I'll be honest, this is going to be a difficult article to write. I have some personal views on vegetarianism. It is directly contrary to the caveman way of life. Many believe that it is the holy grail of healthy eating. Yet why is it that in order to be a vegetarian and still get all the necessary nutrition, one must go to great lengths and do much research in order to make it a sustainable lifestyle.
Alright, heck with it. I was going to do my best to write a completely unbiased article exploring the merits of vegetarianism but I can't, in good conscience bring myself to do it. In my early twenties I decided I would try to be a vegetarian. To tell you the truth it was a huge mistake. As long as I can I have dedicated my life to the pursuit of fitness and trying to be a vegetarian drastically slowed my progress.
I am in no way trying to say that you can't be fit as a vegetarian. There are many accomplished athletes who are vegetarians. But for the type of training I was doing it was the wrong decision.
Now I'm going to take it upon myself to present some supporting evidence that we are evolutionarily intended to be meat eaters
First let's look at the anatomical design of humans compared to that of our closest relatives, the great apes. Humans have a comparatively smaller abdominal area than the apes and gorillas. This is because in order to digest and process the leaves and grass that these primates eat, they require large masses of specialized organs. Humans lack those organs and therefore can not make efficient use of the plants that are consumed in such large quantities my the great apes.
True meat does contain cholesterol and saturated fat, but if you have followed my blog at all then you know by now that they have been demonized and do not deserve the negative press that they have been given over the years. Scientists have been trying for years and have not yet been able to actually correlate a link between dietary cholesterol and clogged arteries. Likewise in a still going 40 year study scientists have been trying and are still unable to find an actual link between between dietary fat and heart disease. That's because it doesn't exist. People of the far north have exhisted for generations living almost exclusively off of meat and blubber. It is an extremely high fat by our standards, yet heart the diseases of modern civilization were largely unknown to these people until we "modernized" their diets and introduced them to the conveniences of precessed and canned goods.
The Masai in Kenya, one of the last hunter and gatherer tribes, lived for years off of almost exclusively beef and milk mixed with the blood of their cattle. Yet they were all taller, leaner, stronger and healthier than we are. That is, of course, until we introduced them to our civilized diet. Then they diseases of civilization began to effect them as well.
Our brains and nervous system's are largely made up of cholesterol and saturated fat. It is the same with our cells and blood vessels. We require these substances for proper brain and tissue development and we can not get them from eating plants. We have to get them from the animals that eat the plants. Without these long chain fatty acid molecules our brains would not develop properly. If we did not evolve by eating meat our brains would not be as evolved as they are today. We would still be simple primates.
Children of vegetarian parents, who are growing up on a vegetarian diet show a definite cognitive deficit. They are not getting the nutrients they need and have shown to be defficient in iron, calcium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, riboflavin and the fat soluble vitamins, particularly vitamin D. Meat poultry and fish are the best sources the these. One exerpt from an article by Dr. Barry Groves states...
"With the more extreme macrobiotic diets the situation is even worse. Serious brain damage is seen in children on macrobiotic diets where it was found that " Vitamin B-12 is sufficiently low as to have psychological consequences that also raise legitimate concerns about neurological development " (21) . Other research confirms the depth of the problem. Mental development of four- to five-year-old children on macrobiotic diets (almost devoid of animal foods and fat) with long-term growth deficits, was studied. In addition food consumption and behavioural style of the children, and family and parent characteristics were assessed. Children had only seventy percent of the energy and forty percent of the calcium intake of that reported for children on conventional diets. Thirty three percent of the children studied failed to finish IQ tests due to an inability to concentrate"
This statement effectively shows that vegetarianism is a form of child abuse. Children require a large amount of energy in order to develop properly and the requirements can not effectively be met with a diet devoid of animal products.
Vegetarianism as a whole is not healthier. especially for an athlete trying to get faster and stronger. One can meet the minimum dietary requirements if a great deal of care is taken. However, most (not all) people can't really be bothered to dedicate the required time and energy to learn how to do it in a sustainable way. As well, the foods which are believed to meet those requirements are mostly NOT caveman friendly and contain a host of substances such as Phytates and lectins which inhibit the absorption of the very nutrients that most vegetarians think they are supplementing with these foods in the first place.