Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Man Wednesdays: "Where do you get your protein?"

I'd like to introduce you to a new addition to my blog, my often-mentioned other half: Andrew. For the forseeable future, I shall be dubbing this day of the week Man Wednesdays, as he'll be posting on well... whatever he wants! Just to give you a bit of background, Andrew was vegan long before I was. He got off the diet when he met me (oops...) then got back onto a vegetarian one with me about a year into our relationship. When I went vegan (ironic, I know), he joined me again. When I went raw last June, he joined me down this new and amazing road as well within a couple months. As far as I'm concerned and considering other people's definitions, he now fits most people's definition of high raw, that and he's one sexy piece of man. I now give you, Andrew:

"Where do you get your protein?"

Like most people on any alternative diet, this is the question I'm asked most often. Doubly so since I train most every day. It's a mind-virus that is programmed into our society. It's become almost entertaining to watch those who I thought were conscious, thinking beings be overtaken by their programming. The question comes out of them seemimg against their will. Always in the same tone, pitch and cadence, their eyes widening slightly as if even they are surprised by what they're doing.

Personally, I can't help but find this question annoying, so I'll answer this question in the most annoying way that I can: with a question.

A Brahma bull can weigh upwards of 1800 pounds of solid muscle, despite the fact that they get almost no exercise. As a ruminant, they consume only grasses and incidental herbs. Where do they get their protein? 'But Andrew', you protest, 'a person is nothing like a Brahma'. Fine, a Mountain Gorilla shares 98% of the same DNA with us. They are our second closest genetic cousins (after the chimpanzee). Despite eating a strictly plant-based diet, a male silverback can easily weigh upward of 500 pounds of rock-solid muscle and enjoy tearing automobile tires apart with their bares hands. Where do they get their protein? 'But Andrew', you protest again, 'a person isn't a Gorilla'. Hey, you're pretty pushy, aren't you?

Ironically, anyone who is that insistent on pushing the question this far is almost always tragically out of shape themselves. I admit to being so petty as to have looked them in the eyes and asked "Do I look like I don't get enough protein?" Yes, perhaps I should not be proud of those moments, but it does feel good and it always makes my point.

So, what is my point? I know that a lot of people on vegan and/or raw diets have contested that our biological need for protein has been grossly over-stated by the meat industry, but I had no way of knowing if that were true myself. At the time, I knew of no one who had done what I do while being raw. (Thank you to Kristen's husband over at Kristen's blog for, well, existing. It helps to know I'm not the only one on this journey.) When I was first starting a raw diet I struggled with this belief myself, especially being what weight-lifters call a "hard gainer". I determined that I would progressively change over to a raw diet and that I would stay on the diet only as long as I did not lose any muscle mass or strength.

When I first began on a raw diet I went high raw and found I could still do my regular workouts, but they were admittedly much harder. I also could not exert as long of a sustained effort as before. Each time I experienced this, I would ease off a little on how strictly raw my diet was until I had stabilised and then slowly increase again. By doing this I have been able to continuously gain in strength and capability. I appear visually to be about the same size, but I've dropped almost twenty pounds (yeah, I don't want to even think about what that was composed of). I'm now high raw and stronger and more capable than when I began. I'm not 100% yet (that is the goal), but I'm steadily eliminating sub-optimal components of my diet as I go.

The outcome? Amongst many other results, I can now do five times as many pushups in one set as I could before I started as almost twenty times as many in one workout! My muscle recovery has easily tripled in speed as fatigue is measured in minutes, not hours (or days). Muscle soreness after workouts is an occasion now, not a way of life.

So, to those who ask, "Where do you get you protein?" I present the following picture of USMC Captain Alan Jones. "Captain America" Jones, a strict vegetarian, holds countless unbelievable fitness records such as most continuous sit-ups (17,003!). Where do you think he gets his protein?

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