Mix of different vegetables at a farmer's market.

The Top 5 Surprising Benefits I’ve Experienced Since Becoming a Vegetarian

And why I think everyone should give it a try.

Mix of different vegetables at a farmer's market.
Photo by Jacopo Maia on Unsplash

“Someone asked me, how could you get as strong as an ox without eating any meat? And my answer was, have you ever seen an ox eating meat?” — Patrik Baboumian (retired Strong Man of Germany title holder and vegan)

EDITORIAL DISCLAIMER: Any advice or recommendation in my writing is what works for ME and may not be the best regimen for you based on your psychological or physiological makeup and stability. Please consult a doctor when making decisions about your health.

Never in a million years did I think I would be a vegetarian again.

I say that because I did it in high school for two years and then when I got to college, I thought there was way too much good food there to miss out!

Fast forward 24 years, and here I am again, more committed to this lifestyle than ever.

It’s ironic because I also tried this relatively recently and couldn’t stick with it. This attempt occurred right after I watched the Netflix documentary, The Game Changers, and realized not only was I killing myself faster but the earth as well.

I made it about 15 days before I decided I just loved grilled chicken too much and found trying to compensate for it harder than finding the remote control when you just had it in your hands five minutes ago.

I wasn’t sure if this time would be any different, but the one thing I had in my corner was that I had a goal that I thought would help me stay focused on really giving this go-around a try.

As shared in a previous post, I was training to run a sub-20 minute 5k and was inspired to give vegetarianism another shot by the ultra-marathoner, Rich Roll.

I wasn’t sure if it would work, but I was doing it for the same reasons I did all those years ago when I was 16 — to run faster. The hope was that this same type of intense focus that I had in high school would help me dismiss the lure of meat and stay committed to hitting my goal.

And so far, it has worked like a charm.

While increasing my running performance was the intended goal of making this decision, there are five other unexpected benefits that make me think everyone should give this a try to see if they can do it.

I get more variety in what I eat

Since I have to replace the protein I was used to getting from chicken with other sources, I have to be much more creative with the type of food that I eat.

In the past, I would be okay with having salad with any type of combination of toppings, as long as it had grilled chicken to give it the flavor I was used to.

Now, I am more focused on creating a combination of mixings that allows me to fill the void of satiety that the chicken would give, while also focusing on ensuring I am mixing different ingredients to give it a unique and pleasing flavor.

This has led me to discover a number of chicken replacements like chickpeas and tempeh that I would’ve never tried in the past, as well as different supplemental toppings like sunflower seeds, radishes, and pickled onions that have been a surprisingly pleasant experience from a taste perspective.

I don’t experience the post-noon cognitive dip

Since I also intermittently fast, by the time lunch comes around, I am typically so hungry that this causes me to eat as much food as possible as quickly as possible.

While I still try to control my portion size enough not to overdo it during lunch, there were still several times that I would eat a fair-sized salad containing grilled chicken and find myself struggling to keep my eyes open as the blood from my brain was redirected to my stomach to do the hard work of breaking down that chicken into a form that could be digested.

I don’t know if it’s a placebo effect of just no longer eating chicken or something more, but since I’ve stopped eating meat and replaced it with only vegetables, I no longer experience this post-noon dip.

I hypothesize the amount of blood and energy required to activate the enzymes that break down meat into something manageable in the body differs from the amount needed to break down vegetables.

This has allowed me to stay cognitively sharp the entire day with no dip in focus at all.

I get to discover new vegetarian/vegan restaurants with my wife

This has been a very pleasant surprise that my wife enjoys with me as well.

Every weekend, we typically search for a restaurant to tickle our itch for novelty in different types of food. Now that I’m vegetarian, what used to be a challenging task of figuring out how to choose among the 1,000s of options we had has become a much simpler focus to find the best vegetarian/vegan establishments in the city.

This has still given us a lot of choices, but since there are so fewer, we can make decisions quicker, knowing that we will probably work through a lot of the options over time with there not being such an overwhelmingly expansive selection.

This has already led us to eat at some pretty cool places that we would’ve never found had we not put this new focus on vegetarian cuisines, and I’m excited to continue this journey.

Our grocery bill is less

I never realized how much meat could make up a large part of your grocery bill. While we probably still didn’t eat as much as most people as it related to our meat consumption, we would still typically buy a large pack of chicken every week or every other week to support our needs.

Since that is no longer the case, our monthly grocery bill is typically about 25–30% cheaper across the board.

While this isn’t anything crazy, considering the constant increase in inflation that we are all experiencing and how some companies are combating that by practicing shrinkflation, every little bit helps put a few extra dollars in the pocketbook.

I can eat WAY more food without the same negative consequences

The last benefit is one that makes the decision all worth it for me.

I enjoy working out, and for that reason, I do it A LOT.

Therefore, I need to get the proper fuel to recover from my workouts to grow and improve my performance accordingly.

This isn’t a problem because I enjoy eating immensely, and now that I no longer eat meat, I found I can eat much more for each meal than I ever could in the past.

This allows me to pile food on my plate and enjoy large quantities without worrying about overdoing it since my meals mainly consist of low-calorie vegetables and starches.

On top of that, whenever I’m ready to enjoy my weekly cheat meal, I can consume a much larger quantity than I did before for this same reason.

Pizza has probably been one of my favorite meals since I was a kid, and now that I only eat pizza without meat, I can enjoy a much larger quantity than I could when I would allow myself to indulge in the meat lover’s version.

The double benefit of this is that it doesn’t do as much damage to my weight management as my former meat-allowed meals did, and I can bounce back the next day in a much lighter position to continue my training.

And while I can’t say that I don’t still don’t have the occasional craving for a cheeseburger or wing now and then, the benefits listed above, on top of being able to run faster than I have in a long time, keep me focused on making this a lifestyle that I don’t see changing any time soon.