Precision Nutrition Blog

The sexiest vegetarian

by John Berardi, Ph.D.

I’m not that sexy

My plant-based experiment is over. And in this article below, you can check out my before/after stats, before/after pics, and my official wrap-up.

But I’m sad to say, even though I’ve worked really hard, gained a bunch of lean body mass, and posted tons of pictures of myself with my shirt off, it appears that I’m just not all that sexy. (Frown).

You see, PETA is holding this really big “Sexiest Vegetarian Next Door” contest and PN Director of Education, Ryan Andrews, has just been announced as one of the final 16 men to make the cut.  Sadly, I didn’t make it.

I know, I know.  There’s some serious injustice in the world.  But despite this, I promise I won’t let it get me down.  (Sob).  I’ll just bury myself in my work.  After all, there are data to be reported and, in the name of science, I shall press on.

ep ryan andrews ryan headshot The sexiest vegetarian
Ryan Andrews – likes legumes, long walks on vegetable farms, and women who smell like hummus.

The experiment, a synopsis

For those of you who haven’t been following along, back on January 13th, I announced my crazy scheme.  After what was essentially a dare, I decided to test the idea that with hard training and exceptional attention to dietary detail, I could pack on a bunch of body weight (most of it coming from lean body mass) and muscle strength eating a mostly vegan diet.  In other words, no animals, only vegetables.

Here’s the original article for those of you interested:
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/jb-goes-vegetarian

Some thought the idea was really cool, while others got really mad.  Some were very supportive while others sent free-range steak in the mail.

Regardless of the distractions, I pressed on.  I spent the next month following a pretty strict animal-free diet, eating nothing but plant based foods like nuts, veggies, legumes, quinoa, sprouted grains, etc.

Now, for the record, I did include 3 eggs with almost every breakfast.  And I occasionally included some honey in my granola.  But despite those two “vegan transgressions” I was able to successfully complete a full month of meat-free, plant-based eating.

The articles, the attention

Throughout this process, my experiment got a lot of attention.  I was interview by Chris Shugart of T-nation (here) and appeared on a host of TV and radio programs where pro-vegetarians and anti-vegetarians ran me through a veritable gauntlet of questions.

I also published two additional articles right here on the Precision Nutrition web site, sharing some important lessons I learned along the way.

Omnivore…Vegetarian…Flexitarian
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/flexitarian

Meat: Good For Us or Disease Waiting to Happen
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/meat-and-health

In the end, I must say that I’m really happy I did this experiment.  I got the chance to be exposed to a new way of eating and a new group of people.  I got a chance to help educate the public about what good nutrition means, whether or not it includes meat.  And, as you’ll see below, I even built a little muscle for my trouble.

(Although, I must admit, the day after the experiment ended, my friends and neighbors discovered me giggling maniacally over a big Omaha steak).

The results

My stats

At this point, I’m sure most of you are wondering one thing: did I accomplish my goal and pack on the lean mass.  Or did I fail miserably.  Well, it’s time for the moment of truth.

Tracking a host of skinfold measures and girth measures – and recording them using the Precision Nutrition Results Tracker – I did end up gaining 7 total pounds, 4.9 lbs being lean body mass, and 2.1 lbs being fat mass.

To start with, here’s a complete comparison of my pre (Jan 12th) and post (Feb 8th) measures.

results tracker 4 The sexiest vegetarian
Comparison of pre (Jan 12th) and post (Feb 8th) body comp, skinfolds, and girth data – all courtesy of the Precision Nutrition Results Tracker

Also, here’s some individual body comp data:

results tracker 1 The sexiest vegetarian
Body weight, lean mass, fat mass, and fat percentage after my plant-based diet — on the right you’ll notice the total changes made since my last measurements.

Here’s some additional skinfold data:

results tracker 21 The sexiest vegetarian
Skinfold recordings after my plant-based Diet — on the right you’ll notice the total changes made since my last measurements.

And here’s some girth data:

results tracker 3 The sexiest vegetarian
Girth recordings after my plant-based diet — on the right you’ll notice the total changes made since my last measurements.

All in all, I’d say a pretty successful month.

It appears that even without eating meat or many animal products, my training regime (which I didn’t change) and my diet regime (which was based on the principles shared in the Precision Nutrition Plant-Based Diet Guide and included a surplus of calories) allowed me to gain 7lbs with a 2.5:1 ratio of lean mass to fat mass.

My pics

Now, I know you want to see the results with your own eyes.  So, next up, the before and after pics. Here are some pics of the scale to confirm my body weight changes.

pre pics2 300x225 The sexiest vegetarian
Body weight before
post pics1 300x225 The sexiest vegetarian
Body weight after

xHere’s what I looked like at the start of this experiment:

jb veg before The sexiest vegetarian

And here’s what I looked like at the end (minus the facial hair; trying to be sexier, ya know):

jb veg after The sexiest vegetarian

All in all, visually, the changes are small.

Although if you squint hard enough, I think you’ll see that I do look a little fuller and heavier in the second set of pictures.  Also, if you’re still squinting, you might notice that I’ve lost a small amount of definition too.  But that’s usually to be expected when trying to pack on body mass.

Lectins and my belly

So, numerically and visually, I’m happy to report that the program was a success.  Further, I learned a ton from the program.  So I’d consider the whole experiment to be a big win.  However, there was one dark side to the project that I need to talk about.

I think I might just hate lectins.

“What are lectins”, you ask?  Well, lectins are sugar-binding proteins found in high concentrations in plant seeds, legumes, grains, and nuts.  Interestingly, current research has shown that if eaten in high amounts, lectins can be lead to nutritional deficiencies, immune reactions, and more.

Now, although some researchers and nutrition experts make a big deal about lectins and their impact on human health, suggesting that people avoid grains, legumes, etc. the truth is this: certain preparation methods can dramatically reduce the lectin content of many foods.

For example, in Gourmet Nutrition V1, we share a method for soaking beans to reduce the content of lectins and other anti-nutrients.  Indeed, soaking and/or sprouting a variety of other lectin-containing foods can also accomplish the same effect, reducing the lectin content to a very small amount.

Unfortunately, these techniques don’t totally reduce the negative effects for everyone.  Including me. It’s for this reason I’m beginning to suspect that I’m lectin intolerant.

You see, just like you can be lactose, fructose, and gluten intolerant, you can also be lectin intolerant.  And just like with fructose, lactose, and gluten intolerance, symptoms include an angry, bloated belly, offensive flatulence, and often, diarrhea.

Of course, as you can imagine, this was the worst part of my plant-based experience.

Even using a host of lectin-reducing techniques, and pretty big doses of digestive enzymes, my plant-based diet produced 4 weeks of some pretty offensive bloating and gas. In fact, on many days I’d wake up with a 32″ waist and by the end of the day it would have ballooned up to a full 42″.

The funny thing was that my abs were still completely visible.  However, they were perched upon a massive Ronnie Coleman-esque belly. Strange.  And uncomfortable.

So, in the end, I did learn something important about myself.  My responses to lactose and lectins are very similar.  It seems I can handle a small amount of foods containing each of these.  However, when I bump up the lactose or the lectin-containing foods, especially in the face of a high calorie diet, offensiveness ensues.

Ah, ha. And maybe, just maybe, this is why I didn’t make it to the final 16 of the “Sexiest Vegetarian” contest. Do ya think?

Ryan Andrews is too sexy for meat

All kidding aside, our very own Ryan Andrews has been voted as one of the final 16 in the “Sexiest Vegetarian Next Door” contest put on by PETA. And he would definitely love your vote.

Now, truth be told, I didn’t spend any time browsing through the male contestants.  So I have no idea who Ryan is up against or whether he is indeed the “sexiest.” (However, I did spend quite a bit of time checking out the female finalists.  And I must say, there are quite a few sexy ladies there.  In fact, vegetarianism never looked so good.)

In the end, I can’t think of a better spokesperson for healthy, PN-style living than Ryan, co-author of our Precision Nutrition Plant-Based Diet Guide, and part of our PN Lean Eating coaching team.

So, whether you’ll spend your time browsing the top 16 men or the top 16 women, definitely pop by and show your support for Ryan.

Here’s the link:
http://www.peta.org/Content/Standalone/sexiestvegetariannextdoor2009/

As for me, I’ve already voted.  And, for old times sake, I was snacking on a vegan protein shake when I did.

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