog and of course, don’t forget to take a look at what everyone else is eating today!

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If you are a vegetarian, when did you become one?

Do you notice a difference in your workouts when you eat different foods?

What do you order at The Cheesecake Factory?

 

 

 

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  • Liz @ I Heart Vegetables May 7, 2014, 7:57 am

    I’m right there with you! I’m not a vegetarian because I feel bad for the chickens, I’m a vegetarian because I feel better eating a plant based diet! That said, after watching food Inc, I’m REALLY glad that I’m a vegetarian!

    • The Cookie ChRUNicles May 7, 2014, 11:47 am

      Ha I know – learning what I have about the food supply, especially the chickens and other sources of animal protein, I am glad to not be eating it anymore.

  • Tina Muir May 7, 2014, 8:01 am

    Bravo Meri! Way to be you! That is what we all strive to be, and not let others tell us what we can and cant do, if it works for us. I actually live a vegetarian life a lot of the time, I do love my burgers and meat, but when I cook for myself at home, a lot of the meals end up vegetarian as I love combining the plant proteins to make a colorful, healthy meal to fuel my training. You know what works for you, and that is admirable 🙂 As long as you still have some cheesecake at cheesecake factory sometimes? 🙂

    • The Cookie ChRUNicles May 7, 2014, 11:48 am

      I live for Linda’s Fudge cake and the Blackout cake. I don’t love cheesecake although their Hershey Chocolate Cheesecake is chocolately enough to make it think it isn’t cheesecake!

  • Susie @ Suzlyfe May 7, 2014, 8:29 am

    I absolutely notice a different in my workouts based on what I eat, just look at my post on my pre-race eats for confirmation of that! I’ve definitely found what works, with that regard!
    Susie @ Suzlyfe recently posted…The Little Things ARE Life #WIAWMy Profile

  • anoushe May 7, 2014, 9:32 am

    I really like what you wrote – it’s so true! Every individual is different, yet we are still living in a society where diet fads are a major part of our day to day life. I too eat similarly to you and am constantly being told I shouldn’t be snacking shouldn’T do this or that and it makes me feel insecure.. Thanks for this post!
    anoushe recently posted…Whirling Words: Random Ramble WednesdayMy Profile

    • The Cookie ChRUNicles May 7, 2014, 11:49 am

      What works for one person doesn’t work for the next, people need to realize that and respect our choices and their own.

  • Shannon May 7, 2014, 9:52 am

    I used to be a vegetarian, but I found that combined with being lactose intolerant AND gluten-free, it was just too much to manage! Meat is my main source of protein (next to peanut butter). I totally notice a difference in my workouts too, when I have sugar (more tired, sluggish) and when I have oatmeal or a banana (energetic, sweat more, more alert).

    And I always get a salad at the Cheesecake Factory too – their bread baskets are SO TEMPTING, so I have to get something to fill me up so I don’t eat that! 🙂
    Shannon recently posted…Tuesday Tastes: Crunchy Munchy CarrotsMy Profile

    • The Cookie ChRUNicles May 7, 2014, 11:50 am

      My son loves their bread basket, he likes to dip the bread in the dressing from my salad. That brown loaf of bread is so good!

  • Davida @ The Healthy Maven May 7, 2014, 10:06 am

    I’ve always said that of all of the diets out there, being a vegetarian is one that I could actually stick to. Well I might crave seafood now and then but I love veggies and complex carbs and could totally live without poultry and red meat! Veganism on the other hand, not so much…
    Davida @ The Healthy Maven recently posted…Crispy Sriracha Lime ChickpeasMy Profile

    • The Cookie ChRUNicles May 7, 2014, 11:52 am

      Agree on the vegan thing. Many days may be vegan style for me but I could never give up dairy (or fish in sushi) for good. I mean, I can’t live without dessert and vegan would ruin that for me at my favorite places! And pizza, can’t give that up either.

  • Amanda @ .running with spoons. May 7, 2014, 10:49 am

    I really wish that I could go back to a veggie style of eating, but I know that my body functions better with a little bit of meat in it. There are still plenty of days where I don’t end up eating meat at all, though, because I honestly don’t crave the stuff — I just notice that I have more energy when I eat it. That being said, protein isn’t really something I focus on and I feel a tonne better when I have more carbs in my diet. If I don’t eat enough of em, not only does my energy suffer, but I feel more inclined to eat ALL the sweets.
    Amanda @ .running with spoons. recently posted…. WIAW … just the facts .My Profile

    • The Cookie ChRUNicles May 7, 2014, 11:54 am

      I never craved meat or chicken or anything like that when I gave it up. Shocking isn’t it? I lived on it my whole life, gave it up and it’s like I never ate it.

    • The Cookie ChRUNicles May 7, 2014, 11:54 am

      I never craved meat or chicken or anything like that when I gave it up. Shocking isn’t it? I lived on it my whole life, gave it up and it’s like I never ate it.

  • Hannah @ CleanEatingVeggieGirl May 7, 2014, 11:26 am

    I feel SO much better when I eat mostly plant-based. My acid reflux have improved significantly and I have not been sick since….crazy how food helps with those things!
    Hannah @ CleanEatingVeggieGirl recently posted…WIAW: May 7, 2014My Profile

    • The Cookie ChRUNicles May 7, 2014, 11:56 am

      Isn’t it amazing how changing things in our diet affects other health-related issues? I never knew that giving up animal protein would eliminate seasonal allergies, shingles nerve pain and menstrual cycle pain and issues (well, that benefit I receive 99% of the time lol).

  • Laura @ Raise Your Garden May 7, 2014, 11:41 am

    So riviting your thoughts on giving up meat. More energy? Wow. I always feel like I’m on such a protein shortage.

    Still a nursing mother, I feel as though my babylove is sucking the lifeblood out of me. Maybe a change of diet is in order? Fascinating!
    Laura @ Raise Your Garden recently posted…Pansy SaladMy Profile

    • The Cookie ChRUNicles May 7, 2014, 11:57 am

      I wasn’t a vegetarian while I was nursing my son: it’s possible I would feel differently or require different nutrients to feel as full of energy as I do now. Running is taxing but nursing and raising a baby can rival that any day, and really, drain your energy on a whole other level.

  • Hilary May 7, 2014, 1:02 pm

    I love hearing about these things! What is your favorite kind of protein? I have tried vegetarianism out once but I don’t think it was long enough to notice a difference but with all the posts regarding it I sure am considering it again!
    Hilary recently posted…WIAW: Quick Dinner StyleMy Profile

    • The Cookie ChRUNicles May 7, 2014, 3:22 pm

      I think most of my protein comes from peanut butter (obviously), chick peas and lentils (at least this week since I made a batch with quinoa)…I do eat dairy, sometimes more often than others…Greek yogurt is very high in protein…I haven’t been eating eggs lately but eggs and egg whites are great protein sources. I do eat fish but mostly when I am out in restaurants. There are times where I have felt I needed more protein and that’s when I would bump up the dairy and egg intake. Lately though, I am more plant-based than anything. Unless of course I am in a restaurant and need ice cream/cake or pizza. Then the dairy kicks back in. Can’t give it up!

  • Cassy @ On The Inside May 7, 2014, 8:01 pm

    Love your philosophy on food! While I don’t practice a plant based diet myself (I used to previously for about 2 years), I do agree that our food choices should be based around fruits, vegetables, and other food sources found in nature. I think it’s important that each person finds what works best for them like you have.
    Cassy @ On The Inside recently posted…2014 Broad Street Run Race Recap: Part 1My Profile

    • The Cookie ChRUNicles May 8, 2014, 12:56 pm

      I always say to my friends just to try focusing on the foods found in nature vs. processed and that alone will make them feel great and possibly lead to other healh/weight related goals.

  • Celia May 8, 2014, 4:56 am

    My GI doctor suggested I focus on eating a more plant based diet in addition to following the low FODMAPS regime. I have had so many intestinal issues the past few years. Going gluten free helped initially but then I was still having problems. I was a vegetarian many moons ago and I always aspire to be vegan. But right now I am just not “there” yet. But I do definitely feel better now than a few weeks ago.

    • The Cookie ChRUNicles May 8, 2014, 12:57 pm

      I agree with your doctor. While total vegetarian/vegan may not be necessary, focusing on the unprocessed, nutrient dense foods will absolutely help just about all health-related issues we experience. I am a firm believer in this, especially since I noticed amazing changes within myself just about immediately.

  • Arman @ thebigmansworld May 8, 2014, 5:28 am

    While I do love my meat and protein, I know personally, i tend to overdo it so much and thrive so much more on carbs…the more processed, the better I feel! That is what the wholearman challenge taught me! I love veggies and complex and simple carbs too- and the best thing about the Cheesecake factory when I visited was the bread basket….the brown one had crack in it!
    Arman @ thebigmansworld recently posted…The 3 F’s With Niki- the Frocks, the Food, the Finds.My Profile