I used to be the standard-issue, meat-and-potatoes gym rat from the Midwest.

Fast forward to 2012 when I arrived in California, the land of the quintessential health nut. During this time, I was asked to provide business-consulting services for a newly launched health food cafe in Hermosa Beach.

Part of the compensation was a generous store credit, with which I drank copious amounts of raw veggie juices and plant-based foods. Within days, I was hooked on how great I felt in terms of mood and energy, and adopted this new infusion of twigs and berries into my carnivorous diet. Because I was curious to learn more about the food I was eating, my research resulted in an experiment to try a semi-vegetarian diet for 30 days.

My concern for maintaining muscle mass acquired over 20 years of lifting cannot be understated.

The information online about plant-based fitness was sparse, to say the least. Worse yet, most of the guys who promoted plant-based fitness had muscle tone, but looked like athletic teenage boys, not well-built bodybuilders.

Eventually, I discovered a handful of vegetarian bodybuilders who looked how I wanted to look. So I became inspired to proceed with my experiment. I quickly fell in love with this new lifestyle and created VegetarianBodybuilding.com, a website for anyone curious about vegetarianism who had the desire to eat more plants and less meat (like myself at the time).

Did I lose muscle mass or strength eating plants?

On the contrary, I put on noticeable size and have never been stronger in my life. As I write this article, I weigh 229 lbs. with a 6’0’’ frame at about 14% body fat. I’m not a fitness model, just well-built and fairly strong. Both of which are my personal goals.

Now, what most vegetarian articles, websites, and books forget to mention is that most of our dishes taste like baby food and branches, and dining out becomes an arduous task (at first). It’s true, and I’ll be the masochistic vegan with the target on his forehead for saying it. But at least I’m being honest.

That said, I have plant-based dishes I enjoy a lot. Do I like them as much as I used to like meat? Probably not. A few are pretty damn good, though, as well as some of the new plant-based protein powders on the market.

But here’s the deal: I didn’t become vegetarian/vegan for pleasure and to make my life more comfortable. I did it for better health and moral reasons. And like many things in life, there’s give and take, and a price to pay for what we want.

I’m all in. I’m willing to sacrifice a little flavor for eight more years of vibrant life and a better planet. I know my furry friends are grateful, as well.

Sometimes I miss meat, but then I remember what I’ve seen in videos and how grossly animals are treated. When I remember this the idea of eating meat makes me literally nauseous. I’m not saying this to be dramatic, this is precisely what happens.

I wasn’t always this way when I started to become vegetarian, but the more exposed to the images of the inhumane slaughtering of animals I became, the more this switchover happened.


Managing Expectations

I wrote this article for the person considering a plant-based diet because I wish someone had tactfully, and unapologetically, told me in the beginning:

  • That vegetarIan Food might not taste as good to you at first — even though there are some great recipes.
  • Eating out can be a challenge.
  • The return on investment in terms of health and “spiritual currency” is worth it.

I think it matters when people tell us the complete truth. It shows authentic confidence when the time comes to explain our lifestyle to others. This can go a long way, because when we also disclose/address the negative side of things, it feels less like a sales pitch and gains trust. It also better prepares us for the journey ahead and can lend itself to a higher chance of success.

Besides, isn’t the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle supposed to include this brand of truth?